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Pitching Orioles starters in minor league games has plusses and minuses

With several American League East opponents on the spring schedule, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has chosen to pitch some of his starters in minor league games at Twin Lakes Park.

Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen got his work in during a Class-A game Monday. Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez threw five innings Wednesday at Twin Lakes. Next week, when the Orioles play back-to-back night games Wednesday and Thursday, Showalter said he will likely throw Jason Hammel and Chen in minor league games. Even right-hander Chris Tillman, while working through some abdominal soreness, has made his past two outings in minor league games.

Meanwhile, six other pitchers battle for the fifth and final spot in the rotation. And with 10 Grapefruit League games remaining this spring, that battle could go down to the end.

While Showalter admits that he has a plan by keeping his starters away from big league spring games, plenty of scouts flocked to Twin Lakes to see Chen. After pitching there Monday, Chen said the atmosphere -- and the free-swinging minor leaguers he faced -- made it difficult to create a tempo and work on his pitches.

 “I was thinking about that this morning,” Showalter said. “When you think about the looks, I want three or four of our guys to see [Red Sox starter Ryan] Dempster today, especially a National League guy like that. It is something that I think about. Most guys who go over there, their velocity will be down a tick or two. They know they're going to get X amount of pitches. You can roll them over. They know they're going to throw 15 or 18 pitches an inning, so it gets a little mechanical."

Showalter said he will relocate Chen and Hammel’s minor league outings from Twin Lakes to the Ed Smith Stadium Complex to give the pitchers a better feel for a game in their final starts before the regular season begins.

"I know pitchers that absolutely love it," Showalter said. "Kevin Millwood, you could pitch him the whole season down in Twin Lakes, and he'd be all right. He loves it because he got his work in, and he said, 'I'll pitch one time in the stadium, and let's go,' and it's pretty good. Chen did it some last year. Hammel seems to do well. His velocity doesn't suffer. It's a hard place to pitch. You feel like you're in a desert. It's open. You have to be a little bit of a self-motivator to get something out of it."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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