Manny Machado ready to break out in 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Six games into spring training, the competition for the Orioles’ fifth starter is starting to get a little clearer.
After Jair Jurrjens coughed and spewed his way through a rocky first inning against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday afternoon, it’s starting to look unlikely that he’ll be with the Orioles come April 2.
Yes, it’s the last day of February, but Jurrjens allowed three runs on two hits, walking two in his inning of work. Manager Buck Showalter hoped he’d go at least two. Last Sunday, Jurrjens managed to get through two innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing a run and a hit.
The Orioles lost their first game of the spring 7-1 to Minnesota before 4,360 at Hammond Stadium. They’re now 5-1.
Jurrjens was signed on Feb. 15 after protracted negotiations. He has a minor league deal with an opt-out clause. Entering the exhibition schedule, Jurrjens was one of several candidates for that fifth starter job.
Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Steve Johnson are his principal competition, though Brian Matusz, Rule 5 draft pick T.J. McFarland and rookies Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman were outside picks.
Jurrjens allowed a leadoff double to Darin Mastroianni, and with one out, walked Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham. Justin Morneau’s three-run double was followed by a third walk to Ryan Doumit. Though Jurrjens go the final two outs of the inning, his day was very dissatisfying.
“My timing today was way off. I wasn’t finishing the ball, it was starting a ball and then finishing a ball. It wasn’t looking like a strike and then finishing a ball,” Jurrjens said.
He fell back on the excuse many pitchers use—poor mechanics.
“I think having been in bad habits for a couple of years. I just got to figure out how to get the good habits back, the good timing. Get that feel back,” Jurrjens said.
A National League All-Star in July 2011, Jurrjens has been plagued with knee and groin injuries since, and he acknowledged that working through those has caused him issues.
“By trying to find a way to pitch without feeling pain you tweak some stuff with your mechanics. You compensate and mess up more stuff.”
Showalter said he’s inclined to agree with Jurrjens.
“He knows himself and his body,” Showalter said. “We’re still trying to familiarize ourselves with him.”
With such a long spring training, Showalter can afford to watch Jurrjens pitch several times before making up his mind.
“It’s been a while for him. I would lean on him because he knows it better,” Showalter said.
It’s not to say the manager will grade Jurrjens on a curve, but he emphasized how early in spring training it is.
“This time of year, we’re not even into March yet. We’re not going to close the door good or bad on anybody at this point,” Showalter said. “It’s a process with him.”
The process with Jurrjens was shaky.
“The ball was doing what [I wanted it to be] doing. My release point was a little bit off,” Jurrjens said.
“It’s a long spring training, lucky for me. I’m going to keep working and try to find that release point.”
Gausman, who allowed a run and two hits in 1 2/3 innings last Sunday against players with no chance to make the Blue Jays, pitched again. In his second outing, he faced a lineup with Mauer, Willingham and Morneau. He gave up a run and three hits in two innings, striking out two.
Last year, Showalter gave Bundy an inning against major league competition. Gausman has already had 3 2/3.
“He faced some good hitters,” Showalter said.
Zach Clark, who the Orioles added to the 40-man roster last fall, allowed a run in the sixth then threw a perfect seventh.
“I can see why Zach won a bunch of ballgames. He’s a baseball player who happens to be a pitcher,” Showalter said.
“After seeing him, I’m glad we put him on the roster.”
The Orioles’ lineup included just one regular: third baseman Manny Machado, who traveled for the second straight game. Even though Machado, who had two hits, is assured of beginning the season as the Orioles’ third baseman, Showalter doesn’t want him to assume he’ll avoid most road games this spring as the more accomplished players do.
-Chris Robinson, who will leave the team this weekend to join Canada’s entry in the World Baseball Classic, had two singles. Robinson was originally slated to be Canada’s backup catcher, but Russell Martin withdrew last weekend.
-The Orioles play Pittsburgh in Sarasota on Friday. Jason Hammel and Mike Wright are scheduled to pitch for the Orioles. James McDonald, Chris Leroux, Vic Black, Kyle Waldrop, Duke Welker and Mike Zagurski are listed as the Pirates’ pitchers.