03/20/2013 5:47 PM ET
Britton brushes off rough outing amid competition
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Zach Britton, vying for Baltimore's final rotation spot, didn't help his cause Wednesday with a disappointing start against the Blue Jays in which he allowed five earned runs and didn't make it out of the second inning. But as Opening Day draws near, the 25-year-old left-hander said he "definitely" still thinks it's possible he opens the season as the Orioles' fifth starter.
"I don't think stats are everything they are looking at," said Britton, who is competing primarily with Jake Arrieta, Steve Johnson and Brian Matusz, and has a 6.10 spring ERA. "Obviously, you don't want to have a game like this at all -- whether it's the season or Spring Training -- but I think there's other stuff they are looking at. I feel healthy, my stuff has been pretty good. Obviously, the results today weren't very good, but the velocity has been pretty good, movement on pitches has been pretty good."
Making his third spring start and fifth appearance, Britton gave up seven hits, including Emilio Bonifacio's two-run homer, and walked two while he recorded only five outs. He walked two of the first three batters, loading the bases before J.P. Arencibia smoked a three-run double into left-center field to give Toronto a 3-0 lead before he recorded a single out. Britton needed 24 pitches to record his first out, 36 to complete the first inning, and 59 before manager Buck Showalter lifted him with two on and two out in the second inning.
"That's true," Showalter said when told of Britton's belief the Orioles are not using a purely statistical analysis in making a decision on their fifth starter. "That's what we are doing. That's why I said what I did. Zach has pitched well down here for the most part, hitter-friendly day and it didn't go his way.
"He's pitched well for the most part. He's had a couple of less-than-what-he's-capable outings, and the rest of them have been pretty good."
Britton said he was working on his four-seam fastball and acknowledged it's tough to find the balance of trying to improve while fighting for a spot.
"You've got to find the balance between them," said Britton, who went 5-3 with a 5.07 ERA in 12 appearances last year after starting the season on the disabled list. "I wasn't getting ahead, and there were probably sometimes where I could have gone to a sinker and maybe tried to get out of the inning instead of being stubborn and going with the four-seamer. But I trusted [catcher Matt Wieters] behind there. I kind of went with what he wanted to call. He knew the game plan, and I think sometimes it's more important that you work on it, and if you do have a bad outing, it's Spring Training. But I don't have the luxury of having an outing like that when you're competing for a spot."
Britton has allowed seven earned runs this spring on 13 hits and four walks, striking out seven over 10 1/3 innings. He finished up his work Wednesday in the bullpen and may only get one more start before the team makes a decision on its fifth starter.
"I think you just have to show you bounce back, I think that's the biggest thing here," he said. "Showing that you are healthy. I felt like my rhythm was good on the mound. It just wasn't there, I didn't really sync it up. It was just a matter of getting the ball down and locate it better."
Roberts reports no problems after fouling ball off foot
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Brian Roberts fouled a ball off his right ankle in the bottom of the sixth inning in Wednesday's 6-5 win against Toronto, but the second baseman said he still expects to play Thursday night against the Pirates.
"It's fine, it'll be fine," said Roberts, who finished the at-bat, but exited after the inning along with the rest of the Orioles' starters. "Just sore, no big deal."
Manager Buck Showalter said Roberts, who joked he wanted to go out with a bang, was done for the afternoon after that fourth at-bat regardless. Roberts went 2-for-3 with a walk, driving in the go-ahead in the third inning.
"I'm not going to say it was the best ball he hit today, because it wasn't the best ball he hit today," Showalter said of the incident, "but he hit the ball well."
Roberts, who hasn't played a full season since 2009, has been full-go in Spring Training and is fresh off of his first spring road game on Tuesday afternoon. The plan is for him to play in his third consecutive game Thursday as the organization continues to be encouraged with the veteran's health and play.
Young Schoop returns from Classic with experience
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop returned from the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday morning after flying into Orlando in the middle of the night and driving to the team's complex in Sarasota.
"I had a lot of fun over there. It was a good experience," said Schoop who hit .214 with a double, two homers and six RBIs as part of a Kingdom of the Netherlands team that advanced to the semifinals. "I was happy. We did a good job. We showed the world that we could play baseball, compete at a high level. I think we did pretty good."
Schoop, considered the Orioles top position player prospect, left his first Major League Spring Training last month to serve as the Dutch second baseman. While manager Buck Showalter told reporters he wasn't opposed to playing Schoop right away, the 21-year-old did not get in to Wednesday's 6-5 win against the Blue Jays.
"He would have gotten a lot of playing time here, but he got a lot of playing time there," Showalter said. "It was a great experience for him. Proud of him. People were raving about him there, [manager] Hensley [Meulens] loved him."
O's option Exposito, reassign Russell, Schlereth
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles trimmed their spring roster by three prior to Wednesday's game against the Blue Jays, optioning catcher Luis Exposito to Triple-A Norfolk, and reassigning left-handed pitcher Daniel Schlereth and right-handed pitcher Adam Russell to Minor League camp.
The Orioles now have 45 players in Major League camp, including last year's first-round selection in the First-Year Player Draft, 22-year-old right-hander Kevin Gausman out of Louisiana State.
Exposito hit .381/.481/.619 in 14 games with a homer, two doubles and five RBIs. Russell went 2-1 with a 7.71 ERA in eight games, allowing six earned runs on 10 hits with four walks over seven innings. Schlereth appeared in six games and posted a 12.00 ERA, charged with eight earned runs on 10 hits and three walks over six innings. The pair of relievers are expected to join Exposito at Norfolk.
• Pedro Strop is unlikely to pitch before Saturday, as the Orioles are tasked with slowing down the reliever, who is fresh off a World Baseball Classic title with the Dominican Republic. Strop threw 6 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, allowing three hits and striking out seven, during the Dominican's undefeated tournament run, which ended Tuesday with a 3-0 win against Puerto Rico.
Bullpen coach Billy Castro, who served as the Dominican Republic's pitching coach, will also rejoin the team.
• Chris Tillman will make his next appearance in an actual Grapefruit League after battling abdominal soreness, although manager Buck Showalter couldn't remember exactly when he would go. Saturday or Sunday are two good guesses after Tillman threw three innings at Baltimore's Minor League complex Tuesday and felt fine afterward.
• Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen, who will start Saturday against the Phillies, will throw in a pair of Minor League games next week. With the team scheduled for Grapefruit League action at night, Hammel and Chen will throw in the afternoon and avoid facing American League East opponents New York and Tampa Bay.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.