Mateo covers outfield corners, Wells pounds zone, Stowers pounds Tigers pitching for three homers (O's win 8-2)

SARASOTA, Fla. – Jorge Mateo has made 10 career appearances and three starts in right field, including one with the Orioles in August 2021 against the Braves, when Max Fried pitched a complete-game shutout at Camden Yards.

Mateo was in right field this afternoon against Atlanta, making his first spring appearance at an outfield corner after seven starts at shortstop, three at second base and two in center.

“Just preparing for if it does happen in the season,” said manger Brandon Hyde. “Just want to move guys around a little bit in camp.”

The ball found Mateo with two outs in the first inning, and he made a sliding catch of Marcell Ozuna’s line drive. Starter Tyler Wells applauded by slapping his hand into his glove.

Mateo ran down Austin Riley’s fly ball in shallow right field, calling off second baseman Kolten Wong, to end the third. He moved to left field in the top of the fourth, with Ryan O’Hearn switching to right.

O’Hearn couldn’t run down Ozuna’s fly ball to the warning track for a one-out double. The next batter, Luis Guillorme, lined to Mateo.

Because he’s used to playing up the middle, Mateo faces more of a challenge with any appearance at a corner spot.

“He’s played out there before, so just want to not surprise guys during the season if things do happen,” Hyde said. “Jorgie’s so athletic and can cover us in so many ways, so it’s a real benefit for us to have somebody who can play that many positions.”

The Orioles loaded the bases against Spencer Strider with one out in the fourth. James McCann struck out, Parker Dunshee replaced Strider, and Mateo popped up.

* Keegan Akin is expected to inherit the ninth inning today after totaling 6 1/3 scoreless with one hit, one walk and eight strikeouts. Mike Baumann entered in the eighth, following Yennier Cano.

Akin didn’t pitch after June 28 due to a back injury and finished with a 6.85 ERA and 1.775 WHIP in 24 games. He didn’t appear to be a favorite to break camp with the team this spring, especially with a minor league option remaining, but he’s much closer now to securing a spot on the 26-man roster.

“It’s a huge difference,” Hyde said.

“He had the back injury and pretty much shut him down for the rest of the year. To see him healthy right now, to see the way he’s throwing the baseball, this is the best I’ve seen him, honestly. The way he can keep his velocity, how quick his arm is. The secondary stuff has really, really improved. He’s had a really good camp, and he’s in great shape. This is the best he’s looked for me. He did a great job this offseason getting healthy, getting right, preparing for the season. He's really performed well this spring.”

“That’s the biggest thing with Keegan is, one, you can throw him against lefties and righties, and he’s gone multiple innings in the past, he’s been a starter in the past. A guy you feel comfortable with pitching, really, in any sort of situation. Especially the way he’s throwing the ball right now.”

Left-handers Danny Coulombe and Cionel Pérez appear locks to make the club. Akin could be a third lefty, though he’s getting competition from Nick Vespi and Andrew Suárez, among others.

Coulombe struck out two batters and allowed a hit in a scoreless sixth. Pérez tossed a scoreless inning against the Tigers in Lakeland, allowing a hit, walking a batter and striking out one.

* Wells, in his third start, allowed one run and four hits with no walks and six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. He pounded the zone like he was tenderizing veal, with 57 of 70 pitches for strikes.

Riley hit a solo home run to center field with one out in the first. Wells turned away and waited for a new ball before the old one landed.

“I’d rather challenge people and lose that way than sit there and kind of be around the zone,” Wells said.

Wells threw 12 of 15 pitches for strikes in the first and 13 of 16 in the second, when Guillorme led off with a double and the next two batters struck out. Nine of 10 were strikes while Wells retired the side in order in the third.

Guillorme worked Wells for eight pitches in the fourth before lining to Mateo. Wells threw 21 pitches, 16 for strikes, and stranded Ozuna.

Phillip Evans’ two-out double in the fifth ended Wells’ day, and Kyle Virbitsky stranded him. Wells threw eight pitches in the inning, seven for strikes.

“That’s kind of been the whole point throughout camp and working with Frenchy (Drew French) and (Mitch) Plassmeyer, just really trying to execute pitches,” he said. “Fortunately, we were able to go out and do it again today, which is a big positive for me. I think being able to mix in the pitches that we did and being able to throw as many off-speed for strikes and all that stuff is definitely something to build on.”

The swings-and-misses and the strikeouts were prominent today. Wells had fanned one in his first two appearances over six innings.

“I’ve always known it’s in there,” he said. “Now, it’s like we’re kind of starting to relearn how to use our stuff again. I think that’s what spring training is all about, really just trying to kind of get back to practice and learning your arsenal again and what’s effective and what isn’t. Me and McCann had a lot of great conversations in the dugout today about that, so really happy.”

Wells has logged 10 2/3 innings this spring and allowed only two runs and seven hits with one walk.

“Overall, I’m really happy,” he said. “I’m trying to continue to refine my approach and take that into season and just continue to build on it. I think there’s still things that we can continue to work on, and that’s not knocking all the good things that we did. It’s just constantly being able to look at yourself objectively and know there’s work to be done and it’s a long season.”

* Jackson Holliday flied to deep center field on a 3-1 pitch in the first inning and drew his second spring walk leading off the fourth, again going 3-1 against Braves starter Spencer Strider. He struck out against Dylan Lee in his next at-bat.

John Rhodes came off the bench and hit a game-tying, two-run homer off Lee in the seventh.

Yennier Cano allowed a run and three hits in the top of the seventh to give the Braves a 2-0 lead that Rhodes erased.

* In the other split-squad game in Lakeland, Kyle Stowers hit his first home run against a right-hander, Detroit’s Kenta Maeda, in the second inning. The at-bat made Stowers 2-for-20 against right-handers and 7-for-15 with four home runs against left-handers.

It also broke a tie with Colton Cowser for the team lead in homers, and had him deadlocked with the Cubs' David Bote, the Pirates' Oneil Cruz and the Rangers' Wyatt Langford for the major league lead.

Unwilling to settle for that, Stowers homered again off Maeda in the fourth – a two-run shot that traveled 438 feet with an exit velocity of 103.6 mph, per the Statcast data available in Lakeland.

Why stop there? Stowers hit a third home run in the seventh inning, a 399-foot shot at 107.2 mph against right-hander Reese Olson.

Per @SlangsOnSports, it was the 12th three-homer game in spring training since at least 2006 and the first since Mike Zunino on March 21, 2018.

The outburst further complicates the outfield roster decisions. Stowers broke camp with the Orioles last year but went 2-for-30 with 12 strikeouts. He was far more productive with Triple-A Norfolk but suffered a shoulder injury and fractured his nose when hit by a pitch.

The body and the bat are in good health this spring.

* Cowser led off today against the Tigers, and his double in the third inning raised his average to .387 and OPS to 1.319.

Julio Teheran allowed one run and five hits in four innings, with one walk and five strikeouts. He threw 59 pitches, 39 for strikes.

* Cole Irvin starts Tuesday afternoon against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, and Dean Kremer starts Wednesday night against the Phillies in Sarasota.

The Orioles are off Monday.

* Hyde said he thinks Ryan Mountcastle could return to the lineup Tuesday, joking that the first baseman wants to make that trip to Dunedin.

“He did stuff out here with us yesterday and he’s going to go through a full workout again today,” Hyde said, “so I assume he would be.”

* Maryland Governor Wes Moore and his family were on the field for batting practice.

Moore hit from both sides in the cage.

“You have a real respect for the players out there because they make it look very easy and it’s not, but I think it just highlights why we’re so excited about this team,” Moore said. “This is a special team, a special organization.”

Asked if he has an agenda here beyond enjoying today’s game, Moore said, “Watching the O’s win. That’s the agenda. We’re watching the O’s win.”

* Holliday reached on a bloop double to left field with one out in the eighth and scored the tie-breaking run on Gunnar Henderson’s double to left-center. Michael Pérez had a two-run double, Rhodes hit a two-run homer and Coby Mayo doubled in an 8-2 win.

Rhodes is the organization’s No. 24 prospect, per MLB Pipeline.

“Good for him,” Hyde said. “What a cool moment. You bring those guys up for the game as backups or if something happens to one of your regular guys, and to deliver like that, that’s a cool moment for him.”

Akin retired the side in order in the ninth and keeps motoring toward an Opening Day spot.

Asked about Wells, Hyde said, “Love the way Wells is throwing all spring. He just kind of made that one mistake to a great hitter, a slider, too much of the plate. Besides that, I thought he really located well all of his pitches once again. He’s just really commanding the ball extremely well this spring, and the fastball’s got good life to it.”

Hyde knew about Stowers’ three-homer game against the Tigers.

“I hope everybody’s making it as difficult as possible,” Hyde said. “Kyle’s swung the bat awesome this camp. Really happy for him. Definitely kind of a tough year last year, dealing with a lot of things. To come into camp and swing the bat the way he is, it’s been amazing.”

Hyde said the club probably won’t consider carrying 14 position players and only 12 pitchers Opening Day.

“We’re gonna need 13,” he said.

Suárez allowed three runs and three hits 1 1/3 innings in Lakeland, hurting his chances of making the club.

Dillon Tate had another spotless inning and hasn’t allowed a run in six appearances, with only one hit. Bryan Baker retired the side in order with a strikeout in the seventh to maintain his 0.00 ERA in six innings.

The game ended 4-4, and the Orioles are 18-5-2.


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