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03/19/10 10:02 PM ET

Gonzalez happy with pain-free outing

Lefty expected to be at 100 percent by Opening Day

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Mike Gonzalez reported no back pain following a one-inning stint in the Orioles' Triple-A Spring Training game on Friday afternoon, and is scheduled to throw another inning on Sunday.

Gonzalez tossed the top of the sixth inning, and after allowing a triple to Red Sox outfield prospect Ryan Kalish, he retired the next three batters, needing only eight pitches (five strikes) to finish the frame.

"Every day it's feeling a little better," Gonzalez said of the lower back stiffness that forced him to exit Saturday's "B" game after pitching to just two batters.

"Obviously, it was a great thing to be able to go to the Minor League game here [in Sarasota]. That way, as soon as I'm done, [I can] get it nice and iced, and get the treatment right away."

Both Andy MacPhail, president of baseball operations, and manager Dave Trembley watched Gonzalez pitch, and MacPhail raised his arms in a double fist-pump of glee afterward.

"That was nice," MacPhail said. "It was encouraging."

Added Trembley: "We're very encouraged. I had a nice conversation with Mike the other day. Mike's going to be ready when the season starts. He'll be 100 percent."

Gonzalez is slated to throw on Sunday in Clearwater, but that could change, since he would prefer to throw in Sarasota so he can get treatment sooner.

"Facing big league hitters, that's not a big deal to me," he said. "My biggest issue right now is being healthy for the [Opening Day on April 6]. If that's means maybe another couple of Minor League games at home and then three or four big league games, I'm fine with that."

Although several national media outlets have speculated about the health of Gonzalez's arm, noting his distinct drop in velocity, the 31-year-old has maintained that there is nothing wrong.

Upon hearing that his fastball had reached 89 mph on Friday, Gonzalez smiled.

"Eighty-nine? That's not bad," he said. "Not that I look at that too much."

Despite two mediocre spring outings -- in which he allowed one earned run on four hits with two walks over two innings -- Gonzalez and the Orioles have maintained that it's all a part of his natural progression. Gonzalez has said that his velocity won't be at its regular-season mid-90s form until the end of Spring Training.

A lefty with a herky-jerky delivery, Gonzalez underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in 2007 and missed most of '08. Last season, in Atlanta, he set career highs in appearances (80), innings (74 1/3) and strikeouts (90). Gonzalez, who signed a two-year deal with Baltimore in the offseason, has held opposing hitters to a career .209 batting average.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.