SARASOTA, Fla. - Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard won today’s game against the Pirates with a walk-off single against left-hander Eric O’Flaherty that scored Xavier Avery, who led off the Orioles ninth inning with a single.
Garabez Rosa doubled to move Avery to third base, and Rickard - in his only at-bat of the day - collected his 19th hit of the spring.
Rickard was pinch-hitting for catcher Audry Perez, who had a caught stealing in the top of the inning. He’s batting .388 with a 1.015 OPS.
Zach Britton struck out the side in the seventh inning and continues to dominant opponents. He’s been on his game since Day One, leading manager Buck Showalter to joke about sending the left-hander to Baltimore ahead of everyone else.
The joke started after Britton appeared in an intrasquad game. He’s been that good.
“I think I felt good right out of the gate, then I think I went through a little period everyone goes through, a little dead arm period,” Britton said. “Your body’s just got to get used to playing baseball every day, right? Being on your feet. But the last three outings felt really, really good, so I think physically and mentally I’m ready to go. But at the same time, I can use the last few innings I have here to work on something.
“I’m trying not to get into relax mode, but at the same time, still working on stuff. That way, I’m sharp right from opening day on. I think that’s my biggest goal. Last year, I feel like I wasn’t as sharp early in the year as I wanted to be. This year, I said, ‘Heck, I’m going to get ready as soon as I can.’ “
Britton has allowed one run and five hits in nine innings, with two walks and 13 strikeouts. This line includes two scoreless innings in a game at Twin Lakes Park.
For the first time this spring, Britton was pitching on back-to-back days.
“He was looking forward to today,” Showalter said. “Sometimes that second day is better than the first day as a reliever. It’s more of a reminder how this role has really fit him in all ways.
“I don’t take it for granted. His offseason, I can tell he’s found an approach and he’s staying with it. But he’s constantly tinkering, trying to get better. If you hear him, he’s like, ‘I should have done that, I got away with that.’
“I think Zach, when he’s not throwing 96, 97 anymore he’s going to still be an effective pitcher. As the velocity comes down, this (knowledge) is going to come (up). He’s going to be one of those guys. But it doesn’t seem like that’s on the horizon right now.
“Sometimes guys like that you kind of hope they have an outing where ... He’ll tell you he wasn’t facing the cream of the crop there, either. But they certainly got some hits off our other guys.”
Darren O’Day was charged with three runs, the last two scoring after Mychal Givens replaced him with two outs in the eighth, to raise his ERA to 10.50. He’s allowed seven runs and 12 hits in eight innings if you include his two shutout innings in a minor league game, which aren’t part of the official Grapefruit League stats.
O’Day, also pitching on back-to-back days this afternoon, has walked three batters and struck out 10.
“Just second day, some pitches up,” Showalter said of today’s outing. “Nothing really that hard. Just a bunch of singles. Some deep counts. Nothing that I’m concerned about.”
Tyler Wilson gave up a solo home run to Matt Joyce and a double to Michael Morse and retired the next seven batters to complete his day.
“Typical Tyler,” Showalter said. “He was sharp early and let a couple things get away from him, but didn’t implode.”
Showalter shortened up Wilson because he was using Britton and O’Day in back-to-back outings and “we had mapped out three there, two there.”
Showalter confirmed that Wilson remains in the hunt for a job in the rotation.
“He’s still a candidate and I think his next outing will indicate that,” Showalter said.
“He’s already been (stretched out). He could go five or six innings next time out. Physically, he’s ready to do that.
“He’s tough mentally. He’s a student, good aptitude, knows who he is and what he has to do and doesn’t try to get outside himself and does what he has to do. That’s why winning has followed him around. He’s a professional pitcher. He’s a baseball player who happens to be a pitcher, instead of a pitcher who happens to be a baseball player.”