Díaz breaks up no-hitter in ninth, Irvin solid in Orioles debut

SARASOTA, Fla. – Ramón Urías led off the second inning today by drawing a walk against Blue Jays left-hander Yusei Kikuchi. Nothing special except that he was the only Orioles baserunner until one out in the ninth.

The club was being no-hit by seven pitchers in a game that didn’t count. Let the debate rage on whether it made a sound.

Lewin Díaz killed whatever drama was building by lining a single into right field off Hayden Juenger. He scored with two outs on Heston Kjerstad’s single into right-center. Kjerstad moved to second on an error but Josh Lester flied out.

The 2-1 loss was played in 2 hours and 20 minutes. The pitch clock can’t take all the credit.

Toronto was held to one run until Phil Clarke led off the eighth with a homer off Kyle Dowdy. Colton Cowser attempted a leaping catch at the fence, slammed into it and came down without the ball.  

Anthony Santander’s left knee must be fine because he played seven innings before Kjerstad replaced him in right field.

Jays pitching struck out the side in the third and sixth innings. Ryan Mountcastle appeared to beat out a ground ball in the fourth and was called out. Austin Hays lined out to short leading off the fifth. Connor Norby lined out to left field in the eighth.

Cole Irvin’s first spring appearance today gave the Orioles back-to-back scoreless starts of two innings.

Kyle Bradish handled the Pirates yesterday in Bradenton. Irvin retired six of the eight Blue Jays he faced this afternoon at Ed Smith Stadium, getting three in a row after the leadoff hitters reached base.

Irvin threw 27 pitches, 17 for strikes, before Austin Voth began to warm in the bullpen.

Cavan Biggio began the game with an opposite-field bloop single, but two fielder’s choice grounders and a fly ball to right-center field got Irvin back in the dugout at 13 pitches.

Zach Britton (not that one) drew a seven-pitch leadoff walk in the second, and Irvin retired the next three batters on a three-pitch strikeout, popup and fly ball.

Like Bradish the previous day, Irvin did more throwing in the ‘pen to build his count to 40 before speaking with the local media. A little too efficient.

“Pretty good,” he said. “Made some bad pitches, made some good pitches, probably didn’t reflect the bad pitches. But first spring training start, not looking too into it too much and just trying to look at the positives. Threw some good sliders, threw some good curveballs that we’ve been working on, so can’t complain there and just got to keep marching forward.

“Next start will be three innings, hopefully.”

Irvin spoke earlier in camp about being able to concentrate more on getting ready for the season than trying to make the team, but he said today that Kyle Gibson is the only certainty among the rotation candidates. Irvin mentioned his one minor league option – though it’s highly doubtful that the Orioles will exercise it.

“There’s a lot of talent here, so my job’s never going to be secured,” said Irvin, who arrived in a trade with the Athletics. “I think the only secure job is really Gibby, and he’s the vet and he deserves it. For me, I’m still kind of earning my way in the major leagues. I’ve got to earn the respect of my teammates, earn the respect of the guys who were here before me, so that’s my job and I’m just going to keep my head down and work on what I need to work on and let the spring training results take care of themselves.

“When we get to season, that’s when the games matter, so it’s all about winning as a team. Right now, my job’s just to get outs and be ready for the season. I still have an option left and I know that, and I’m very much aware of the talent we have on the roster, too. We’ve got some guys on the shelf, as well. There’s a lot of guys we have who can be in the rotation, so my job is definitely not set over the course of the year, and I know that. Just preparing for that.”

Older pitchers with the Athletics taught Irvin about the importance of taking care of his business but staying true to himself, being who he is, letting his personality shine. Don’t hide anything, he said, have fun.

“Be myself and get outs,” he said with a chuckle. “Ultimately, I just want to do my job and be part of a winning ballclub, which we’ve got here. The culture’s good.”

The bonding process between Irvin and his new teammates carries outside the complex. They gathered to watch the Daytona 500 and have talked about hitting the beach and playing Spikeball.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said.

“I know the guys here really love hanging out together, so hopefully we can do a little bit more of that. It’s been really easy. The culture here is real easy to get in with, so I really enjoy just every day coming in. The energy’s always high. That’s probably due to the young group that we have. It’s real easy to be who you are and be comfortable with it, especially coming from a different organization.”

Voth allowed one run and three hits in two innings. He stranded a runner in the third who reached on an infield hit, but a two-out walk to Leo Jimenez in the fourth was followed by Rob Brantly’s double on a ball that deflected off right fielder Anthony Santander’s glove as he chased it.”

“It went pretty good,” Voth said. “Just wanted to get out there and see how the pitch clock was going to affect me and how fast I can get on the mound and get my pitches off. … Attacked the zone. It’s the first outing, so there’s gonna be things I need to work on, but there were some good things that happened. I felt like I had decent command of my curveball, cutter was good today, got in on some lefties.”

The Orioles will figure out late in camp whether Voth starts or relieves, since he’s done both in his career. He’s in the rotation competition at the moment.

“I feel like I’m along with any one of them,” he said. “We all are very talented and there’s a lot of us, so whoever’s going to be in the rotation, they’re going to help us out a lot. … It’s going to be fun to see who ends up in the rotation and how the bullpen winds up.

“I feel like I can be a starter, I can be a reliever. I have a decent amount of big league time, so I’ve kind of been around a little bit. I think that helps me just with experience-wise.”

The games pitched out of the bullpen could make it easier for the Orioles to return Voth to that role. They need guys who can consume multiple innings.

“If I perform well as a starter, they’ve seen what I’ve done last year and there’s no reason that I can’t continue to have that success going into this coming season with Holty (Chris Holt) and (Darren) Holmes helping me,” Voth said. “They really helped me last year and took a step forward as a starter. So, either way I feel like I’m going to have a role here. I’d like to be a starter, but if I’m a reliever, then I’m going to be happy with that, as well.”

Keegan Akin tossed a scoreless fifth despite a walk and single, with a 4-3-6 double play and called third strike preventing real damage. Cionel Pérez loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth on two singles and a hit batter, but the Jays didn’t pad their lead.

Logan Gillapsie got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh after Jackson Holliday, who just entered the game, bobbled a ground ball and threw high to first base. A strikeout and ground ball briefly kept the deficit at one run.

Attendance was announced at 4,302.

Twice as many people will swear they were here on the day of the near no-hitter.

“Pleased with how we pitched,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Thought we pitched much better today. We were in the strike zone. I thought Irvin did a nice job his first time out. Voth threw the ball well. (Akin) did a nice job.

“Just didn’t get anything going offensively. Give those guys credit. I thought they threw the ball well. Not much offense.”

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