Wade LeBlanc on his two scoreless against Boston

SARASOTA, Fla. - In his first shot to show the Orioles he’s worthy of a starting rotation spot, veteran lefty Wade LeBlanc made a good opening impression this afternoon at Ed Smith Stadium.

Two scoreless innings on 23 pitches against the Boston Red Sox. He retired six of the seven batters he faced, two on strikeouts, and pitched around a two-out single in the top of the first.

LeBlanc got ahead of four of the seven hitters he faced.

“For me, it’s everything,” he said of pitching ahead in the count. “That’s crucial. Power guys can afford to spray a little bit around the zone. But for me, I have to be where I want to be at all times.”

The Orioles signed LeBlanc to a minor league deal late last month. LeBlanc posted a 3.91 ERA over 292 innings from 2016-2018 with a rate of 2.1 walks per nine innings and 1.4 home runs per nine. For that three-year time frame, his ERA plus of 105 was 5 percent above league average. But his performance fell off significantly in 2019, when he went 6-7 with a 5.71 ERA with the Mariners.

Orioles bags.jpgEven though he’s competing for a spot here, after 11 seasons with seven teams, this is what LeBlanc said when asked if he is out to impress his new manager.

“I’m 35. If he doesn’t know who I am by now - I mean, if he doesn’t know who I am as far as a pitcher, then we’ve got problems,” h said. “You know, you are not really looking to impress anybody at this stage. Just get your work in.

“I think competition is good. I think competition brings out the best in guys, especially early in camp. Because the need to perform is always there, even on day No. 1. So competition is definitely good for everyone involved.”

But he did impress, even if that was not his primary goal.

“Always good to get the first one out of the way,” he said after the outing. “There’s always nerves. If there are not nerves, you shouldn’t be playing anymore. It’s good to get it out the way. Good to get out there and go to work with the guys. Just being in the zone (was the key). Being able to kind of control those nerves and that adrenaline and kind of get back into the zone.”

LeBlanc has his own pitching to worry about, but he also said he’s plenty willing to dispense advice and/or help any of his young teammates.

“You know, job No. 1 is to get outs and give the team the chance to win,” he said. “Job No. 2 is to kind of be there for those guys that are experiencing this for the first time and going through the battles for the first time. It is a definitely a blessing to be around for that long to where you do have job number two as well.”

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