It was just one game, and a rather strange one at that, but some things happened on Friday that could alter the very negative perception of the Orioles pitching staff. The release of Adam Eaton opened a slot in the rotation for another young pitcher -- to be announced -- and the second straight solid start by Rich Hill left room to believe the club has discovered a decent starter.
Hill was dogged by command problems throughout 2008 and his confidence also was thought to be an issue, but he had no trouble locating his offspeed stuff when his fastball failed him last night and he seemed more than willing to challenge the big hitters in the Nationals lineup. He made one mistake -- the pitch that Ryan Zimmerman launched into the center field bleachers to tie the game in the fourth inning -- and pitched into the sixth inning before turning the ball over to a suddenly rejuvenated bullpen.
"I thought Hill pitched with confidence,'' said Dave Trembley. "He used all his pitches. He wasn't reluctant to use his curveball when he was behind in the count."
Hill insists that confidence was never his problem. He claims his control problems last year were the result of a back issue that has been resolved. His problem this spring was elbow soreness that forced him to start the season in extended spring training.
"The confidence was always there, but it was just a matter of the injuries,'' he said. "Now, to get over that and get healthy and get out there, it's great."
The bullpen was even better, giving up one hit over 6 1/3 scoreless innings. Danys Baez pitched two scoreless innings to get the win and started the game-winning rally with a two-out infield hit in the 12th. Brian Roberts and Adam Jones followed with back-to-back doubles and Baez also scored the run that gave him the victory.
"I think you've got to give our entire pitching staff credit,'' said Jones. "They put up 11 zeroes and gave up only one big hit."
It was just one game, but the Orioles sure looked like a different team.
"Maybe that's the kind of thing that gets you started,'' said Trembley.