Johnson, Jurrjens struggle as Orioles tie Blue Jays 6-6

Johnson, Jurrjens struggle as Orioles tie Blue Jays 6-6
March 5, 2013, 5:45 pm
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Buck Showalter rolled out two of his candidates for the fifth starter’s job on Tuesday. Neither did much to make his case.

Steve Johnson and Jair Jurrjens were both a little spotty, and will have to watch their two primary opponents, Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton throw on Wednesday.

Johnson allowed two runs in two innings, Jurrjens three in 2 2/3 innings as the Orioles played to a 6-6. 10-inning tie with the Toronto Blue Jays before 5,150 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

There were 29 hits and six home runs, four by the Orioles. Conor Jackson and Steve Pearce continued their hot hitting. Jackson went 3-for-3 with a single, double and home run. Pearce had two home runs.

The Orioles, who are now 7-2-1 in spring training, have eight home runs in the last two games.

Johnson started for the first time this spring, and gave up two runs and two hits, walking one and striking out two.

"I felt good physically, so that was good, but obviously the results weren't really what I wanted. I wanted to go out there and pound the zone. Just couldn't really get in a rhythm today, especially early,” Johnson said.

Last year, Showalter seemed reluctant to use Johnson, but when he did, the results were usually good. Johnson’s first five pitches were balls.

“He’s better than that,” Showalter said. “He did O.K.”

Johnson, who usually has good command of his fastball, is getting a long look in spring training.

“I'm not really too worried about it, being however many innings I have in camp. It's not many. There's a lot of time for the season to start. It comes around. It's just, right now I feel good and I'm letting the ball go pretty good. It's just the height of the ball, it's not down enough right now. I just left the ball up a lot today," Johnson said.

Last Friday, Jurrjens coughed and spewed his way through the first inning against Minnesota before Showalter pulled the plug.

Jurrjens pitched well in the third and fourth before weakening in the fifth.

“I fixed what I wanted to fix,” Jurrjens said.

Ever since he was plagued with knee and groin injuries, Jurrjens has struggled to regain his 2011 National All-Star form. He thinks he’s getting close.

“The last bullpen I threw, I felt like I was beginning to get my rhythm back and my mechanics and all of the delivery was coming together. I felt good leading up to today and in the game,” Jurrjens said.

With Opening Day still four weeks away, Showalter can continue to be lenient with judging his potential starters.

“The first inning, I thought he was really crisp,” Showalter said. “I still think he’s trying to get his feet on the ground a little bit. You can see flashes of why he’s had success.”

Jackson had two home runs on Sunday, and is batting a robust .421. Pearce is hitting even better, .545.

The two teams combined for 29 hits, six home runs. Luis Exposito hit the fourth for the Orioles

“They were all good swings. They had some counts in their favors,” Showalter said.

Jackson’s home was a hard hit shot to left-center. He’s trying not to get too excited about his early success.
“There’s a lot of spring left. A lot of at-bats left. The biggest thing for me was coming in and getting a hot start. I’ve accomplished that. Now, it’s getting into the grind of spring and just being consistent throughout the whole March,” Jackson said.

Jackson and Pearce are essentially competing for the same spot. Both can play first and the corner outfield positions, and they’re right-handed hitters.

“I think Buck is a ‘little things in the game’ kind of guy.’ It’s not going to be who hits the best,” Jackson said.

“I think it’s all the little things that are going to accumulate throughout the spring and be the final decision maker. “
NOTES: Showalter said that he will play many of the players vying for bench roles on the team in Wednesday’s game against Spain’s World Baseball Classic team. Arrieta and Britton will pitch, though Showalter said that he wasn’t sure if Jim Johnson and Darren O’Day will make their 2013 debuts. He’s expecting to rest Matt Wieters.

Spain will start Richard Salazar, who was drafted by the Orioles in 2001, and who pitched for the Sioux City Explorers of the independent American Association.

-Jonathan Schoop hit a two-run home run to give The Netherlands a 4-1 win over Australia in the World Baseball Classic. The Netherlands moves on to the next round. Since Australia has been eliminated, catcher Allan de San Miguel will be returning to the Orioles.

-Alexi Casilla had three hits.