Wrapping up a 5-5 tie

CLEARWATER, Fla. - The competition for the starting job in right field is intensifying with impressive showings from Joey Rickard and Yusniel Diaz.

Rickard went 2-for-3 today with a triple, RBI single and run scored. The former Rule 5 pick also stole his first base of the spring and is 4-for-8.

Diaz, part of the return from the Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade and the No. 1 prospect in the organization, went 3-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored. He’s hitting .500 with seven hits in 14 at-bats.

“Right now, just seeing the ball well,” Rickard said following the Orioles’ 5-5 tie with the Phillies at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. “Seems like everybody’s putting together good at-bats and it’s kind of contagious at times right now. So far so good.”

The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the second after Rickard tripled and beat the throw home on Alcides Escobar’s grounder to the right side.

Rickard-Doubles-Orange-v-TB-sidebar.jpg“He’s playing all-around well,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “He’s playing really good defense, running the bases outstanding. That contact play they scored on early in the game, we talked a lot about that from a baserunning standpoint, and that’s how you do it. That was absolutely perfect.

“He’s stealing bases, just being aggressive and playing the game well.”

Rickard can survey the field and see the opening in right.

“Yeah, I think a lot of players do,” he said. “There are a lot of good outfielders here in camp and it’s kind of helping us push each other to be a better baseball player and help the team out.”

With competition and youth comes an infectious energy that’s swept through camp.

“Yeah, that’s exactly it,” Rickard said. “It’s competition. That’s why we’re here and that’s what we like to do, and at the same time we root for each other. Whoever’s ready at the end of the day and produces gets a chance.”

Not that previous spring trainings were lethargic. Don’t get the wrong idea here.

“Camp’s pretty similar,” Rickard said. “Everybody is here just having a good time and learning from one another and just staying loose and playing some baseball.”

Rickard stood in a hallway outside the visiting clubhouse and checked his phone for the latest update on Bryce Harper, who reportedly has agreed to a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. They became friends a long time ago while growing up in Las Vegas.

“Our families know each other pretty well,” Rickard said. “So congratulations to him. Maybe he’ll take me out to dinner or something one of these days.”

Diaz continues to feast on opposing pitching. Three more hits today and he’s spraying the ball to all fields.

“He hit the ball on the nose four times,” Hyde said. “He’s taking really good at-bats. Being able to lay off off-speed underneath, which a lot of young hitters have problems with. Being able to cover the whole plate, hitting pull-power as well as going the other way.

“It’s great to see a young kid being able to drive the ball to both sides of the field with confidence.”

Hyde said the Orioles haven’t discussed the drawbacks of starting Diaz’s service clock by breaking camp with him. Probably have thought about it, though.

“Obviously, he’s a huge part of our future and he’s showing why,” Hyde said. “It’s the first few games of spring training, but yeah, he’s going to be a big part.

“We’re going to make the best decision for us, for him, wherever he goes when he breaks camp. But I’m just excited to watch him play. Not only is he doing it at the plate, he’s playing really good defense. I didn’t know he has the arm that he has. He runs well. So yeah, he’s fitting right in. He’s playing great.”

Dylan Bundy allowed a run in the second after loading the bases with no outs. He gave up four hits in two innings and struck out two batters.

“I thought he was good,” Hyde said. “He was really happy with how he threw the ball. I haven’t seen, obviously, his last three or four years of first appearances, but he says they haven’t been pretty. So to just give up a run and kind of pitch out of trouble, he was pleased with how it went.

“I thought the ball was coming out good. He’s got really nice hop on his four-seam. Threw some really good splits. So I thought it was a positive outing for him.”

Darick Hall hit a two-out, two-run homer off Cody Carroll in the ninth inning to create the tie. Carroll struck out three batters and the game ended in regulation.

Jimmy Yacabonis impressed again with two more scoreless innings. No hits allowed, one walk and two strikeouts.

The Phillies scored a run off Pedro Araujo in the seventh to reduce the lead to 5-3. Araujo, in his spring debut, allowed one run and two hits with a walk and strikeout. Third baseman Christopher Bostick committed a throwing error.

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