SARASOTA, Fla. – Ryan Flaherty laughed as he recalled the moment. It was the bottom of the ninth, and the Orioles were trailing the Toronto Blue Jays by two runs.
With runners on first and second, Flaherty worked the count to 3-2 against Neil Wagner.
Home plate umpire John Hirschbeck and Blue Jays catcher Sean Ochinko were joking.
“'Hey it's 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth and you can hear a penny drop in here.' So, it was kind of funny," Flaherty said.
On the next pitch, Flaherty hit a ball just fair over the right field wall for a three-run home run, and what was left of the Orioles’ first sellout crowd of the season cheered his shot in an 11-10 win before 7,465 at Ed Smith Stadium on Thursday.
The Orioles are 8-2-1 in spring training.
Flaherty, who was the team’s Rule 5 draft choice last year, and got to stay on the roster, is fighting to return this season.
“Everyone knows the games don't mean anything, but at the same time, everyone is competing, everyone is trying, so it always feels good every time you do something good," Flaherty said.
The game was important for Jason Hammel, who is on track to start Opening Day. Hammel allowed a run on five hits in 2 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out four.
“I feel good about where he is right now,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s in a good place right now.”
This was probably the last time any of Showalter’s starters, Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez, will face an AL East opponent in exhibition play.
“We’re going to see these guys a ton of times this year,” Hammel said. “It’s nice to see these guys early, but you don’t want to be overexposed.”
Daniel McCutchen has done nothing to help his chances to make the team. The non-roster right-hander allowed five runs on seven hits in 1 2-3 innings as the Orioles blew a 6-1 lead.
After the game, the team reassigned five players to minor league camp, right-handed pitcher Mike Wright, who allowed a run in two innings, left-handed pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Zach Braddock and minor league catchers Allan de San Miguel and Luis Martinez.
Wright and Rodriguez are the best pitching prospects in the organization other than Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Braddock is recovering from labrum surgery. Martinez didn’t play because of an oblique strain, but once he recovers, Showalter said he’d return to play in a couple of games, and de San Miguel never played because he was with Team Australia in the World Baseball Classic.
Showalter sat Rodriguez next to Gonzalez and Pedro Strop in the clubhouse so that he could learn from them.
Last year, Wright pitched at both Frederick and Bowie and Rodriguez was at Delmarva.
-Manny Machado had a root canal after the game.
-Tsuyoshi Wada is not scheduled to pitch in any spring training games, Showalter said.
-The Orioles game on Apr. 21 against the Los Angeles Dodgers will be featured on “MLB on TBS.”