Notes on LeBlanc, Rule 5 guys, Davis, Velazquez and more

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles left-hander Wade LeBlanc will try to go two innings this afternoon, as Chandler Shepherd and Ty Blach did yesterday in North Port.

Manager Brandon Hyde has watched the left-hander in bullpen and live batting practice sessions, but today’s game provides a truer evaluation.

“He’s just a veteran guy that knows how to pitch, that can command pitches,” Hyde said. “He’s had a good changeup and a good cutter for years. His first outing in a game and I’m sure he’s anxious to get out there. We’ll see if the changeup and cutter are going, but he’s got really good command and done it for a long time.”

The competition for rotation spots includes Rule 5 picks Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker, who also will pitch today. Opposites when held up to LeBlanc, who’s 35 and with his eighth team.

“We’re excited about their arms,” Hyde said. “They’ve impressed so far in spring training. Now they’re going to get an opportunity to kind of showcase what they bring and we’ve been impressed so far, so let’s see how it translates.

“They’ve both come in hungry and they both understand the opportunity they have and they’re very appreciative and they’re excited to be here. We’ve had our one-on-one meetings with them and this is their first time really pitching on this type of stage and they’re excited about it.

“We’re going to throw them out there and see what we have.”

Bailey is listed at 5-foot-10 and that seems a bit generous, but he won’t be judged on his height.

“It’s not the usual bigger stature pitcher, but there’s a lot of guys that are a little shorter that are successful in the big leagues. (Marcus) Stroman, et cetera,” Hyde said. “We’re excited about the pitch mix that he has. He’s got five really good pitches. He’s got some weapons. He knows how to pitch. He’s shown that so far and we’ll see how it is out here.”

Bailey and Rucker came from analytics-driven organizations, which made them more appealing to the Orioles front office.

“They’ve been accustomed to pitching labs in spring training and understanding their data, so I don’t think that’s been any change for them,” Hyde said.

Other pitchers listed for the Orioles today include Shawn Armstrong, Richard Bleier, Evan Phillips and Eric Hanhold.

The Orioles brought pitchers Luis Oritz, César Valdez and Francisco Jiménez and outfielder T.J. Nichting from minor league camp.

Alex Cobb remains scheduled to start Monday in Clearwater, but he took a flu test this morning because he’s been feeling under the weather for the last four days.

Left-hander John Means starts Tuesday afternoon’s split-squad game against the Rays in Sarasota. Kohl Stewart starts versus the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

Davis-HR-Swing-Black-Sidebar.jpgChris Davis didn’t make the trip to North Port yesterday, but he’s in today’s lineup and batting third.

“He seems more comfortable mentally,” Hyde said. “He’s going to get a bunch of at-bats. I love the way he’s swinging the bat during batting practice. The ball’s coming off his bat. He’s hitting a ton of homers. He’s just driving the ball more than he did at this time last year in batting practice. And he’s had a couple nice live BP at-bats also, so we’ll see.

“I just want him to feel good and I think he does right now mentally, so hopefully it translates.”

Infielder Andrew Velazquez is waiting to play in his first game with the Orioles after they claimed him off waivers from the Indians. This is the fourth organization for the 25-year-old Bronx native.

“Eight years in the game so far, I think nothing is going to surprise me at this point,” he said. “The business aspect of it is something you learn the longer you stay in it. Not really surprised.

“I had a really good time with the Indians. They showed me a lot. They really helped me for this year and like moving on in my career and this is a really good spot.”

Velazquez is getting a late start on the utility competition, but he’s qualified for super status. He appeared in 13 games with the Rays in 2018 and played six positions.

Maybe he’ll stop at four organizations.

“I think honestly growing up in New York helped me a lot with adapting and mingling with different people,” said Velazquez, a Yankees fan as a kid who lived about 12 minutes from the stadium.

“Being that I can speak English and Spanish makes it a little easier. But I enjoy it. It’s different experiences, so I’m happy to be here.

“My parents are both Puerto Rican, but I kind of taught myself. I started at like 13 or 14, so it’s been a work in progress. I’m still working on it.”

Today’s lineup is filled with projected regulars, but manager Brandon Hyde will start filtering in the utility guys. It’s a big group that could expand further if Richard Ureña clears waivers and stays in the organization.

“That’s the name of the game is competition,” Velazquez said. “Whether it’s friendly competition or not. Even when you’re hitting in the cage with your buddies, it’s competing, so that’s the name of the game. It’s always going to be there.”

For the Red Sox
Marco Hernández 2B
Jarren Duran CF
Kevin Plawecki C
Tommy Joseph 1B
Jeter Downs SS
Marcus Wilson LF
Rusney Castillo RF
John Andreoli DH
Chad De La Guerra 3B

Chris Mazza RHP

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