After his final outing of the spring Tuesday, Orioles left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada said he felt physically ready to join the big league club for Opening Day in Baltimore on Friday.
But the Orioles brass believes Wada, who signed a two-year, $8.14 million contract in December, will benefit from remaining in Sarasota to build his arm strength and pitch count.
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Ed Smith Stadium, 2700 12th St, Sarasota, FL 34237, USA
Manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday that Wada will begin the season on the disabled list. He will make a minimum of two starts — his first in an extended spring training game scheduled for Monday — in hopes of reaching a pitch count of 90. His second start could be a minor league rehabilitation assignment. His DL stint is retroactive to last Wednesday, so he will be eligible to return April 12.
"It's very important for us for him to start at 100 percent and equipped for him to do what we need him to do this year for us," Showalter said. "It's a long season, and a couple of starts here will hopefully get him where he needs to be."
Wada, a 31-year-old who pitched for Japan's Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks for the past five seasons, entered camp as one of a dozen candidates for a starting rotation spot but was slowed by left elbow discomfort early in camp.
"I wanted to go to Baltimore with the team, so it's a little bit disappointing," Wada said through an interpreter. "But I think the team gave me another chance to adjust to the schedule, and I'll use this opportunity as much as possible to get ready for the season."
Just moments after Wada threw his most productive outing of the spring, a 74-pitch effort against Orioles hitters in an exhibition game against State College of Florida — he allowed just one run, a homer byJ.J. Hardy, and five hits in five innings — Showalter told him he would being the season on the DL. The Orioles still plan to use Wada as a starter once he arrives in Baltimore.
"I knew there was going to be a possibility that I was going to be staying here, but I still [had] a feeling that I want to go to Baltimore and help the team out," Wada said. "It's my fault that I injured my elbow and was kind of late. I missed a couple days in spring training, so I understand I have to get into game condition and work on that over here.
"I'm really motivated. I really want to show the staff that I will be ready by the time I go to Baltimore."
Wada made just two Grapefruit League appearances, allowing five earned runs on five hits in five innings with six strikeouts and two walks. He also threw three innings of one-run, two-hit ball in a minor league game.
"He's going to help our club," Showalter said. "I feel good about the way he's going to contribute for us once we get him where he needs to be. He's close, but he's not physically where he needs to be.
"We could push the envelope if we wanted to, but I don't think it's fair to him and to the team, but we also want him to be equipped to be able to present himself like he's capable of. I think it will be worth the wait."
The move essentially ensures that left-hander Brian Matusz has won the team's No. 5 rotation spot.
Active roster cut to 26
The Orioles made two other roster moves, reassigning nonroster right-handed reliever Pat Neshek to minor league camp and outrighting outfielder Jai Miller to Triple-A Norfolk after he cleared waivers.
Miller, who will come off the 40-man roster, can refuse the assignment to the minors, but it's likely he will accept it.
Neshek showed he's recovering well from 2008 Tommy John elbow ligament-reconstruction surgery, throwing nine shutout innings with eight strikeouts and zero walks this spring, but the team would have to open a 40-man roster spot for him if he made the team and he would have no options remaining.
"We think he can impact our club this year," Showalter said. "I'm happy that we have him."
Miller, acquired from the Oakland Athletics in the offseason, was one of the spring's early success stories, but he struggled through the second half of camp and ended the spring with 20 strikeouts in 43 at-bats.
That puts the Orioles' official roster at 27, but catcher Taylor Teagarden (back) will be placed on the 15-day DL before the season begins.
Losing Simon and outrighting Miller opens two 40-man roster spots, which will likely go to first baseman-designated hitter Nick Johnson and catcher Ronny Paulino. But that move probably won't become official until just before Wednesday's 5 p.m. roster deadline.
More on Simon
There was little doubt that someone would claim Simon, who throws in the upper 90s and could be either a starter or reliever. And the Reds, who lost closer Ryan Madson for the year to Tommy John surgery, could use bullpen help.
Simon entered the spring as a rotation candidate spot and started the Orioles' first spring training game but missed nine days after tweaking his groin during a night start March 18 against the New York Yankees.
In his return last Wednesday, Simon allowed six runs in two relief innings.
Simon was 4-9 with a 4.90 ERA in 23 games (16 starts) last season.
Jason Johnson in camp
Former Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson was in camp Tuesday hoping to throw in front of the Orioles and possibly earn a spot in extended spring training in Sarasota. Johnson, 38, had labrum surgery two years ago and is attempting a comeback.
The right-hander worked out for the San Francisco Giants two weeks ago and drove to Sarasota from his home in Tampa after he spoke with Orioles special assistant Brady Anderson, a former teammate of his. Johnson said after his workout that his fastball reached 90 mph.
Johnson was 34-53 with a 4.84 ERA in parts of five seasons with the Orioles from 1999 to 2003. He has pitched for eight major league teams, most recently the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008, when he was 1-2 with a 5.22 ERA in 16 appearances (two starts).
Johnson owns a career record of 56-100 with a 4.99 ERA 255 games (221 starts). His best two major league seasons came in Baltimore. He was 10-12 with a 4.09 ERA in 2001 and went 10-10 with a 4.18 ERA in 2003. He tallied 189 innings or more in both of those years.
Around the horn
In their final game in Sarasota, the Orioles dropped a 2-1, eight-inning decision to State College of Florida. The Orioles provided pitching for both teams. … Right-hander Jason Hammel, named the team's No. 3 starter on Monday, had his final tuneup for the regular season Tuesday. He threw five innings against State College of Florida, allowing two runs and three hits with one walk, three strikeouts and one wild pitch. … Relievers Matt Lindstrom, Luis Ayala and Kevin Gregg each threw scoreless innings.