FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In what was his final true test of the exhibition season, Orioles ace Erik Bedard was at his best on the mound and his most self-deprecating off it.
He retired the first 11 batters he faced, at one point striking out five consecutive, including David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and J.D. Drew. Bedard went to an 0-2 count on five of the Red Sox's first seven hitters.
"Throwing strikes and getting ahead early, that's the biggest thing," said Bedard, who reached his 85-pitch count. "I'm just trying to get them out early instead of throwing a lot of pitches."
He had eight strikeouts in five innings and allowed just one hit, a homer by Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek with two outs in the fifth.
Afterward, Bedard begrudgingly allowed that it was a strong performance, but he added that two long fly balls would have been homers if not halted by a strong wind.
"It looked good because the home runs didn't go out," Bedard said. "If they had hit three home runs, it wouldn't have looked good."
Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo, however, gushed about Bedard, who now has given up just two runs (0.95 ERA) and nine hits in 19 spring innings.
"He pitched outstanding," Perlozzo said. "You can't ask for anything else. He looked like he was ready to me."
Bedard will throw a few innings in what pitching coach Leo Mazzone calls a "cool-down start" Wednesday in preparation for his Opening Day outing against the Minnesota Twins on April 2.
Assuming the starters remain healthy, the Orioles' rotation is set for its first week of road games against the Twins and New York Yankees.
After Bedard faces reigning Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana in the opener, Daniel Cabrera and Minnesota's Carlos Silva follow, with Jaret Wright opposing Ramon Ortiz in the series finale. The Orioles then go to New York, where Adam Loewen pitches the first game and Steve Trachsel the second.
Loewen could have pitched Game 3, but Perlozzo wanted to avoid having Wright, who hasn't thrown as many innings this spring as the rest of the rotation and is 2-3 with a 6.18 ERA against the Yankees in seven career games, starting in the Bronx.
"With Jaret kind of being an inning behind and not necessarily wanting him to go right out of the chute against the Yankees and try to go too full bore, we thought we might split [Wright and Trachsel] up a little bit," Perlozzo said.
The Orioles claimed right-handed pitcher Sean Tracey, 26, off waivers from the Chicago White Sox yesterday and placed him on the 40-man roster. Tracey, Chicago's eighth-round pick in 2002, pitched in seven games for the White Sox last year, allowing three runs on four hits and five walks in eight innings (0-0, 3.38 ERA).
A 6-foot-3, 210-pound pitcher who struck out 102 batters and walked 76 in 129 2/3 innings at Triple-A Charlotte last season, has minor league options remaining, so he likely will begin the year at Triple-A Norfolk.
"He is supposed to be a power arm," Perlozzo said. "He had a little command trouble, but he throws in the low to mid-90s. He's kind of a little project for us."
To make room, the Orioles moved pitcher Kris Benson (shoulder surgery) to the 60-day disabled list. In an unrelated move, the Orioles gave outfielder Roger Cedeno his outright release.
Concert and a ballgame
Shortstop Miguel Tejada received team permission to arrive after the regular reporting time yesterday so he could attend his son's drum recital in Fort Lauderdale. Miguel Jr., 5, was a skins-banging hit, according to his father. "It brought a tear to my eye," Tejada said.
Tejada made the park in plenty of time for first pitch.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci acted as one of the three base umpires during the game, switching from third to second to first. He wasn't involved in any controversial calls.