Wells strikes out seven in last start, Mateo hit on hand (O’s lose 2-1)

DUNEDIN, Fla. - As the Orioles burn away hours on the composition of their opening day roster, the decision to option left-hander Zac Lowther creating more hope for the non-roster pitchers, players on the fringes insist they haven’t been told whether they’re on the club.

The Orioles can bring extras to St. Petersburg for the taxi squad, but some of the more pressing issues won’t be resolved until much closer to Thursday’s noon deadline.

One reason is the possibility that an upgrade appears on the waiver wire as teams make late cuts or players exercise opt-out clauses in their contracts.

Tyler Wells is one of the certainties, his spot in the rotation confirmed. His final start came this afternoon against the Blue Jays, when he tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.

Wells had six strikeouts in two innings, four coming from his slider, including called third strikes against Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Matt Chapman. His fastball was sitting at 95 mph, and he blew it past Teoscar Hernández to end the first.

Twenty-six of his first 32 pitches were strikes.

A leadoff double and walk in the third were followed by a fly ball and Guerrero ground ball that shortstop Jorge Mateo turned into a double play after going airborne to avoid Dasan Brown barreling down on him.

Wells faced two batters in the fourth to get his pitch count to 50, 37 for strikes. A fly ball and called third strike on Lourdes Gurriel Jr., this time a curveball, brought Hyde out of the dugout. Wells held a Blue Jays lineup filled with regulars to two hits, including George Springer’s leadoff double in the first. He walked one batter.

“Tyler was outstanding,” Hyde said. “I think 12 of 14 first-pitch strikes. Everything he threw was commanded. He had a really good breaking ball, he was throwing his fastball in the mid-90s, both sides of the plate. Tempo, presence, everything, he was absolutely outstanding.”

The former Rule 5 pick made six appearances against Toronto as a rookie and posted a 10.80 ERA and 1.800 WHIP in 6 2/3 innings.

Today’s start “sets a tone kind of going into the season, and that’s what my hope was for today,” Wells said. “I know I struggled last year with the Blue Jays, so being able to come out there and get that monkey off my back and just kind of start new and set a tone for the new year is important to me.

“It’s one of those things where you’re facing one of the best lineups in all of baseball. Whenever you’ve got all four pitches working, like that’s the result, and it feels really, really good, especially for the confidence going into the season. I’m extremely happy with it.

“(Jacob) Nottingham did a fantastic job behind the plate, my defense did a lot of great work out there, so it was definitely a team effort. It felt really good.”

Wells had a flashback to 2021 that he enjoyed.

“I think my entire mentality last year was to strike every guy out. Today felt like last year’s mentality,” he said.

“It felt like I was just going after guys, didn’t care what happened. I’m going to attack you and I’m going to try to beat you, I’m going to try to strike you out. Not necessarily is that always the best way of doing it, but at the same time, too, it keeps me aggressive, it keeps me consistent, and obviously I’m happy with the results today.”

Said Hyde: “I think he’s just being accustomed back to being in a rotation role. Last year, he had never been in the bullpen before. Now he’s kind of going back to what he’s known before, and I think he’s just kind of getting used to that four-day rest in between, the routine. Today, that was the sharpest he’s been and that was a great last step before the season starts.”

Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah began the fourth inning by hitting Jorge Mateo on the right hand with a 92.6 mph sinker. Richie Martin pinch-ran for Mateo, who had just returned to the lineup after missing three games with stomach discomfort.

Mateo hopped out of the box, shaking his hand. He removed his batting glove and walked off the field with Hyde.

The Orioles didn’t have an update on Mateo after a 2-1 loss.

“We don’t know right now,” Hyde said. “The hand’s sore, we’re getting some tests on it, and they haven’t come back yet.”

Ramón Urías reached on a force play and scored with two outs on Bichette’s throwing error for a 1-0 lead.

The camp roster is down to 19 pitchers, and Isaac Mattson is waiting to be optioned. Rico Garcia and infielder Shed Long Jr. are beginning the season on Triple-A Norfolk’s seven-day injured list.

That leaves two more cuts to make among pitchers and only a handful of locks.

Here are the final 17 in alphabetical order:

Keegan Akin
Bryan Baker
Mike Baumann
Félix Bautista
Chris Ellis
Paul Fry
Joey Krehbiel
Dean Kremer
Travis Lakins Sr.
Jorge López
Jordan Lyles
John Means
Cionel Pérez
Dillon Tate
Spenser Watkins
Tyler Wells
Bruce Zimmermann

Lakins followed Wells today and retired Chapman on a line drive. He was charged with two runs in the fifth, when Toronto took a 2-1 lead, but they came on three infield hits, a walk and Kelvin Gutiérrez’s second throwing error of the day.

“Very happy with how I’ve thrown,” Lakins said this morning. “My body feels great, arm feels great. I think my command’s been good. Just me throwing strikes, throwing the ball well.”

Lakins underwent season-ending surgery on July 6 to fix a recurrent olecranon stress fracture in his right elbow. He reported to camp in good health and tossed three scoreless innings in his spring debut on March 18.

Hyde hasn’t dropped any hints about Lakins’ chances of making the club. He could be on the taxi squad if cut.

“I’m just going to keep pitching, keep focusing on today, and we’ll see what happens,” Lakins said.

The trade that sent relievers Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser to the Marlins brought mixed emotions for a lot of bullpen guys in camp. A tough goodbye, a door perhaps opening a little wider for them.

“I’ve known Tanner for going on 10 years, 11 years now,” Lakins said. “I played summer ball with him in high school, so it was hard to see him leave. He’s one of my best friends, but it’s definitely mixed emotions. Hopefully, they’re happy, and hopefully they go dominate this year.

“Hopefully, one (spot) goes to me, but we’ll see what happens.”

Krehbiel retired both batters he faced Monday, made the short drive from his home to TD Ballpark yesterday, and volunteered to be a backup if Hyde ran low on pitchers.

“I only threw a few pitches (Monday),” he said, “so just to see how I bounce back the next day would be a great test to see where I’m at.”

It didn’t happen. Krehbiel is holding at four runs allowed in five innings - none in his last three appearances covering 2 2/3. Also, no hits. He’s walked two batters and struck out eight.

“I feel good,” he said. “I feel healthy, my arm feels good. I feel like I’m being pretty consistent, which I feel like is the main part of baseball is consistency. I do like my chances, but I’m not thinking in the future by any means.”

Krehbiel didn’t see the Marlins trade coming and, yes, the second instinct was to wonder how it impacted him.

“The first thought was, ‘Man, I was just hanging out with them yesterday in the bullpen,’ ” he said. “But that’s obvious. Everyone is here fighting for a job. So, if that’s two free spots, yeah, of course.

“Selfishly, everyone’s thinking, ‘Yeah, it could be me.’ But I’ve been playing for a decent amount of time now. It’s just not the thought process you can have. It’s just got to be, you show up tomorrow just like you showed up the last day, and then the days in the future. You’ve just got to come in and be the same guy every day.”

Mateo doubled off Manoah with one out in the second inning, broke too quickly for third base and was thrown out.

DJ Stewart lined a single into center field leading off the fourth. Anthony Santander doubled off the fence in left, but after Austin Hays bounced into a 1-4-3 double play.

Pérez tossed a scoreless sixth inning. He didn’t allow a run this spring in six appearances over six frames.

Ellis had a scoreless seventh, with third baseman Willy Yahn making a sensational diving stop and throw for the final out to strand a runner. Ellis returned for the eighth and struck out the side.

“I thought Chris was better today, especially his second inning,” Hyde said. “Breaking ball was better, fastball command was better, his delivery was more in sync, better tempo. He’s been out there more now, I think he’s more comfortable.”

Martin doubled with two outs in the ninth and was stranded.

Note: The Orioles and Tigers agreed to cancel Wednesday’s game in Lakeland “due to lack of available pitching as each team finishes spring camp.” The Orioles end their exhibition schedule with an 8-8-2 record.

Taking another look at Orioles’ camp roster
Notes on Tate, Lowther, Mateo and more
 

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