By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
7:19 AM EDT, March 13, 2013
Intrasquad games don’t have much intrigue. The environment is so controlled that it really doesn’t allow for it.
And Tuesday’s instrasquad game -- which most notably gave starters Jason Hammel, Jair Jurrjens and Steve Johnson their scheduled innings on the off day -- presented few surprises. The main question about Tuesday’s intrasquad was whether it would be able to be played between the Florida storm clouds.
But as Hammel and Jurrjens’ days neared an end, the next round of pitchers warming up caught my eye.
The pitcher warming up next to Johnson looked unfamiliar. I knew I hadn’t seen a delivery like that in camp so far.
It was non-roster invitee Daniel McCutchen testing out a new lower arm slot.
We haven’t talked much about McCutchen. He’s kind of been lost in the shuffle among all the pitchers here in camp, but his new delivery -- in which he almost frenetically uncoils into a low three-quarters style motion -- was enough to raise eyebrows.
For McCutchen, the tweak -- which was the Orioles’ idea -- will draw some attention.
He’s not like 6-foot-9 left Mark Hendrickson or 6-foot-8 right-hander Adam Russell, whose sidearm deliveries play well to the deception their long frames create. But it might be enough for the Orioles to be intrigued about McCutchen’s future with the club.
The timing is interesting, too. McCutchen has recorded three straight scoreless relief appearances before allowing five runs and seven hits in 1 2/3 innings last Thursday. So, one rough outing was enough to tinker with McCutchen’s motion.
Granted, Orioles manager Buck Showalter loves different presentations in his pitchers and likes deception in deliveries. And pitching coach Rick Adair has a wealth of experience tinkering with arm slots.
We will see how it goes. McCutchen had a rough start Tuesday, hitting one batter in the neck, walking another and throwing a wild pitch. But keep in mind, this was McCutchen’s first time throwing to hitters with this new arm slot.
One other note from the intrasquad game: I think Jurrjens took a big move forward with three solid innings. Of the 10 outs he recorded, eight were by strikeout.
Yes, it was just an intrasquad game, but Jurrjens looks more crisp and confident on the mound. He’s always had a positive outlook this spring, but there was a little extra excitement in his voice when talking about building his strength in his fight for a rotation spot.
The decision on Jurrjens is far from being made.
His Grapefruit League numbers aren’t pretty, but in his last time out, he was one strike away from throwing a three-inning clean sheet. He admits he still has a long way to go before he recaptures his form, and he still favors the knee when running off the mound. But he said he feels much better than he did this time last year in terms of strength.
Jurrjens still seems to be on the outside looking in for a rotation spot, but he's definitely starting to show progress. And everyone knew rebuilding his strength would be a process.
Tonight’s game against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Fla., is the Orioles’ final road night game of the spring.
And while four of the Orioles’ next seven games are on the road -- that includes a split-squad double header Sunday -- they will finish the spring with eight of their last 11 games at home. That includes an exhibition game against the State College of Florida on March 29 at Ed Smith Stadium.
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