Good and bad
Matt Albers made his first start in four appearances, and the reviews were mixed. He threw only nine of 22 pitches for strikes in the first inning, walking two batters and allowing a run on a grounder from Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer. He was more efficient in the second inning, retiring the side in order and striking out Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris. Joe Mauer hit an opposite-field, two-run homer off Albers in the third to increase the Twins' lead to 3-0, and manager Dave Trembley went to the mound in the fourth after Albers allowed two singles and struck out Buscher. Competing for the fifth starter's job, Albers was charged with three runs and three hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Right fielder Nick Markakis had two more hits yesterday, including a two-run single in the third off Twins starter Philip Humber, who allowed four singles in the inning. Markakis is batting .378 with eight RBIs this spring. The No. 3 spot in the order appears to be in good hands again.
Bierd in bullpen?
Trembley isn't ready to include Randor Bierd in his 2008 bullpen, saying there's no rush because of the right-hander's status as a Rule 5 pick. The decision could be delayed until the final days of camp. The Orioles will have to offer Bierd back to the Detroit Tigers if they don't keep him on the 25-man roster all season. Brought into yesterday's game with two runners on base and one out in the fourth, Bierd retired Brendan Harris and Matt Tolbert on ground balls. He has allowed two runs and seven hits in 7 2/3 innings, with three walks and six strikeouts. "He's been good," Trembley said. "He's got deception. And he's been able to come in in the middle innings and get outs."
The Orioles stay on their home field today to take on the St. Louis Cardinals in their 20th exhibition game. And this one could be more important than the other 19, since Adam Loewen is starting for the first time since he skipped a turn because of a sore left shoulder. Loewen has thrown on the side and reported that he's pain-free. Brad Thompson gets the start for the Cardinals, who are 0-1-1 against the Orioles this spring.