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Chen, Hunter make final starts of the spring

Two likely members of the Orioles' starting rotation — left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and right-hander Tommy Hunter — made their final spring starts Sunday afternoon to varying degrees of success.

Chen, pitching against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Orioles' Grapefruit League finale, allowed seven runs — just three earned — on six hits over five innings in an 8-5 loss at Ed Smith Stadium.

He allowed three home runs on an afternoon when the wind was blowing out of the stadium. Despite his line, Chen was pleased with his final tune-up of the spring.

"This is still spring training and I felt good today actually," Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. "This is just part of the game. I felt good, really good."

Chen threw a heavy diet of low-90s fastballs in his 82-pitch (54 strikes) outing, but also concentrated on honing his change-up.

"He's got a good change-up," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who added that Chen will be in the rotation barring something unforeseen. "Just trying to make it a little better. It plays well everywhere, but especially in the American League. And it's a pitch left-handers have to have, unless you're carrying around the stuff of a guy like [Rays pitcher David] Price. It's been a point of emphasis and he threw some good ones today and his last time out."

Hunter, who battled back problems earlier this camp, threw 5 1/3 innings in a minor league game at Twin Lakes Park, allowing three runs — two earned — on six hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

Hunter, who threw 90 pitches, said he was also concentrating on sharpening his change-up

"I felt good," he said. "I threw a lot of change-ups. That was something that I've come in the last six spring trainings trying to figure something out. I think I threw 11 in a row. I got a good feel for the ball coming out of my hand today. I had a good feel for many off-speed pitches today. They come out swinging."

Hunter said he is confident his back problems are resolved.

"I'm ready to go," he said. "It's going through spring training, everybody's going to get tight here and there. I felt good, felt confident with what I was able to do this spring. And we'll go from there."

In the Orioles' loss to the Rays, the clubs combined for eight home runs. Tampa Bay leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings hit homers in three consecutive at-bats — including a grand slam in the fourth.

"I've never seen the wind blow in so much [as it did] this spring," Showalter said. "We were due for one of those days."

J.J. Hardy hit a pair of solo homers to left — one in the first inning and another in the sixth — and Nick Johnson and Nick Markakis also hit solo shots for the Orioles.

Lindstrom back in action

Right-handed reliever Matt Lindstrom saw his first game action since last week's hamstring tweak on Sunday morning in a minor league game. Lindstrom pitched one inning, recording four outs against the Orioles' Triple-A team. He struck out two batters, including Orioles 40-man player Josh Bell. Lindstrom said he went through the first three hitters he faced quickly in about 9-to-10 pitches.

Lindstrom said he thought his velocity was good and there was no pain in the hamstring, which is in his pushing-off leg. He threw all his pitches, including his split-fingered fastball and his slider.

"I think that was a good indication of being ready for the season," he said.

Lindstrom was told he was pitching in a minor league game about an hour before it began at 10 a.m..

"It was a good test," he said. "I didn't feel it pushing off or anything."

Showalter said Lindstrom is slated to pitch in the Orioles' exhibition game Tuesday barring a setback.

Zelous wheels into town

New Orioles addition Zelous Wheeler arrived at camp Sunday ready to play in the team's Grapefruit League finale against the Rays at Ed Smith Stadium.

The Orioles claimed Wheeler off waivers from the Brewers on Thursday, part of a move than included the team designating left-hander Dana Eveland for assignment.

Wheeler, who was training with the Brewers in Arizona when he found out he had been claimed, said hearing the news was a surprise.

"Big surprise," he said. "I was coming off the field from my workout and I was getting ready for a 1 o'clock game and they said, 'We need to see you,' and they told me I was picked up by the Orioles. Here I am now."

Wheeler was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk, but since minor league camps break after Sunday's games, he will be with the big league team for the rest of the exhibition season. He grounded out in his only at-bat Sunday.

The 5-foot-10, 220-pound Wheeler comes to the Orioles primarily as a third baseman, but can also play second and left fielder. He played shortstop for the entire 2010 season in Double-A, but committed 32 errors there. He's also trying to learn how to catch.

"A work in progress," he said.


Around the horn

The Orioles' next two exhibition games — a night game against Florida Southern on Monday and a day game Tuesday against State College of Florida — will be played in controlled environments to ensure pitchers get their work in. …. All relievers will throw in Monday's game, while the Orioles will provide pitching for both teams Tuesday, with right-hander Jason Hammel and left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada pitching that day. … Left-hander Brian Matusz will likely pitch Wednesday in an exhibition game at Norfolk, which sets him up to be the team's No. 5 starter.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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