Rainout allows Orioles to skip Tillman's next start

The Orioles series opener against the New York Yankees on Friday night was postponed because of rain, allowing the club to skip Chris Tillman's next start.

Tillman, who was originally scheduled to start Saturday night, has been dealing with right groin soreness. Brad Bergesen, who was expected to start Friday before the rains came, will now take the ball Saturday opposite Yankees ace CC Sabathia. Jake Arrieta will be on the mound Sunday with the Yankees deciding between Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova to start the series finale.

Following Monday's offday, the Orioles will finish their home stand with a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox. Zach Britton and Jeremy Guthrie will start the first two games, though Orioles manager Buck Showalter hasn't decided the order in which they'll pitch. Bergesen would come back on normal rest and start Thursday's series and home-stand finale, pushing Tillman's next start until next Saturday at the earliest.

"He's had it a couple times," Showalter said of Tillman's groin issues. "He felt good enough, we felt like, to pitch on Saturday. But now that we've got this opportunity, we've been talking about it and make sure we get it all the way taken care of."

Showalter said that Tillman, who is 0-2 with a 6.16 ERA and gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings when he faced the Yankees on April 13, would be available in the bullpen for the next couple of days. The club had been concerned enough about Tillman's status that it considered holding back Triple-A left-hander Mike Ballard from starting Friday with the idea that he'd start Saturday. However, the rainout made that a moot point.

It's the second time in a 10-day span where the series opener between the Orioles and Yankees has been rained out. The first was on April 12 in New York. A make-up date has not been announced for either game, but Friday's will likely be made up in late August as part of a scheduled four-game series between the two clubs at Camden Yards. The Yankees are in town again in mid-May, but it's only a two-game set.

Izturis: Andino deserves to play

When the season started, it was believed that if J.J. Hardy needed a day off or was absent from the lineup for any extended period, Cesar Izturis would assume the starting shortstop job that he held for the previous two seasons.

However, that's not how it has played out since Hardy went on the disabled list with a strained left oblique. Robert Andino has started at shortstop in six of the 10 games during Hardy's absence. Izturis, the 31-year-old veteran who re-signed with the club in January, not only has not griped about it, but he's endorsed the move.

"It doesn't bother me at all," said Izturis, who has started at shortstop in just five of the Orioles' 18 games. "Definitely, I want to play and I believe I'll have a chance to play. We'll see what happens. But he deserves to play. He's been doing a great job. It's fair. You play good, you deserve to play."

Andino was in the lineup as the starting shortstop for a fifth straight game before Friday's rainout. He's batting .308 and has hit safely in four of the past five games, including three straight multi-hit games during that stretch. However, Showalter maintained that Izturis will still get his share of at-bats, and he praised the veteran's influence on Andino and the rest of the club.

"Izzy is like having a seventh coach. He gets it, he understands the game. He's going to do this for a long time when he quits playing," Showalter said. "He's going to help us on the field, in the clubhouse or in the dugout. He's locked into every pitch. I can always go down there and bounce something off him from a player's perspective, and he's great for all our players. He's a voice of reality. If you want to hear what you need to hear, not what you want to hear, Izzy is the guy to go to. He's sharp, really sharp. You know what I think of him. He's pretty special people. He's actually played pretty well for us, too. He's not some ceremonial whatever. He's going to play."

Big day for Matusz

Orioles starter Brian Matusz, who hasn't pitched yet this season because of a strained left intercostal muscle, had a pain-free flat ground session Friday, throwing from as far as 120 feet. Matusz will take Saturday off, throw from flat ground again Sunday and possibly graduate to a bullpen session from off the mound Tuesday.

"Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, hopefully that's the start of him getting on the rubber," Showalter said. "Today was very encouraging."

Slimmed down Simon still in plans

Right-handed pitcher Alfredo Simon, who was jailed in the Dominican Republic for more than two months as the chief suspect in a fatal shooting on New Year's Day, has pitched in two extended spring training games for the Orioles.

Showalter said that Simon, who has lost 30 pounds since last year, went two innings in his previous outing and will go three in his next appearance as the club continues to stretch him out to be a starter.

Around the horn

Showalter said that Hardy is "getting close" to starting baseball activities, but he definitely won't be ready to return when he's eligible to come off the disabled list April 26. … Pitcher Mitch Atkins, who missed just about all of spring training with an oblique injury, is scheduled to make a rehab appearance Saturday for Single-A Frederick. … Arrieta, Britton and Guthrie visited nearly 20 patients at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Friday morning. … Guthrie on Friday organized a bike ride to the ballpark with Arrieta, Matusz, Bergesen, Jeremy Accardo, Kevin Gregg and former Oriole Rick Dempsey in celebration of Earth Day. Guthrie also was prepared to break out a green glove during batting practice.



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