SARASOTA, Fla. – Two of the biggest questions the Orioles must answer this month are what to do about second base and left field.
Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold want to be the answers. Roberts went 3-for-3, including a leadoff home run, and Reimold hit a homer as the Orioles beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 before 4,256 at Ed Smith Stadium on Friday. The Orioles are now 6-1.
The Orioles are tired of hearing the Roberts questions, and so is he. Limited by two concussions, a bad back and hip surgery to 115 games in the last three seasons, Roberts hit his first home run in an Orioles uniform since April 13, 2011.
He also had two singles, and is batting a robust 6-for-11.
“I think everything from my standpoint right now is confidence-builders,’’ Roberts said.
“To know your bat speed is still there, that you can still do things you used to be able to do when you haven’t played in a little while. So, it’s not necessarily all result-driven by any means but certainly, to be able to square balls up consistently and drive balls, I think so far that’s been a positive.”
Manager Buck Showalter is also pleased by Roberts, who he hopes will be his Opening Day second baseman.
"You can tell that Brian enjoys being back in the flow, but you also know it's very early," Showalter said.
"We're four-plus weeks away from starting the season. It's a long way, but he's moving very well."
Reimold and Wilson Betemit hit back-to-back homers in the second inning. After Reimold’s two-run home run off James McDonald, who allowed four runs in three innings, the left fielder came out of the game.
He was replaced by Jason Pridie, who homered in the sixth inning.
Showalter said Reimold’s right shoulder was bothering him.
“Today was the first day it felt a little sore and it didn’t feel comfortable throwing. Didn’t want to continue to throw, especially in the cold weather. He told us that before he hit the home run. It didn’t bother him to swing,” Showalter said.
It was Reimold’s first hit in eight at-bats.
“it was real encouraging to him. Nolan’s been having some good [batting practices], so it doesn’t come as a surprise. You can tell he was pretty [excited.] Probably made coming out of the game feel a little better.”
Continuing with the recovery theme, Jason Hammel who missed much of the second half of last season after right knee surgery, gave up just one hit in two innings.
The possible Opening Day starter, Hammel had been held back until now because the Orioles didn’t want to overuse him this spring.
Hammel struck out two Pirates.
“Nice to be out there with two good knees,” Hammel said.
“Very, very happy with the results were good, there’s still stuff to work on but it was a good start. Good first one.”
He was staked to a 1-0 lead on Roberts’ home run.
“It’s good to see him back. It’s very frustrating for a guy who wants to be out there and can’t be out there. I’ve been through that. He was [out] for a much longer time, I don’t how he got through that, but good to see him out there,” Hammel said.
Adam Jones was 0-for-3 in his final game before heading to the World Baseball Classic to play for Team USA. He’ll work out on Saturday and leave Sunday morning.
Mike Wright relieved Hammel and allowed three runs, including the first of the Pirates’ Gaby Sanchez’s two home runs. Mark Hendrickson, trying to reinvent himself as a sidearmer, gave up Sanchez’s second.
T.J. McFarland, the Rule 5 draft choice, allowed a run in the seventh. Chris Petrini and Branden Kline, last year’s second round draft pick, pitched scoreless innings.
The game ended when Pittsburgh’s Jordy Mercer, who tried to score from second on Alex Presley’s infield single, was tagged out at the plate by Luis Exposito.
-Pedro Strop won’t pitch on Saturday and will leave Sunday to join the Dominican Republic’s WBC team.
-Showalter says that Luis Martinez, who is out with a strained oblique muscle, is still about five-to-seven days away from playing.
-The Orioles play Tampa Bay at Port Charlotte on Saturday. Wei-Yin Chen, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Troy Patton and Daniel McCutchen are scheduled to pitch. Alex Cobb, Fernando Rodney, Juan Sandoval, Alex Torrres, Brandon Gomes and Josh Lueke are the Rays’ pitchers.