By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
4:39 PM EDT, March 24, 2012
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has said selecting his cleanup hitter will be one of spring’s toughest decisions.
And judging by the production of his top two candidates – Matt Wieters and Adam Jones – during Saturday’s 12-3 thumping of the Nationals at Ed Smith Stadium, that decision became more difficult.
Hitting in the No. 5 spot, Wieters was 4-for-4 with six RBIs, including a three-run homer in the third inning off Nationals starter Edwin Jackson, while Jones was 3-for-3 with an RBI from the cleanup spot.
Add in Wilson Betemit and the Orioles 3-4-5 hitters were a combined 10-for-10 with 9 RBIs and 5 runs scored.
“This is just about the stage of spring where the bats start catching up with some of the pitching,” Showalter said. “It’s usually around that 30 to 40 plate appearance spot in the spring.”
Orioles starter Jake Arrieta battled through a rocky first inning to allow just one run on four hits over five innings. Despite working behind in the count – Arrieta threw 40 of his 72 pitches for strikes – he retired 12 Nationals hitters in a row at one point.
“Sometimes I think he’s almost feeling a little too strong,” Showalter said. “I thought he pitched a little better after the first inning. He was up a little bit. I saw the command of the breaking ball get better, he kind of went to the slider a little bit more.”
Lefthander Dontrelle Willis’ Orioles debut didn’t go as well. Willis, signed to a minor league deal Tuesday, walked the first three hitters he faced – 12 of his first 16 pitches were balls – in allowing two runs (one earned) in one inning of relief work.
Second baseman Robert Andino (6-for-9 in his last three games) continued his recent hot hitting with a 3-for-3 day, and Nolan Reimold hit his first homer of the spring, a solo shot in the fifth.
Darren O'Day, Luis Ayala and Matt Lindstrom threw scoreless relief innings for the Orioles.
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