PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Bruce Zimmermann bolted out of the visiting dugout today at Charlotte Sports Park and jogged to the mound, eager to begin warming up for his first spring start and third appearance.
Zimmermann looked forward to the opportunity but mostly was glad to be off the team bus.
He could have gotten here faster from Sarasota if he walked.
The Orioles arrived at the ballpark about 45 minutes prior to first pitch, their driver taking them to a closed section of I-75. Traffic was stopped. Vehicles that didn’t do it in time pulled onto both shoulders with smashed fenders.
Zimmermann got away clean on the ride and in the game. He tossed three scoreless innings against the Rays in his longest outing of the spring, allowing one hit and walking a batter before retiring the last seven batters.
Three more strikeouts upped his total to nine in 7 2/3 innings in the Grapefruit League.
Zimmermann was able to warm in the bullpen at an acceptable pace and the game started on time.
“We hit a little bit of traffic,” he said, “but the main part was staying calm and collecting myself and getting straight to business when I got here.”
Zimmermann said he had to “expedite” his pregame routine a little bit, “but I got everything in that I needed to before my start.”
The Ellicott City native escaped a jam in the first inning after a single, wild pitch and walk by inducing a double play grounder from Yandy Díaz. He was much crisper in the second with two called third strikes and a ground ball on a total of 13 pitches, and again in the third with a strikeout, grounder and popup on 10 pitches.
Cody Carroll replaced Zimmermann, who threw 43 pitches, 25 for strikes, and didn’t let a ball out of the infield. The fastball was clocked at 92-95 mph on the stadium gun.
“I think I threw really well,” Zimmermann said. “I had a little bit of control issues that first inning. Loved having that solid defense behind me today, picking me up with that double play as well as a couple of those wind balls that Rio (Ruiz) played extremely well because it was moving around a lot up there.
“I think my second and third inning I was able to settle down and really attack some hitters. Changeup was really good today. Didn’t really get to use my breaking balls as much, but overall I think it was a pretty solid day and the defense helped me out, which was nice.”
The camp experience is enabling Zimmermann to face some tough lineups. He hasn’t been able to cruise against overmatched opponents.
“It’s been exciting, that’s for sure, going out there and seeing those names in the box that I’ve been watching for the past three or four years,” he said.
“To be at this level you’ve got to pitch well, and to know that I can go out there and do that every five days right now, that’s a big confidence boost and I just want to keep building on the outings, whether they’re good or bad. Just make sure I’m taking away something and improving if I can, and I hope to every outing.
“Obviously, I want to stay here as long as possible and I just want to take care of it and go out every five days. It’s great to still be up here with the team and taking full advantage of the opportunity that they’re giving me right now.”
Carroll allowed his first spring run in five appearances, with José Martinez’s two-out single giving the Rays a 1-0 lead. Carroll allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning, but he struck out three batters.
Left fielder Ryan Mountcastle’s throw home on Martinez’s single sailed up the first base line.
Branden Kline loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth on a hit and two walks and manager Brandon Hyde replaced him with Isaac Mattson, one of the pitchers obtained from the Angels in the Dylan Bundy trade. Diaz grounded out.
Hanser Alberto led off the game with a long fly ball to left field off Sean Gilmartin that hooked foul - which he noticed after reaching second base on his home run trot. Alberto retrieved his bat and reached on a bloop single to left.
Alberto finally was allowed to reach second after Pat Valaika singled on a ball that shortstop Willy Adames should have been able to backhand, but Mountcastle grounded into a double play.
Mountcastle also struck out twice.
Mason McCoy replaced Alberto at second base in the fifth inning. Alberto was struck on the left hand by a pitch in the third.
* The Orioles announced that they signed their non-arbitration players to 2020 contracts, a spring ritual throughout baseball.
Pitchers: Carroll, Shawn Armstrong, Hunter Harvey, David Hess, Dean Kremer, Travis Lakins Sr., Evan Phillips, Cole Sulser, Dillon Tate, Asher Wojciechowski, Keegan Akin, Paul Fry, John Means, Tanner Scott