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ORIOLES NOTES

Jake Arrieta pitches well -- with room for improvement

By Eduardo A. Encina

The Baltimore Sun

5:53 PM EDT, March 16, 2013

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DUNEDIN, Fla. — Buck Showalter took a seat in the visiting manager's office after the Orioles' 3-1 Grapefruit League win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday and flipped over his lineup card to reveal the notes he scribbled in red on the back.

While Jake Arrieta threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings for his second straight scoreless spring outing, Showalter quickly pointed out that Arrieta had seven three-ball counts and threw just eight first-pitch strikes to the 19 batters he faced.

"I don't mean to be picky or anything, but that's an outing carrying that type of stuff that he should go deep in," Showalter said. "There's room for improvement, but it tells you how good his stuff was today because he got by with it."

Arrieta, last year's Opening Day starter who is now competing for the No. 5 spot in a crowded mix of candidates, said his ability to mix his pitches Saturday was the best not only this spring, but since he could remember.

"Today is the best my slider's been in a long time," said Arrieta, whose 4 2/3 innings were the most of any Orioles pitcher this spring. "It's got a really tight tilt and its upper 80s. If I can use that pitch off my fastball and mix is with my good curveball, and throw it all for strikes, you're not going to get squared up pretty often, just like today."

The Blue Jays managed just three hits — all singles — off Arrieta, but he created his own jam in the fourth inning by issuing a back-to-back, two-out walks before getting out of the frame. He left the game with two on and two outs in the fifth — one runner reached on a walk — but reliever Daniel Schlereth got him out of a jam with a flyout to right. Arrieta was also aided by two double-play balls earlier in the game

"I don't mean to picky with Jake, but he gets into some counts where he shouldn't get that far in," Showalter said. "Until he does that, he's not going to give you that eight innings, nine innings that he should on a given night."

Arrieta agreed that his untimely walks were the difference between a good outing and a great one.

"The two two-out walks is obviously the one thing that stands out to me as something that just cant happen," Arrieta said. "[It was] just a lack of focus and me not keeping the concentration level turned up to the notch it should have been there. I've got to do a better job in that situation."

Tillman a full go

Right-hander Chris Tillman, who was scratched from his scheduled start a week ago with abdominal soreness, threw two scoreless innings Saturday in a minor league game against the Tampa Bay Rays' Class-A team, allowing one hit, striking out two and walking one.

Showalter said Tillman, who is trying to lock up a rotation spot, can now return to being a full go, and the manager expects him to go five innings in his next start.

Valencia's MRI negative

The Orioles performed a precautionary MRI on third baseman Danny Valencia, who has been dealing with patella tendinitis, but the test came back negative.

"It came up with just some mild inflammation," Showalter said, "nothing that would keep him from playing."

Valencia, acquired from the Red Sox this offseason for cash, went 2-for-2 with an RBI double in the second inning Saturday against the Blue Jays.

Wada getting feel for his pitches

Orioles left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who has completed the rehab portion of his recovery from Tommy John surgery and is now working to get a feel for his pitches, said he's in no rush to get into a game, but he's pleased to finally feel injury-free.

"The first few bullpens it was more for rehab but now I was told and I have the feeling it's going to be more concentrated on how to get batters out," Wada, who underwent surgery in May, said through interpreter Seob Yoon. "I'm going to start probably working on my command, on my pitches, and start thinking about my velocity and I feel like I'm on my next stage right now."

Wada said he began to work changeups into his most recent bullpen session, and he will begin to get the feel for more breaking pitches as he continues.

Around the horn

Center fielder Adam Jones, who played for the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic, is expected to return to Orioles camp this morning. Showalter said he won't play until Wednesday's home game against the Blue Jays. … Left fielder Nolan Reimold (sore throwing shoulder) is expected to play his first game in the field since March 1 on Tuesday. His appearances since have been exclusively at DH. … Right-hander Daniel McCutchen tested his new low three-quarters arm slot with two outs in the ninth Saturday, and he needed just one pitch to end the game on a grounder to third. … Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will pitch against the Rays' Class-A minor league team at Twin Lakes Park on Monday's off day. He could pitch five innings. … Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez threw four innings (65 pitches) in a minor league game against the Boston Red Sox's Triple-A team on Friday. Gonzalez said he felt good after the outing and was working on his off-speed pitches. … Showalter will stay back for the team's home split-squad game today while pitching coach Rick Adair will travel to Clearwater for the road game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Triple-A Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin will take Adair's place in Sarasota.

eencina@baltsun.com

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