Kyle Gibson is solid, O's hit six homers in split-squad win over Detroit

SARASOTA, Fla. – With his pitching every fifth day schedule lining up closely where he could pitch nearly on schedule on Opening Day at Boston, right-hander Kyle Gibson made his third spring start and threw well in the Orioles' 11-7 win over the Tigers this afternoon.

The Orioles split their squad and played twice. The other half of the roster lost 6-5 to Atlanta in North Port in a game called in the top of the seventh due to rain.

Here at Ed Smith Stadium, the Orioles hit six homers, some seemed to be helped by the gusting wind toward left field. They had 15 hits in all and the 11 runs is their most this spring after they had scored 10 runs three times. O’s batters have scored 67 runs the past 10 games.

Gibson allowed some hard contact, including on a solo homer to Akil Baddoo, the second batter of the game. But that was the only run he gave up in four innings. He allowed three hits with no walks and two strikeouts on 46 pitches, 33 for strikes.

He is rounding into form nicely with an ERA of 2.00 in nine spring innings after outings of two, three and four innings. In that time, he has yet to walk a batter with six strikeouts.

He said he likes the quality of his pitches right now, but there is another important aspect he wants to continue to lock down.

“I think overall it’s as much location for me as it is looking at stuff versus spin and stuff,” he said. “I’m not a guy that throws 95 to 98, so for the most part, location is pretty important. Almost more important than the actual stuff itself. You know looking at the cutter that almost hit me in the face (on a comebacker line drive), that was a bad location. The ball that was hit over the fence, bad location. Need to iron that out, but for the most part, stuff is moving how I want it to move. Just making sure I put it in locations where in the season it won’t get hit. Sometimes in spring it will get hit, but I kind of have an idea, if I execute that pitch a lot in the season, it will be good results for the most part.”

Today led by shortstop Gunnar Henderson, the Orioles turned two double plays behind him and he retired nine of the last 10 batters after allowing hits to two of the first three.

“Felt pretty good," he said. “Got a little bit tired there at the end, but still felt good. A lot of quick ABs, which is always ideal. Left a couple of pitches in the middle they hit hard. But overall felt like I got ahead better, made adjustments where I needed in the middle of an at-bat and felt pretty good.”

The game started 25 minutes late due to pregame rain and Gibson said that was challenging to plan when to warm up. But he is on track to start the season in a couple of weeks.

“Right on where I think I’d like to be,” he said. “Stuff feels crisp. The adjustments I’m making, able to take them to the mound. I’m able to work on stuff I want to work on plus get outs. That’s a bonus.”

It’s pretty clear Gibson is quickly fitting in nicely with his new club and enjoys both his teammates in the clubhouse and the data and analytics the coaching staff brings to the pitchers too.

“Everybody here has a lot of passion, a lot of heart in what they are doing, staff and players as well. It makes for a smooth camp and a camp that has been successful for our group,” he said.

If Gibson pitched every fifth day moving forward, he would only make two more starts and his third turn would come up on March 28. the first of two off-days leading up to the opener in Boston on March 30.

The O’s offensive day included early loud contact from Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle, who were a combined 4-for-4 their first four at-bats with Hays hitting his third homer and Mountcastle producing a double and single.

Adam Frazier and Franchy Cordero hit back-to-back solo homers in the fourth to give Baltimore a 4-1 lead. Over from minors camp, outfield prospect Hudson Haskin hit a pinch-hit solo homer in the fifth and Colton Cowser added a two-run shot to left an inning later. An inning after that, in the seventh, Jacob Teter’s solo blast made it an 8-3 lead.

Cordero went 1-for-2 and is batting .478. He talked about the competition for the final bench spots for Opening Day with other non-roster players like Ryan O’Hearn and Lewin Díaz having good camps.

“It’s a really good competition. I do agree we are all having really good camps and I think ultimately that competition brings out the best in us. We’ve known each other over the years playing with and against each other. Been really good competition,” Cordero said through team interpreter Brandon Quinones.

Haskin, the club’s No. 15 prospect per, talked about getting a chance in a spring game and hitting one out and the club’s Twin Lakes Parks minor league contingent having a good day. Teter went 2-for-3 and drove in two runs and Max Wagner was 2-for-2 with two runs and an RBI.

“It was great," said Haskin. "Anytime you can get out here, big league atmosphere is something you try not to take for granted. Glad I could do something positive and help the team. I have gotten a lot of good work in at Twin Lakes. Always happy for guys coming over from Twin Lakes, we’ve been putting in a lot of hard work over there, so to be able to come out here on a bigger stage and show that is pretty cool.”

Nick Vespi, who had hernia surgery Jan. 5, made his spring game debut today. The lefty saw some balls hit hard off him during Detroit’s sixth inning, allowing a homer and double. But acting manager Fredi González said it was great that Vespi took this step as he allowed two hits and one run.

“First time out, right? And that’s fine," said González. "We weren’t looking for any results, other than for him to be healthy and throw his pitches and go on to his next hurdle, whatever that may be. Whatever our pitching coaches and trainors come up with. That was nice for him to come out of there healthy."

In the other game: The Orioles' other half of the split squad lost 6-5 to Atlanta in North Port in a game shortened to seven innings by rain. Heston Kjerstad hit a solo homer and Josh Lester a three-run shot for the Orioles, who also got an RBI single by Kyle Stowers. All five Baltimore runs came in the top of the sixth.

Kjerstad is now batting .478/.500/1.000/1.500 at 11-for-23 with five extra-base hits. He is tied with Hays for the team homer lead.

On the mound, Spenser Watkins allowed two homers to Atlanta’s Eli White. He went four innings and gave up six hits and four runs. Andrew Politi pitched a scoreless inning and Bryan Baker allowed two runs in one inning.

After a win and loss today, the Orioles are 7-9-2.

Roster note: After today’s game, the Orioles optioned lefty Drew Rom to minor league camp. The camp roster is at 55 players with 37 from the 40-man roster and 18 non-roster invitees.

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