DUNEDIN, Fla. - The auditions for jobs in Orioles camp moved this afternoon to the Blue Jays’ newly renovated spring training complex.
Thomas Eshelman made another start while trying to convince the Orioles to keep him as a fifth starter or long reliever. Mason Williams led off and played center field, hopeful that he’ll head north in a bench role or perhaps as Trey Mancini’s replacement in right if needed. Utility candidates Pat Valaika, Stevie Wilkerson and Dilson Herrera landed in the same lineup.
Williams singled in the first inning for his eighth hit in 21 at-bats. Wilkerson homered to center field, the ball slamming off the batter’s eye.
Those were the early success stories.
Eshelman penned two nightmarish chapters.
The right-hander allowed nine runs and nine hits in two innings. The Blue Jays slugged three home runs and doubled twice in the first and had two doubles and two singles in the second.
The start unraveled like a ball of yarn. Eshelman is hoping that his opportunity doesn’t do the same.
“I just left some balls middle and they got hit,” Eshelman said. “Kind of looking forward to my next start to redeem myself and just kind of flush this one and get to the next one.”
Eshelman kept finding the plate and the bats. Fifteen of his 17 pitches were strikes in the first and 15 of 25 in the second.
Bo Bichette homered on the first pitch thrown by Eshelman, who had allowed two runs in eight innings before today. Jonathan Davis and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit back-to-back doubles and it kept getting worse.
Randal Grichuk followed Travis Shaw’s strikeout with a towering fly ball to left field on the next pitch that kept carrying until it cleared the fence. Danny Jansen did the same as the next batter for a 5-0 lead.
Left fielder Ryan Mountcastle kept drifting back and looking up until he ran out of real estate.
“It is what it is,” Eshelman said. “It gets windy during the season, too.”
Bichette doubled and scored on Gurriel’s double in the second, Grichuck had an RBI single and Jansen delivered a two-run single.
Billy McKinney struck out to get Eshelman back in the dugout after pitching coach Doug Brocail made a mound visit. The Orioles wanted more out of him.
Eshelman wanted more from himself because there could be an opportunity with the back end of the rotation unsettled and the team desiring a long reliever to take north, but he’s now surrendered five home runs in 10 innings this spring.
Where does today’s start leave Eshelman?
“Understand what I did and kind of move on from it,” he said. “Not think about it too much. If you think about it a lot, then you screw yourself. Just take the negatives and turn them into a positive on my work days and get better for the next one.”
Eshelman’s past success this spring should aid him.
“It kind of makes it a little bit better,” he said. “Obviously they were on everything I was throwing today, so look at what I did, but look at what I’ve done, too. And take the positives and move on. That’s the biggest thing.”
Update: Mychal Givens tossed a scoreless third inning, came back out for the fourth and surrendered a two-run homer to Grichuk. He began the inning by hitting Gurriel and throwing a wild pitch.
The inning also included a popup that caused Richie Martin to plow into Valaika, who held onto the ball. Givens camped under it and then moved at the last instant.
This just isn’t a good day for the Orioles.
Wilkerson is doing well with a home run and single.
Update II: Hunter Harvey hit Ruben Tejada to open the fifth and Santiago Espinal drove a 96 mph fastball over the left field fence for a 13-1 lead. Harvey hadn’t allowed a run in three innings this spring.
Harvey reached his pitch limit with two outs. He walked a batter and struck out two.
Update III: Wilkerson fouled a ball off his leg in the seventh inning and came out of the game.
Williams homered in the eighth and is 9-for-24. He reduced Toronto’s lead to 14-2.
Eric Hanhold allowed his first run in seven spring appearances when Andy Burns hit a solo homer in the sixth.
Update IV: The Orioles surrendered six home runs and lost 14-2.
Manager Brandon Hyde said Wilkerson was hit on the right shin. He didn’t have an update.
Hyde also said the Blue Jays jumped on Eshelman early, with a lot of damage coming “on the first couple pitches of the at-bat.”
“It’s a really good day to hit, they got some balls up in the air. It just wasn’t his day, but he’ll be back at it.”
The conditions might have hurt Eshelman, but the Orioles were held to two runs and five hits.
“We didn’t take advantage of it,” Hyde said.