By Eduardo A. Encina and Peter Schmuck
The Baltimore Sun
4:24 PM EST, February 28, 2014
PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. -- Chris Tillman didn’t waste any time reminding everyone why he was the winningest pitcher on the Orioles staff last year.
He opened the Orioles’ Grapefruit League season by striking out three and giving up just one hit over two innings against a representative Tampa Bay Rays lineup in the Orioles 4-2 win at Charlotte Sports Park.
The only hit was a one-out double by Yunel Escobar. Tillman struck out David DeJesus, James Loney and Will Myers and got his other three outs on fly balls.
“I felt good,’’ he said. “It was more of going out and getting the adrenaline flowing again and getting the nerves going. Not really anything else. I felt good about my stuff. Just wanted to work on fastball command and, for the most part, it was good.”
Tillman said it was good to pitch again in a true competitive situation.
“This early in spring, it really doesn’t matter [who the hitters are],’’ he said. “It’s just getting out there and getting the feeling again. We faced our hitters for the first two weeks, and that’s not the same feel. It was good to get back out there in a game situation and get the juices flowing again.”
Left-hander Zach Britton allowed one run on three hits and one walk with a strikeout, but he probably deserved a better fate.
With one on and two outs in the fourth inning, Jerry Sands hit a ball down the third base line that took a sharp hop on Michael Almanzar and went into left field for an RBI double.
Brad Brach pitched a scoreless fifth inning and Eddie Gamboa made quick work of the Rays in the sixth. He retired all three batters he faced, including two on strikeouts by mixing a low-90s fastball with a 60 mph knuckleball.
The Orioles scored three runs in the first inning off former Orioles left-hander Erik Bedard.
Jemile Weeks opened the game with a double to left and two batters later he scored on Steve Clevenger’s single. Following back-to-back walks to Nolan Reimold and Henry Urrutia, Alex Gonzalez hit a two-out, two-run single.
Both Clevenger and Gonzalez were 2-for-3 on the afternoon.
Weeks scored the Orioles’ other run in the second. He drew a one-out walk from Heath Bell, stole second, moved to third on a Francisco Peguero infield single and scored on a wild pitch.
Mike Belfiore allowed a run in the bottom of the seventh inning after yielding three consecutive two-out singles.
Nick Additon and Tim Alderson pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
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