SARASOTA, Fla. — In an otherwise meaningless exhibition against an obviously undermanned Spain World Baseball Classic team, Orioles manager Buck Showalter accomplished something important Wednesday afternoon.
He found work for relievers Jim Johnson, Darren O'Day and Luis Ayala — all of whom were key parts of the club's outstanding bullpen in 2012 and all of whom had not pitched in a game this spring. Showalter wants to keep their innings and workload down, but he also has to get them ready for April.
"I'm pretty sure we'll pick our spots with them," Showalter said. "I don't think you'll see them pitch on the same day all the time. We'll see. I am going to treat each one of them a little differently. … We'll be careful with it. All of them. We have a long time down here left. A long time."
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Ed Smith Stadium, 2700 12th Street, Sarasota, FL 34237, USA
Ayala, O'Day and Johnson each pitched one inning in the 19-7 victory over Spain at Ed Smith Stadium. Ayala allowed two hits and no runs while striking out a batter, O'Day gave up two runs on three hits and Johnson allowed a triple and an unearned run while striking out a batter.
"I was actually pretty good on my in and out; my up and down was a little bit off," said Johnson, who notched a franchise-record 51 saves last season. "I threw one good breaking ball, I kind of surprised myself. I threw a couple of decent changeups. So [with] everything I got out of it, I felt good today, and that's all that really matters."
Johnson was limited last spring because of a back issue, and the Orioles want to make sure they keep their bullpen's anchor fresh and healthy as they move toward Opening Day. Johnson said he already has established a tentative schedule with pitching coach Rick Adair that will allow him to hit all pitching tests before the regular season.
"We got it set up that I will do a little bit of everything. I will do back-to-back [outings], maybe an inning-plus or something like that," Johnson said. "We kind of have it all laid out as to where we are going to finish so that we're ready."
Two of the candidates for the Orioles' fifth starter's spot pitched against Spain on Wednesday.
Right-hander Jake Arrieta, pitching in his third game of the spring, allowed three hits and one unearned run in three innings. He walked one and struck out two while throwing a fairly economical 45 pitches (27 strikes). It was a big improvement on his last outing in which he allowed three runs in 1 2/3 against the New York Yankees.
"Sometimes throughout the week before a start, a light bulb will go off. Whether it's something small mechanically in the bullpen or something you are doing on a certain pitch to kind of help you progress and be more consistent with that pitch," Arrieta said. "And that's happened over the past couple bullpens. I've had two real good sides leading into this game. So, things are really starting to tighten up."
Lefty Zach Britton threw two innings and struggled some with his command, allowing four hits, one walk, two wild pitches and three earned runs in two innings. Afterward, Showalter said he's not putting too much stock into the performances a week into March.
"I'm watching it, and if they feel good physically, that's good enough for me right now," he said.
Canzler leads rout
Russ Canzler's stats won't count, but he had an impressive day leading an Orioles offense that had 18 hits, nine walks and scored 19 runs in a three-hour, 40-minute marathon versus Spain.
Canzler, a corner infielder-outfielder who is battling for a bench job, had a three-run homer in the first inning and a two-run shot in the fourth while adding a sacrifice fly for a six-RBI game. Travis Ishikawa, who is also in the bench mix, homered on an afternoon that featured a stiff, outgoing breeze.
"That was a hitter friendly day, in more ways than one," Showalter said.
Around the horn
Showalter expects to make four to six roster cuts on Thursday. … The Orioles' pitching schedule for Saturday night against the Boston Red Sox will feature the club's last two top draft picks, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Bundy will most likely start. … Right fielder Nick Markakis (neck) likely won't play in a game again until Sunday. Nolan Reimold (shoulder) also is expected to play in that game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. One will play in the field, with Showalter saying he believes Markakis is a step ahead of Reimold health-wise. … Backup catcher Taylor Teagarden (back) took 25 swings Tuesday and is improving, Showalter said. … Left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez threw a scoreless inning Wednesday, his first spring appearance besides an intrasquad game. … The Orioles will host tryouts for potential ballgirl and ballboy candidates Saturday at noon at Camden Yards. Applicants must be 18 or older and bring their own gloves.