TAMPA, FLA. — Odrisamer Despaigne's best outing of the spring came against a New York Yankees lineup that was turned over to include mostly reserves, but the results were nonetheless impressive.
The Orioles right-hander tossed three scoreless innings in the Orioles' 11-2 win at Steinbrenner Field, retiring nine of the 10 batters he faced in the sixth through eighth innings.
Using a variety of arm angles and speeds, Despaigne – who was acquired late in the offseason in a trade with the San Diego Padres to compete for a back-end rotation spot – allowed just one hit, Aaron Hicks' triple to the left-center field gap that was just out of center fielder L.J. Hoes' diving reach.
Entering spring training, it seemed that Despaigne's only way onto the Opening Day big league roster was as a reliever. But with other starters struggling this spring, Orioles manager Buck Showalter hasn't been hesitant to throw Despaigne's name into the conversation for a rotation spot along with the likes of right-handers Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson and Vance Worley.
And after three innings of work Friday night, it's now apparent that Despaigne is targeted for the starting rotation. The only question is whether it is with the major league club or in Triple-A Norfolk. Despaigne has minor league options, so sending him down would alleviate some difficult roster decisions. But Showalter said Despaigne has pitched well enough to draw further consideration.
"He's been as advertised and he's competing for a spot on our roster," Showalter said. "He's got a chance."
Despaigne has pitched at least two innings in each of his past three outings, and has allowed just two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings over that span.
Showalter, who is a fan of pitchers who can provide a different look – relievers Darren O'Day and Mychal Givens are examples – has lauded Despaigne's "kitchen sink" arsenal since the Orioles acquired him in early February.
When the Orioles acquired Despaigne two weeks before spring training opened, he was likely to compete for an open rotation spot. But when the club signed veteran right-hander Yovani Gallardo one week into spring training, the rotation appeared to be set. However, some unsteady outings by other starters has prompted Showalter to open the door for pitchers like Despaigne.
"He's a guy who has a lot of different pitches, different arm angles," Showalter added. "He's into a league he hasn't been in in a lot of ways. I'm trying to give him the benefit."
Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy needed just 14 pitches to retire the Yankees in order in the fifth inning, inducing two flyouts and striking out third baseman Rob Refsnyder.
Bundy has allowed just one unearned run in four innings over his past three spring outings. He pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, in his appearance Wednesday, and Friday's outing marked the first time he pitched twice over a three-day span.
"I thought Dylan was good again," Showalter said. "That was the first time we did that with one day off. It was good to see him carry over what he had been doing."
It's important to see how Bundy – who has been a starter his entire career – recovers from short rest since he must make the club as a reliever this spring. Because he's out of minor league options, the Orioles must carry Bundy – who has pitched in just 17 minor league games since Tommy John surgery in 2013 – on their Opening Day roster.
Showalter said playing back-to-back night games for the first time this spring offered a better opportunity to truly evaluate performances because it was more like a regular-season scenario.
"I've said it a lot, you play 7 o'clock, 6 o'clock games, you get crispness; you just do," Showalter said. "The wind's not blowing out, the elements, it's more like a major league game. The other ones, you've got to weigh in so many variables."
The spring training slate is full of 1 p.m. starts. And that means humid, breezy afternoons in which the ball can carry.
Showalter pointed to the final play of Friday's game, a deep fly ball off right-hander Oliver Drake that drifted in front of the center field warning track before being caught by Hoes.
"Where's that at on a 1 o'clock game? Probably over the batter's eye," Showalter said. "So those are the things you have to keep in mind when you're looking at it. Some guys will have a good statistical outing and in the big leagues they could hardly get out of the inning."
With outfielder Xavier Avery's status uncertain for Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, minor league outfielder Julio Borbon will likely be added to the travel roster to give the club depth in center field.
Avery made Friday's trip to Tampa, but he was unavailable for the game after experiencing discomfort in his hip flexor. Showalter said he believed Avery aggravated the muscle during Thursday's game.
"Xavier's one of our toughest kids," Showalter said. "He's a tough nut, and if he's experiencing something like that, I'd be surprised if he walked in tomorrow and said he was ready to go. We'll put our arms around it tomorrow, and see how long it's going to be."