SARASOTA, Fla. - Logan Verrett tossed another scoreless inning yesterday, retiring the Pirates in order in the bottom of the ninth. Jason Garcia is scheduled to pitch today against the Blue Jays in his fourth spring training appearance.
One Rule 5 right-hander following another for the Orioles.
Can they keep both pitchers in a bullpen that’s already crowded? Can they hold onto at least one?
Let’s start with the least likely scenario, that a contender can carry two Rule 5 pitchers.
“Conventionally thinking, it would be hard, and especially in the American League,” said manager Buck Showalter. “Rule 5 guys, you don’t hide them anymore. They have to pitch and they have to be able to present themselves. That’s why (T.J.) McFarland, we were able to carry Mac because he could do some things for us.
“The days of taking a Rule 5 and sticking him in the end of the dugout for the whole season so you can have him the next year, that doesn’t exist anymore. Especially a pitcher. They’ve got to pitch. And not just because it’s the American League East. It could be any team, but especially in the American League, where the lineups are so deep with the DH.
“Is it possible? Sure, it’s possible, but it creates some challenges for your bullpen because you don’t know what you’ve got. You’re not going to know until about June or July what you’ve got. We didn’t really get a good feel for Mac until about halfway through the season.”
Verrett (accent on the second syllable) has made the strongest impression by far since being selected from the Mets organization, allowing two runs, walking one and striking out nine over 11 innings. Garcia, formerly of the Red Sox organization, has been limited to four scoreless innings in three outings due to a sore hamstring, but he’s got an upper-90s fastball and smooth delivery that intrigues the Orioles.
“You can tell Verrett’s polished and advanced. And Jason, we’re still trying to get our arms around that a little bit,” Showalter said.
“Jason’s going to get the ball a lot between now and the end of spring. We should be able to make a pretty good call. I don’t worry too much with Logan. Jason, I think the jury’s still out a little bit, especially coming out of A-ball, but you can see why both of them were wanted.”
So how about keeping at least one of them?
“We’ll know better when we get through with the meeting today, but I think they have not made us think any less positive than the day we drafted them. In fact, it’s kind of been the other way,” Showalter said.
“I was looking. Verrett’s led two leagues in least walks per nine innings. Pretty impressive. He’ll throw it over, which bodes well for him. I think we’re still trying to get our arms around what we’ve got in Jason. We all know the arm.
“I can tell you this, both clubs are trying to get them back.”
The Orioles would like to get back the run that they surrendered in the top of the first inning.
Former Oriole Steve Tolleson doubled with one out off left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, but got caught in a rundown on Kevin Pillar’s one-hopper to the mound. Pillar scored on Manny Machado’s fielding error to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead.
Chen threw 18 pitches, 13 for strikes.
Machado couldn’t come up with Tolleson’s sharp grounder, and he sailed a throw over second base while trying to cut down Pillar, who advanced during the rundown. The ball momentarily got stuck in his glove.
Machado charged former Oriole Danny Valencia’s bouncer and couldn’t play the short hop, committing his third error in the last two home games and team-leading fourth this spring.
Chen retired the Jays in order in the second on 14 pitches. Adam Jones made a nice, tumbling catch on Caleb Gindl’s blooper to shallow center field.
Chen has thrown 21 of 32 pitches for strikes in two innings.
Update: Tolleson homered off Chen with two outs in the third to give Toronto a 1-0 lead, but the Orioles tied the score in the bottom half.
Nolan Reimold was hit by a pitch and scored all the way from first base on Caleb Joseph’s double to left field. Reimold was flat-out motoring around the bases.
Update II: Chen allowed two runs (one earned) and four hits in five innings, with no walks, one strikeout and one home run. I’ve got him at 62 pitches, 39 for strikes.
Webb replaced Chen and gave up a leadoff triple to Munenori Kawasaki and a two-run homer to Kevin Pillar to increase Toronto’s lead to 4-1.
Chen has walked one batter in 13 1/3 Grapefruit League innings.