Simon meets the pressure

The Baltimore Sun

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Right-hander Alfredo Simon rose to the occasion Monday night, pitching solid six very solid innings with a place in the Orioles' starting rotation apparently hanging in the balance.

Simon carried a no-hit bid into the fourth inning against a representative Mets lineup and dueled New York left-hander Oliver Perez into the late innings at Tradition Field. The Mets won the game, 2-1, but the outcome paled in significance to the performance that might have locked up a major league job for a pitcher who didn't appear to be in serious consideration for a place in the rotation when training camp opened.

In fact, Simon wasn't even in camp when it opened. He was stuck in the Dominican Republic for the first couple of weeks trying to straighten out a passport issue. But he made up for lost time quickly, emerging as the most consistent starter in a large group of candidates for the regular-season rotation.

"He pitched good," manager Dave Trembley said. "He used all his pitches ... challenged people ... went right at them."

So, did he win a place in the rotation?

"I'm not going to tell you that," Trembley said. "Let's just say he got our attention."

Simon was supposed to throw 80 to 90 pitches but was so efficient he didn't get close to his pitch limit. After he left the game, he threw about 15 more pitches in the bullpen.

Zaun still sore

Catcher Gregg Zaun received a cortisone shot Sunday and, according to Trembley, will not play again until the Orioles face the Washington Nationals at Norfolk on Friday night. Zaun has been out since being scratched from the starting lineup Saturday with elbow soreness.

Split personality

Lost in the strange events of a rainy Sunday afternoon at Fort Lauderdale Stadium was an interesting relief performance by Danys Baez, who threw his split-fingered pitch effectively and might have raised his stock in the Orioles' bullpen.

One of the reasons Baez was passed over for the rotation was he seemed reluctant to use the splitter, which he felt contributed to the elbow injury that shelved him for a year and a half. That perception increased when he broke out the split in his first extended throwing session this spring and woke up very sore the next day. On Sunday, he made a couple of Mets hitters look very bad with it and said afterward that he's confident he can throw it without damaging his arm.

"I was a little worried that it would hurt my arm," he said, "but I've been feeling stronger and stronger, and it feels fine now."

Hill update

Left-hander Rich Hill, who will start the season on the disabled list, pitched 2 2/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins in a Triple-A game Monday at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota. He gave up two hits and no runs but walked two and threw a wild pitch. He threw 49 pitches, 29 for strikes, and his fastball was consistently in the 90-92 mph range.

Around the horn

The Tradition Field promotions department had a little fun at everyone's expense Monday night, using an impersonator to portray Adam Sandler throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and a public-relations intern to portray Tiger Woods in a between-innings golf demonstration. It was explained as an April Fool's prank, even though April Fool's Day isn't until Wednesday.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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