Carroll County Times

Orioles: Chen continues to impress

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Opening Day is just two weeks away, and while Buck Showalter hasn't decided on who his starter will be, it could be Wei-Yin Chen.

Showalter has declined to name a starter, but if he keeps pitching Chen every fifth day, his turn will come on Apr. 6 against the Minnesota Twins.

Coincidentally, Chen started against the Twins on Thursday, and was very effective, allowing a run and four hits in five innings as the Orioles beat Minnesota 11-1 before 8,024 at Hammond Stadium.

The 11 runs were a spring high, and Baltimore had 14 hits. Minor league outfielder Xavier Avery and Wilson Betemit each had three. Chris Davis and Ryan Flaherty had two.

The Orioles are now 7-9-4. Three of those wins were against Minnesota.

After Chen finished his five innings, he went to the bullpen to throw 10 more pitches. In four spring starts, the Taiwanese-born left-hander has allowed five runs in 13 innings.

"I feel like my command and location, there's room to improve," Chen said through his interpreter.

Two of the four hits that Chen gave up were to Mauer, who has won the American League batting title three times and was MVP in 2009. That didn't matter to Chen because he had no idea who he was.

"It's a really great experience for me to learn Mauer and the other players because they're really great hitters for me," Chen said.

Chen never started on Opening Day during the four years he pitched in Japan, and it doesn't seem to faze him.

"I'm really excited for the season to start," Chen said. Noting that he only threw 72 pitches, he said: "I want to get more pitches for my next start of my next two starts so I can get ready and maybe get in the rotation when the season starts."

He will probably have two more starts this spring, but he's not expecting the Opening Day thing.

"Not really because this is my first year," Chen said. "The only thing I want to do is the best for me and the best for the team."

Jake Arrieta and Tommy Hunter would be other options for Opening Day.

"He threw the ball well. As happens this time of year, the lineups get a little bit more formidable. He was real impressive today," Showalter said.

OFFENSE SHINES: The Orioles hadn't scored more than seven runs this spring, and had not scored more than three runs in 15 of their 19 previous games.

Their team batting average, which had been just .201 on March 12 is now up to a more respectable .230.

Before the game, Betemit was just 4-for-31, and after his three hits in four at-bats, his averaged jumped from .129 to .200.

Showalter didn't bring along his hardest hitters: J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds and Matt Wieters. All but Wieters made the trip here last Friday.

Wieters is batting just .107 with three hits in 28 at-bats.

LATE ARRIVAL: Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair arrived shortly before gametime. They were caught in heavy traffic caused by a serious accident. The two generally stay back in Sarasota to watch pitchers throw.

COMING UP: The Orioles host the Boston Red Sox on Friday. Jason Hammel, Brad Bergesen, Armando Galarraga, Kevin Gregg and Zach Phillips are scheduled Baltimore. Clay Buchholz is scheduled for the Red Sox.

ODDS AND ENDS: Non-roster outfielder Trent Mummey hit a two-run home run. ... Jim Johnson, Dana Eveland, Chris Tillman and Pat Neshek combined for four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. ... Showalter gave Robert Andino his first spring start at shortstop. ... Batting practice pitcher Rudy Arias will miss Friday's game so that he can become a U.S. citizen in Miami.