Wada's spring debut set for Sunday
Newcomer expected to pitch one or two innings against Braves
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Tsuyoshi Wada signed his two-year contract with the Orioles this past offseason, he probably hoped his first spring with the organization would have gone a bit more smoothly.
The 31-year-old lefty has yet to make his official Grapefruit League debut, pushed back because of elbow inflammation that he first started dealing with in late February.
Wada has been making slow and steady progress. A cortisone shot seems to have helped and he emerged from a Wednesday simulated game very encouraged about how he felt.
Following a light side session on Friday, it appears the southpaw is ready to pitch in an official game on Sunday against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The plan is for Wada to go one or two innings pitching after Jason Hammel.
"I probably wouldn't let him go more than 30 pitches, but don't hold me to it," manager Buck Showalter said. "I'm hoping he can get two innings in, but I think Atlanta will have something to say about that."
The typical progression for an injured pitcher would be to go from a simulated game to a Minor League outing, but Wada preferred to face big league hitters instead, a choice the Orioles readily endorsed.
"We gave him the option. He would rather pitch there," Showalter said. "We were hoping he would pick Atlanta. We want to expose him to everything as much as possible. You're going to get exposed to things that you wouldn't in a [simulated] game and in a Minor League game. He's physically ready to go."
Tillman working on his rush delivery
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At 6-foot-5, there's a lot of Chris Tillman that figures into his delivery. As a result, it can sometimes take him a while to get the ball to the plate.
With no one on base, maybe that's not such a big deal. But when runners are on, Tillman's speed to the plate from the stretch has sometimes been an issue. As a result, it's something he's specifically working on this spring.
"It's still a work in progress," Tillman said after going 3 1/3 innings against the Twins on Friday. "The windup felt good. The stretch is something I'm still playing with. I'm trying to be a little quicker with runners on base. I messed it up a little bit. I think it's just a small adjustment."
It did seem like he was successful in one regard. The Twins attempted to steal twice in the third inning against Tillman, and both times catcher John Hester threw them out. But Tillman said he still doesn't feel locked in from the stretch, leading to some mechanical and command issues.
"Out of the windup, I felt really comfortable, throwing the ball downhill," Tillman said. "Working from the stretch, with a runner on first, I'm trying to give my catcher a chance to throw guys out at second base and being a little quick. It's all new to me. I have that new leg kick. I figured it out a little bit. I know exactly what I need to do. I just need to slow myself down and keep that downhill plane."
Overall, Tillman is pleased with his work this spring. He lowered his Grapefruit League ERA to 3.24 with his Friday outing, spanning 8 1/3 innings. While he still wants to iron the kinks out on his delivery from the stretch, he believes he's making adjustments more quickly than he has in the past. He's not the only one to have noticed.
"Tilly's stuff has been good," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's had a problem in the past of not carrying what he's capable of early in a ballgame, but that hasn't happened down here. I've been impressed. He's been very crisp with his stuff from the first pitch.
"Tilly doesn't get missed in the shuffle for me. He's a guy with a big upside. He's got a little different look about him, his maturity level, and he's starting to put some things together. I feel good about where he is. His arm is a lot further along than it was last year at this time."
Injured pitchers get some work in back in Sarasota
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rick Adair didn't make the trip down to Fort Myers for Friday's game against the Twins, but it was far from an off-day for the Orioles' pitching coach.
Adair stayed back in Sarasota to monitor some of Baltimore's recovering arms as they got some work in. Darren O'Day and Alfredo Simon both had sessions off low ground.
Both right-handers had been dealing with groin issues. Simon is slated to pitch on Sunday night against the Yankees if he has no setbacks, and the Orioles are ready to start pushing O'Day forward as well if he checks out OK.
"That's two more reasons why I wanted Rick to stay back and see where they are," manager Buck Showalter said.
Additionally, Tommy Hunter threw in a Minor League game as he works his way back following some lower back troubles. Jake Arrieta and Luis Ayala had side sessions in Sarasota as well. Arrieta will get some mound time in a Minor League game on Monday, an off-day for the Orioles. He'll be joined by Zach Britton, who'll go three innings. Ayala will pitch on Sunday against the Yankees.
Jason Berken, who long tossed and threw 25 pitches off the half-mound on Thursday, will repeat the exercise on Saturday, though Showalter said it's possible he'll get bumped up to full-mound work.
Nick Johnson was supposed to make the trip to Fort Myers to play against the Twins, but he stayed behind and will play on Saturday instead. Showalter said the non-roster invitee was dealing with some "general soreness," so they made the decision to give him an extra day. The Orioles have been giving him a lot of reps, by design.
"Part of his evaluation is if he can stand up to the grind physically," Showalter said of Johnson, who hasn't played in the big leagues since 2010.
Nick Markakis is set to make his second Grapefruit League appearance Saturday against the Red Sox in Sarasota. He made his debut on Wednesday and the plan was to give him two days off before putting him in the lineup again. Markakis, who had offseason abdominal surgery, will DH on Saturday.