DUNEDIN, Fla. - With a few Orioles pitchers not getting the results they want so far this spring, the competition for the Orioles’ starting rotation might be more open than it appeared to be.
While Chris Tillman made his first Grapefruit League start today, his spot in the starting five seems secure. But Miguel Gonzalez has struggled and Tyler Wilson, pitching in relief today, stated his case as the Orioles and Toronto played to a 6-6 tie in nine innings.
He gave up just two hits over 3 1/3 scoreless innings. He didn’t walk a batter and fanned two. He came in to face Troy Tulowitzki with two outs and the bases loaded in the second. Tulowitzki drove a ball to deep right, but Nolan Reimold made a leaping catch near the wall that saved at least extra bases.
Wilson then stranded two runners in the third and stayed in through the last of the fifth. His skipper was quite impressed and said Wilson, who has a spring ERA of 2.89, is indeed a candidate to win a rotation spot to start the year.
“He’s been a winning pitcher since the 10th grade in high school,” Showalter said. “There is a great presentation. He’s not scared of the competition. There is a lot to like. I think sometimes he gets forgotten about. Not by us. He’s a very trustworthy pitcher. You know what you are going to get.
“He really competes. (I like) his tempo. Our tempo of our pitchers hasn’t been very good down here. That’s Tyler Wilson. He pitches every pitch like it’s the seventh game of the World Series and you like that. He brought a lot of energy and tempo to the game, and I think the offense followed that.
“Mike (Wright) is throwing the ball good down here. (Odrisamer) Despaigne has had a couple of crisp outings. We just have to get our five guys before we leave here ready to go. And it could be Tyler Wilson. There is some competition there that I don’t think people understand.”
Tillman meanwhile threw 51 pitches in 1 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits in the first inning. His final line in his Grapefruit League debut showed five hits and two runs with three walks and one strikeout. His start to the year had been delayed by a hip injury.
“OK,” Showalter said of Tillman. “He got his pitch count. His velocity’s good. His arm strength’s good. Probably a little further along at this stage than last year, where that’s concerned. The results aren’t there yet.”
Tillman faced a Toronto team that he went 0-4 against with an ERA of 11.42 in six starts last season.
“Oh yeah, I think it’s good for him,” Showalter said. “I just think that we’re at that point where, you know, I don’t need a reminder of the standard that they have to have, but it serves a lot better as you go forward with that as opposed to pitching in a Single-A game against Puerto Rico with a bunch of 19-year-old guys.
“Our guys, they know what the competition is going to be like and they know the level they’re going to have to be at, and it’s going to have to be more like ‘14 instead of ‘15.”
Christian Walker started in left field today and recorded an outfield assist in the first inning. He threw out Tulowitzki trying to go first to third.
How did he do out there?
“OK,” Showalter said. “I’ll tell you he made a really good throw to third that a lot of left fielders don’t. He is trying to be good out there. I’ll tell you what, (Alfredo) Marte made three good plays. That last play was a hard play. You can’t see the ball off these stands. We played well in the outfield today. Dariel (Alvarez) made a really nice play on the single in the ninth inning. If we catch a popup, we win the game.”
With the O’s leading 6-4 in the last of the eighth, Joey Terdoslavich, playing at first base, dropped a short popup in shallow right with two outs. A run scored to make it 6-5. Then in the last of the ninth, Dalton Pompey led off with a homer off Chris Lee for the 6-6 tie. The teams did not play a tenth inning.
Will Walker be playing more in left field?
“Here (at spring training)? I don’t know,” said Showalter. “We’ve got about four or five of them out there. He’ll continue to get his work. It was just a good spot to get his feet wet today. I thought he did well out there.”
The O’s scored four runs in the eighth to take the 6-4 lead. Marte’s two-run homer tied the game 4-4. Then Xavier Avery’s RBI double and a Garabez Rosa run-scoring single made it a two-run lead. Marte is batting .368. Jonathan Schoop, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI, is batting .414.
The Orioles improved to 2-1-1 over their last four games and are 2-11-3 through 16 games.