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03/18/2013 4:37 PM ET

As East rivals, Showalter to see Dickey's knuckler often

Back with Rangers, O's skipper convinced right-hander to focus on one pitch

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter hopes his baseball savvy doesn't backfire on his bid for a second consecutive trip to the playoffs.

In 1995, Showalter was in his final season as manager of the Yankees when a light came on -- young Mariano Rivera was not destined to become a big-time starting pitcher with only one strong weapon in his arsenal.

Showalter dispatched the rookie right-hander and his now-famous cut fastball to the bullpen. The entire baseball world knows how that turned out.

In charge of the Rangers a decade later, Showalter convinced aging R.A. Dickey that only one pitch, a bewildering knuckleball, could extend his career in a starting role.

Showalter was reminded of his genius last June, when Dickey became the first National League pitcher in 68 years to go the distance in consecutive one-hitters. He struck out 13 Orioles in the second gem for the Mets.

Showalter is about to see much more of the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, who was traded in December to one of the O's division rivals, the Blue Jays.

Last year, Rivera caused limited harm -- except to himself by tearing up his right knee shagging fly balls before a game at Kansas City in May -- but he looks typically solid entering his farewell tour.

"I was not born with a great knuckleball, like he was born with a great cutter," Dickey said of Rivera before leaving his new teammates to represent the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic. "I had to really, really work at it. It was grueling."

Chen pleased with outing against Minor Leaguers

SARASOTA, Fla. -- An open date in the exhibition schedule Monday did not slow down the preparation of Wei-Yin Chen for his sophomore season in Baltimore's rotation. In a light rain at the Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex, the left-hander worked five innings against a cast of Class A Tampa Bay prospects.

Chen allowed two earned runs, struck out two, walked one and hit another. He might have fared better against a lineup of seasoned veterans.

"These Minor Leaguers swing at every pitch I throw, so it messed up my tempo a little bit," the Taiwan native said through interpreter Tim Lin.

Some sloppy play behind him also disrupted the flow of the outing, but Chen accomplished what he set out to do.

"I wouldn't complain about our defense, because even in the Major Leagues, you always have errors behind you," he said. "I still worked on my stuff. That's the only thing I wanted to do today."

Chen hopes to pitch 200 innings or more during the season. As a rookie, he came up just shy of that mark last season en route to a 12-11 record and a 4.02 ERA in a club-high 32 starts.

The need to gain strength over the offseason became apparent for Chen when he faded down the stretch. He was encouraged with his latest appearance, finishing with plenty of energy to work on his fastball and changeup before his removal.

"I feel stronger this year," he said, "and I feel really good about the season."

Worth noting

• The Baltimore Sun reported on Sunday night that longtime Orioles usher Charlie Zill has Stage 4 lung cancer. Best known for his "Zillbilly" dance during the seventh-inning stretch, the 55-year-old non-smoker told the newspaper he has been given a year to live.

• Left-hander Brian Matusz will start for the Orioles when they visit the Red Sox on Tuesday at 1:35 p.m. ET in Fort Myers, Fla.

Bob Bellone is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.