SARASOTA, Fla. -- It was nowhere near the same atmosphere as a Grapefruit League game, but Orioles right-hander Jair Jurrjens said his three-inning outing in Tuesday's intrasquad game was another step forward in returning to his past form.
Of the 10 batters Jurrjens retired — he pitched to an extra hitter to end his second inning of work — he struck out eight. He walked none and allowed two hits.
"Much better," Jurrjens said. "More powerful today. I'm seeing my location getting better, keeping the ball down. I felt good."
Jurrjens faced three major league hitters — Taylor Teagarden, Nolan Reimold and Wilson Betemit — in each inning, but they were followed by minor leaguers. Both of the hits off Jurrjens were doubles, one by Teagarden and the other from Betemit.
In 5 2/3 Grapefruit League innings this spring, Jurrjens has allowed seven runs (six earned) on nine hits and six walks with two strikeouts.
In Jurrjens' last Grapefruit League outing a week earlier in Dunedin, he was one strike away from throwing three scoreless innings against the Blue Jays, but a two-out walk led to a three-run inning.
Jurrjens said he's continuing to become more comfortable throwing all of his pitches for strikes.
"I threw a couple changeups for strikes on righties, back-door sliders," he said. "It's improving. I still need to try to throw fastballs inside. I'm working on throwing fastballs inside on both sides.
"Way improved," he added. "[I'm] still on my changeup, I'm like thinking about it a little bit, but overall I think the day was a big improvement."
Jurrjens also noted that the strength in his surgically repaired right knee — which led to diminished velocity last season — is better than in 2012.
"If I needed to start comparing, I'd say I'm way above what I was last year," Jurrjens said. "[There] are still places to go in getting stronger, but for now, if I need to judge it from last year, I'm way above [last year].
"The main thing is I'm pain-free and I'm getting confident on the mound again."
Signed to a minor league contract in the offseason, the 2011 National League All-Star is one 14 starting rotation candidates.