Orioles claim pitcher Hector Velázquez off waivers (5-5 tie)

SARASOTA, Fla - The Orioles are bringing a relief candidate into camp and filling a vacancy on their 40-man roster.

Right-hander Hector Velázquez was claimed off waivers today from the Red Sox to increase the camp roster to 55 players and the 40-man to 39.

Velázquez, 31, was designated for assignment on Thursday. He’s gone 11-7 with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.428 WHIP in 89 games (19 starts) over the past three seasons.

The Orioles like the length that Velázquez can provide and view him more as a long reliever than a starter.

Velazquez-Throws-Red-Sox-Sidebar.jpgVelázquez posted a 2.92 ERA in 24 2/3 innings in 2017 and a 3.18 ERA in 85 innings the following year. He appeared in 34 games (11 starts) last summer and registered a 5.43 ERA and a 1.527 WHIP in 56 1/3 innings.

He doesn’t miss many bats, averaging 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

Rule 5 picks Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker came off the 40-man on Friday and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias suggested that the room could be utilized via a waiver claim or by selecting the contracts of a few non-roster players.

Elias is checking the wire for available starters, but he also wanted an innings-eater in the bullpen.

Velazquez owns a 2.34 ERA and 1.039 WHIP in 32 Triple-A appearances, 19 of them in a starting role.

Kohl Stewart gave manager Brandon Hyde the three innings he sought, but the right-hander allowed three runs and five hits in his spring debut.

All three runs scored in the second inning, with Stewart compounding his problems by slipping as he tried to barehand Rosell Herrera’s slow roller to the right side of the mound. Estevan Florial had an RBI double, Trey Amburgey a sacrifice fly and Thomas Milone a run-scoring double for a 3-3 tie.

Luke Voit thought he led off the third with a home run to left field, broke into a trot and settled for a long single. Stewart retired the next three batters, his inning extended when the Orioles failed to turn a 5-4-3 double play. Voit was ruled safe at second.

Getting through three innings on 44 pitches made the day a success for Stewart. No discomfort in the biceps muscle. No early exit.

“Having not been out there and then to go three ... Even sim games, you can’t simulate going three innings in a real game,” he said. “But honestly it felt really good. The third inning I was telling Doug (Brocail), man, the third time getting up and down, I was like, ‘All right, I’ve really got to get going here.’ But I felt really good. I wasn’t as crisp, made five or six mistakes and they made me pay for it, but my arm felt really healthy and I felt really good, so I’m definitely happy.”

Stewart began the game by starting a 1-4-3 double play after José Iglesias’ throwing error. Stewart struck out Gleyber Torres, which should be celebrated in any month and under any circumstances.

“It felt pretty good,” Stewart said. “It’s been a while, you know? So finally getting in the game instead of doing some of these sims that I’ve been doing. My stuff felt really good, especially as long as it’s been since I’ve been against live hitters. I felt like I executed the majority of things that I wanted to today. I made a few mistakes and they made me pay for it, but as far as building on this and getting some of those things corrected that I didn’t do, we know exactly what I need to do a little better and we can make that happen in between starts.

“In the bullpen, it was funny because with this wind, sometimes some of your off-speed pitches can react a little bit differently, and kind of the same thing on the mound. My cutter was actually moving a lot more horizontally and my sinker was not because it was kind of fighting that wind, but honestly everything felt really good.”

The Orioles manufactured three runs in the bottom of the first, with Austin Hays scoring on Chris Davis’ single into left-center field. Davis has nine RBIs to go with his three home runs and eight walks, and the single was his seventh hit in 13 at-bats.

The opposite field beckoned again.

Hays struck out, but reached on a passed ball and stole second base. Anthony Santander offered a productive out with a grounder to the right side.

The lead grew to 2-0 after Renato Núñez’s bloop single into right field, Iglesias’ infield hit and Dwight Smith Jr.’s line drive into left. Núñez came home on Pedro Severino’s fly ball.

Davis drew a leadoff walk in the third and starter Clarke Schmidt came out of the game. Davis walked again in the fifth.

Thomas Milone hit a two-run homer off Mychal Givens in the fourth to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. Hunter Harvey retired the side in order in the fifth.

Correcting an earlier note on John Means, his simulated game is Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Act accordingly.

Update: Yusniel Diaz drove in the tying run in the eighth inning with an infield hit and survived a violent collision at first base, and the teams finished in a 5-5 tie.

Richie Martin reached on a bunt single to fuel the rally. He was thrown out at the plate while trying to score the go-ahead run.

Smith’s infield hit with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth reduced the Yankees lead to 5-4. Richard Bleier retired the side in order with ease in the sixth. Cole Sulser struck out the side in the eighth. Tanner Scott struck out the side in the ninth and his fastball topped out at 101 mph.

Tommy Milone’s bullpen session went well today.

Manager Brandon Hyde on Stewart: “I thought he threw the ball well. Just made a couple bad pitches. Didn’t help himself out on the ball that he kicked, but I liked the cutter. Worked well. The curveball to Voit that stayed in the park, he hung a little bit. But for this first outing and against an opposing team in a stadium environment, did a nice job. Got through three innings.”

Hyde on whether Stewart is in the mix for a spot on the opening day roster: “A lot of guys in the mix. Yep. We’ve got about 50-something of them. It’s a big mix.”

Hyde on Harvey: “Hunter continues to throw the ball extremely well. Threw some nice splits today, too. Had the mix going with the plus fastball.”

Hyde on whether there’s an issue not knowing if Harvey can go back-to-back: “That’s something we’ve talked about and we’re going to let these next couple weeks play out and discuss the usage about him and with him. But I would love to keep him healthy and I want to do everything I can for the kid. We’ll talk about it.”

Hyde on Scott: “That’s the best I’ve seen Tanner look. After the first two pitches going 2-0 to the first hitter, that’s the best I’ve seen him look in two spring trainings and last year.”

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