FORT MYERS, Fla. - Right-hander Thomas Eshelman, one of a large number of rotation candidates in Orioles camp, made a nice first impression today. He pitched two scoreless against Boston on 19 pitches at JetBlue Park.
After his outing, Eshelman said he made some winter changes and adjustments, and today provided good feedback that suggests they may work for him.
“Definitely,” he said outside the Baltimore clubhouse. “The slider, that is the one (Andrew) Benintendi hit (for an out) to center, so I mean, it wasn’t as sharp as I wanted it to be. But it still was there and got a lot of good hitters out today. I was happy with where my stuff is at right now.
“Just sharpened up some breaking balls. Sharpened up my command with the fastball. Be who I am, don’t try to be somebody I’m not. I’m not going to hang my hat on that one, but going to continuously work hard to sharpen up everything every day.”
Benintendi drove Orioles center fielder Austin Hays to the wall to start the home first, but Hays banged the wall as he made a nice catch. Christian Vazquez followed with a single but Eshelman retired the next five batters to complete his day.
“I was pretty excited about that,” he said. “All the hard work I put in this offseason. Kind of changed some things and sharpened up some things. Once I got down here, me and Holmsy (Darren Holmes) and Broc (Doug Brocail) and (Chris) Holt got together and went through a game plan of what I need to do this year. For that to translate on the field was nice.”
He said that even in throwing just 19 pitches he was able to mix his pitches well on an 82-degree day on the west coast of Florida.
“I have faced those guys before and kind of know what they hit,” Eshelman said. “They’ve seen me before too, so their plan of attack was jumping ahead early, so my plan was to mix it up right away. Just kind of understanding stuff more and more and building a relationship with (catcher) Chance (Sisco). I don’t know how many times we’ve thrown together, but the fact we were able to mix it up right away and have the same game plan, that’s huge. I was excited about it.”
Now he awaits his next chance to show he should be considered for a rotation spot.
“One time out, you’re not going to make the team,” Eshelman said. “So just continuously work hard every day to put myself in a good position and just literally take it day-by-day and don’t try to look ahead. But look at what I need to be right for my next outing.”
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the third today. Anthony Santander reached on an infield hit, took second on a passed ball and scored on a throwing error by pitcher Mike Kickham.
Lefty Zac Lowther came on in the Boston third and the Red Sox tied the game 1-1 on an RBI double by Christian Vazquez.
Each team scored three runs in the fourth for a 4-4 tie.
Pat Valaika led off with a double for the Orioles and scored on Dilson Herrera’s one-out double. The lead grew to 3-1 on a passed ball and 4-1 on an Hays’ sac fly. But Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a two-run homer in the Red Sox fourth as part of their three-run rally.
Lowther, in his spring debut, allowed five hits and four runs in 1 1/3 innings and was replaced by right-hander Luis Ortiz. Ortiz joined three other minor league pitchers the club added for this game: Zach Muckenhirn, Mickey Jannis and César Valdez.
Orioles coach Fredi Gonzalez is the manager in this game while Brandon Hyde manages the Birds’ split-squad home game versus Tampa Bay.
A blowout now: This one got away from the Orioles when Boston scored eight runs in the last of the fifth against Hunter Cervenka and Muckenhirn. Connor Wong hit a grand slam for Boston to open an 11-4 lead that is now 12-4. Boston scored 11 runs over the fourth and fifth innings after falling behind 4-1.
That’s it: Final score: Red Sox 12, Orioles 4.
A few final notes and quotes: Right-hander Valdez, 34, over from minors camp, threw two scoreless and fanned four, pitching the sixth and seventh. The Orioles were outhit 13-6 and Rio Ruiz, going 2-for-3, was the only Oriole with a multi-hit game. The Birds went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. With two losses today, they fall to 1-4 and host Atlanta tomorrow at 1:05 p.m., in a game that will be televised live on MASN.
Gonzalez on Eshelman: “That was nice. There were a couple of things out there you saw. Obviously, this early in spring training we’ve got good arms and you leave guys out there to get the pitches in for their next outing. But it was nice to see Eshelman pitch. It was nice to see Valdez come in here and dazzle a little bit with a breaking ball.”
Gonzalez on Lowther: “First outing. Young kid. I don’t put too much emphasis on his first outing in spring training in February. I think those young men will build up and keep getting better the more you run them out there.”
Gonzalez on getting their work in today: “The fifth inning was a long one and it is tough for concentration. But you know, Hays made a nice play in center field, a ball up against the wall. Herrera made a nice catch on a line drive with the bases loaded or there could have been more runs that inning.
“We got everybody in. Everybody got three at-bats and everybody played five innings. That was our goal and we accomplished that today offensively.”