This, that and the other

SARASOTA, Fla. – Spenser Watkins will make his spring training debut Thursday on the Orioles’ return trip to Lakeland. To face the organization again that drafted him in 2014 and released him six years later without serving a cup of coffee in the majors.

Watkins is in the same boat as so many other Orioles pitchers in camp, trying to impress and earn a spot in the rotation or bullpen.

“You hear the competition coming in, which is fantastic, and then you look at the numbers and how it plays out,” Watkins said. “It’s one of those things where you just kind of put your head down and go. If it works out and I’m the candidate for the job, then that’s great. If not and someone else gets it, that’s great for them and I’ll continue to work.

“But you see it and it kind of makes you hungrier because the past few years, every job’s been open except for (John) Means and things like that. But this year it’s like, ‘Oh, there’s not as many,’ and it makes you really want to get after it to get that job.”

Much of the preparation was done at Driveline Baseball, the data-driven training facility in Washington state.

“We worked on some two-seam stuff, which is something I’ve been adding and bringing into the game,” Watkins said. “Worked on a bunch of changeup stuff. We were able to find a good grip, which has been great so far. And then again just sharpening everything. Worked on some mechanical stuff. Create more efficiency, create a little more power. That was all really good.”

Watkins is slated to go two innings Thursday, following Grayson Rodriguez to the mound. Rodriguez is expected to be in the rotation on opening day. Watkins never reports to camp with any assurances.

“The nature of my journey has always been coming in and having to prove something every year and earn a spot every single year, so coming in that was my thought process,” he said.

“Whether it’s as a starter, long relief, whatever they need me to do, I’ll do what I can to help the team and get an opportunity.”

* James McCann caught Dean Kremer yesterday, a familiar pairing in spring training.

McCann is living up to his reputation, which thrills the Orioles that he's on their roster.

“I like him a lot,” Kremer said. “I’ve thrown to him now pretty much every time I’ve thrown to live hitters. He’s got a really good brain back there and he gives a great target and he has a really good feel for the game.

“He’s got to catch a lot of this generation’s greats, so we’re very fortunate to have him here.”

* Terrin Vavra impressed again yesterday at the plate, increasing his hit total to four in his first six at-bats and giving him six RBIs this spring. But Lewin Díaz made quite a scene in the fifth inning.

Díaz lined a single into center field to score Franchy Cordero with the tying run. He batted again while the Orioles sent 14 batters to the plate and launched a three-run homer to right for a 9-1 lead.

The Orioles want a left-handed hitter to back up at first base. They can stick with their 40-man roster or pluck a player from the non-roster invite list.

The latter move keeps Díaz in play.

“Plus defender and left-hander and a big prospect with Miami,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “A guy that has huge power and we want to see what we have. He’s in the same boat as (Ryan) O’Hearn and a lot of the left-handers we brought in.”  

* Early votes for Most Valuable Oriole in spring training go to non-roster pitcher Morgan McSweeney, who struck out two batters and induced a harmless ground ball in the ninth inning Saturday to complete a 10-5 win over the Twins.

The game was approaching three hours. McSweeney, a 17th-round draft pick in 2019 out of Wake Forest, calmed it.

“I was impressed with that, the way he attacked hitters,” Hyde said. “I know that’s a second half of a game with a split-squad team, but I thought he had good stuff.”

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