BRADENTON, Fla. – The worst start of spring training didn’t matter to the Orioles. Chris Tillman allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings, and the Orioles still won.
Not that anyone is looking.
If you are, you’ll see that the Orioles have a 9-2 record, best in the Grapefruit League, and they’ve won seven straight.
Tillman battled the wind and some questionable defense behind him. He allowed a long two-run home run to Russell Martin and five other hits.
The Orioles came back and scored four late runs and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-6 before 6,282 at McKechnie Field on Monday.
It was Tillman’s third start of the spring, and he hoped to make it through four, but he reached his pitch limit two batters into the fourth.
In three starts, Tillman has pitched 7 2/3, allowing six earned runs on 11 hits. His control has been terrific, striking out nine without walking a batter.
“Physically, I feel great and I think that’s all that matters right now. Every time out there, i get up there one more time. So I’m happy with where I’m at,” Tillman said.
Even though manager Buck Showalter hasn’t officially named him Opening Day starter, he looks like the man.
“I just got to get myself ready. I’m going based off feel now. And as long as I feel like I executed the pitch well, physically felt well, that’s all that really matters,” Tillman said.
T.J. McFarland pitched a scoreless 1 2/3 innings, and Brock Huntzinger allowed his first runners of the spring. He gave up Chase d’Arnaud’s sixth inning homer.
Kelvin De La Cruz, Ryan Webb and Eddie Gamboa finished the game with 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
Gamboa’s knuckler flummoxed his catcher, Johnny Monell. Monell who is battling Steve Clevenger for the backup job, drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth.
Clevenger (.429) and Monell (.417) are both hitting this spring. Clevenger had a second inning home run. Steve Pearce had a two-run home run in the fourth.
It’s not the bat that will convince Showalter to pick one as Matt Wieters’ backup.
““That guy has got to bring something on the day that he catches that gives us a little juice, whether it be running the bases or throwing. It can’t be just hitting. They’ve got to be able to catch. We can not have a huge drop in that level. I don’t expect any of them to be Matt behind the plate,” Showalter said.
Jonathan Schoop continued his stellar spring with an RBI double. He’s batting .529, and asked if his play is making him difficult to decide who gets the second base job, Showalter answered:
“He might be continuing to make it an easy decision. Before we came in here, it was wide open. It still is,” Showalter siad.
Rule 5 draft pick Michael Almanzar who looked lost in the early games, had two hits, including a two-run home run. He also had a strong game in Saturday night’s split squad against Boston.
In Double-A last year, Almanzar had 16 home runs and 81 RBIs. Showalter noted that the caliber of players he’s seeing in the late innings may be what he’s familiar with.
“He’s still facing that competition in a lot of cases,” Showalter said.
“It took him about a week to settle down. He’s starting to settle down a little bit, show us why they liked him.”
Before the game, Showalter said he was contemplating a 13-man pitching staff and a four-man bench. It probably won’t happen.
"I haven't ruled any of that out," Showalter said. "There's a lot of different matchups here. This time of year, I'm considering anything. There's a part of you, I'd say 20 or 30 percent, that goes, 'What really impacts your team when you've got seven or eight guys who play every day? The 13th pitcher or the fourth position player who doesn't play much?'"
NOTES: Xavier Paul was hit in the right hand by a pitch in the fifth inning. Showalter thinks he’ll be all right, but he will be X-rayed in Sarasota. Monell and Julio Borbon were also hit.
-The Orioles host the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday. Miguel Gonzalez will pitch against Allen Webster. Alex Wilson, Brayan Villarreal, Francisco Cordero, Miguel Celestino, Noe Ramirez and Tommy Layne are also scheduled.