SARASOTA, Fla. – Miguel Gonzalez wasn’t supposed to start on Sunday. He was scheduled to follow Chris Tillman as he did seven days before, but on Saturday night, Tillman was scratched with abdominal soreness, and Gonzalez started again.
His outing was perhaps the shakiest yet for one of Buck Showalter’s top four projected starters. Gonzalez left after two innings, lowlighted by a four-run second.
Nate McLouth’s muff of Brad Hawpe’s fly ball to left worsened the damage, and his start was truncated after two. No Orioles starter has worked three in a game against major league competition though Kevin Gausman and Mike Wright have pitched three in relief.
Tillman insists his soreness is just a temporary thing, and will miss just a few days.
Showalter said that during the season Tillman would probably have pitched with it.
Pitching for just the second time, Gonzalez was charged with just one earned run, but knew he didn’t pitch very well at all.
“I felt great in the pen. Just one of those days,” Gonzalez said. “Things weren’t working when I went on the field.”
Following Gonzalez, Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day, Mark Hendrickson and T.J. McFarland threw five scoreless innings. Hendrickson, trying for a comeback as a sidearmer, struck out two batters side in the fifth in the Orioles’ 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates before 6,410 at Ed Smith Stadium on Sunday.
The Orioles are now 10-3-1.
While Gonzalez wasn’t throwing terribly well, Showalter blamed the conditions on a warm day with lots of swirling winds.
“We counted five outs he got that the conditions change,” Showalter said. “I don’t think anybody that was here today would have caught the ball that Nate tried to catch.”
Showalter likes what he sees from Gonzalez. He walked two and struck out two. After McLouth’s error, Gonzalez allowed four hits.
“I think he’s throwing the ball good. I’m really happy with Miguel. Can tell he’s had a good offseason. Looks stronger. Looks pretty fresh. Ball is coming out of his hand good. Crisp. Feel good about him,” Showalter said.
Gonzalez was very critical of his performance.
“My fastballl was up. [Matt] Wieters tried to do his best to calm me down. The wind was bad today, so I thought McLouth had that ball, but it's not easy when the wind is not blowing your way,” Gonzalez said.
The Orioles had just three hits on Sunday. One was by Brian Roberts, another by Wieters and the third was Ryan Flaherty’s two-run home run in the third.
On Thursday, Flaherty hit a three-run home run to win the game. He’s swinging well, and played right field. Showalter continues to like his versatility.
“He’s doing the things to put himself in the position to make it.” Showalter said.
“He knows the level and what’s expected and he’s playing like a very confident player right now, I think defensively and everything he’s doing. He’s not a Rule 5 guy that we didn’t know that walked into camp. He did well last year. Whether he was a rule 5 draft pick or not last year he would have made our club.”
Flaherty saw the winds and gulped.
“I'm not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous out there in the first inning. The first ball of the game, the guy hit it to me and it blew into the bullpen. And you saw what happened to McLouth's ball. It's tough - the wind, the sun, the high sky. Like Buck says, if you can catch fly balls here, you can catch them anywhere," Flaherty said.
-Taylor Teagarden returned to action after missing a week with a back injury.
-Zach Britton will start on Monday when the Orioles travel to Bradenton for their third game in four days with the Pirates. Jake Arrieta, Luis Ayala and Adam Russell will follow. Pittsburgh’s pitchers are scheduled to be Jeff Locke, Phil Irwin, Duke Welker, Erik Cordier and Hunter Strickland.