Despite their bullpen's success, the Orioles hadn't had a designated long man. Instead, their relievers had taken turns at multiple-inning stints.
But now, the Orioles seem to finally have a long-relief candidate in left-hander Dana Eveland.
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Eveland's contract was purchased from Triple-ANorfolk last Friday so he could make a spot start against the Tampa Bay Rays, and he was subsequently sent to the bullpen.
"He was a big difference in that game," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Eveland retired nine of the 10 batters he faced in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings, allowing only an infield single to Alex Gordon in the 10th.
"It almost puts a little pressure on you because you want to do just as good as the next guy did," Eveland said Wednesday about working out of the bullpen. "It also, at the same time, makes it a little easier. There's a good flow. Everyone goes out there and we have a lot of confidence in each other that we're going to get the job done. I hope they feel the same way about me. Every time I watch someone take the mound, I have a good feeling they're going to go out there and throw zeros."
And unlike his start last Friday, when he walked six and hit two batters in six innings, Eveland was efficient with his pitches Wednesday, throwing 39 — with 29 strikes — in three innings.
"It's one thing to have a guy capable of pitching long innings," Showalter said. "It's another thing to get enough people out so that he can hang around a long time. I've had guys available to pitch long relief, but they couldn't get through the inning. It's like the chicken and the egg. [Eveland] is not a guy who is a pure left-on-left guy. As a starting pitcher, he's had to learn how to defend himself against right-handed hitters, so that's important. [On Wednesday] night, he handled it really well."
Gregg finding niche
Right-handed reliever Kevin Gregg still isn't pitching the way he would like to, but he has adapted well to an unfamiliar role in the Orioles' bullpen.
Gregg threw two scoreless innings Wednesday, marking his sixth straight scoreless outing and fourth of more than one inning.
In pitching the 13th and 14th innings Wednesday, Gregg didn't allow a hit and struck out two. Since a rough outing in Toronto on April 15, in which six of the seven batters he faced reach base, Gregg has thrown 81/3 scoreless innings and has lowered his ERA from 12.27 to 3.75.
Gregg said he made some mechanical adjustments after that outing in Toronto, and moved from the first base side of the rubber — something he experimented with this spring — back to the third base side, which allowed him to keep some of his delivery deception against right-handed hitters.
"I just relaxed a little more and trusted my stuff and just doing what I can do," Gregg said.
The Orioles' bullpen, which lowered its ERA to 2.12 this season with three scoreless innings in Thursday's 5-3 win over Kansas City, is meshing well, which means Gregg will likely stay where he is.
"I can't pick when I get to pitch," Gregg said. "I think anybody who understands the game knows that I want to pitch late in the ballgame. That's what I've done for the last six years, but Buck's going to choose how he wants to do things. Right now, it's awesome because we have so many guys throwing the ball well that he has a lot of choices. I'm doing what Buck needs me to do."
The New York Yankees have claimed infielder Matt Antonelli off waivers from the Orioles.
Antonelli, a first-round pick by the San Diego Padres in 2006, was designated for assignment Sunday to make room for outfielder Xavier Avery on the 40-man roster.
He was one of executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette's first acquisitions, signed Nov. 21 as part of Duquette's effort to improve the club's on-base capabilities.
Antonelli, who was in major league camp with the Orioles this spring competing for the utility spot eventually won by Rule 5 pick Ryan Flaherty, was hitting .204 with a .357 on-base percentage and .280 slugging percentage in 29 games with Norfolk at the time of his designation. He had four doubles, one homer and seven RBIs with 23 strikeouts and 19 walks in 116 plate appearances.
The 17th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Antonelli has played one season in the majors, hitting .193/.292/.281 in 57 at-bats for the Padres in 2008. The Yankees will be his fourth organization since 2010.
Antonelli has a minor league option left, so he will likely report to the Yankees'Triple-Ateam in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Around the horn
With Thursday's win, the Orioles are 7-1 against the American League Central this season and are 5-1 in road series finales. … They are 11-0 when scoring four or more runs and 14-4 in games decided by two runs or fewer. … The Orioles lead the majors in home runs against right-handed pitching (48) and are second in homers on the road (30). They have hit 26 homers in the seventh inning or later, most in the majors. … After Wednesday's 15-inning win, the Orioles have played multiple games of 15 or more innings for the first time since 1996. They have played 16 more innings than any other American League team. The Seattle Mariners are closest and have played one more game. ... The Orioles' bullpen has pitched to a 0.76 ERA in the team's five extra-inning wins, allowing just three earned runs in 352/3 innings. ... Minor league pitcher Oliver Drake (Navy), a member of the Orioles' 40-man roster, made his first start of the season at Double-A Bowie on Thursday after missing the beginning of the season with shoulder soreness.