David Riske just got the final six outs to secure the Orioles' 7-2 victory over the Rays before an announced 5,726 at the Charlotte Sports Park. It completed a nice afternoon for the Orioles' bullpen as three relievers combined to pitch six scoreless innings, allow just three hits and strike out seven.
Jason Berken allowed two hits and struck out three in two innings to lower his spring ERA to 3.46. Josh Rupe allowed just one hit and struck out one (Evan Longoria) over two innings and he hasn't allowed an earned run in 13 2/3 innings this spring. And then Riske finished it off by striking out three in two perfect innings.
Ryan Drese was the starter, but it was the three relievers that Orioles manager Buck Showalter focused on in his comments following the game.
"The last inning was good," said Showalter when asked about Drese's performance. "He's struggling a little with his release point on his sinker, but he kept us in it. It didn't get away from him. But I thought the three guys after him were real good. Boy, Riske has been impressive. Rupe continues to throw the ball well. I think that's as crisp as I've seen Berken this year. His breaking ball really has some depth and some tilt on it. We had a lot of good at-bats at the end. We're getting closer to where we want to be."
Berken and Rupe have put themselves in pretty good position to make the club in long relief roles with Rupe particularly standing out
"Fortunately, I've seen him do this before," Showalter said of Rupe. "He's just trusting [catcher Matt Wieters]. Put it down and let's go. When a guy has that many quality pitches in his arsenal, sometimes you can have too many. He threw, I think, six straight sinkers to Longoria. That's Matt as much as it is Rupe. Pretty good. Let's go. Why do you want to mess with anything else? He's got a quality arm. Some time like that, a 28-year-old kind of figures it out. You can't overthink it. Just trust your pitch quality." We'll see if it carries over to the season if he makes the club."
As for Berken's chances, Showalter said, "You guys see the numbers. The competition is there. He brings some length and a guy that is flexible. Rupe's got some length, too. I don't think it's a competition between both of them. I think both of them could make it."