SARASOTA, FLA. — Orioles manager Buck Showalter said as his starting pitchers struggled this spring that he expected them to be ready when the season arrived. Yovani Gallardo, in his final spring start, was the latest to prove him right.
To cap a two-game stint of narrative busting for the Orioles, a full-strength lineup was mostly held at bay by former Orioles pitcher Bud Norris. But on the back of strong starting pitching from Gallardo, and a three-run second-inning homer by second baseman Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles beat the Atlanta Braves, 6-1, on Thursday to finish the spring 11-15-5.
The offense ends the spring with a relative whimper, but Gallardo is thrilled with how it wrapped up for him.
On Saturday, he threw 78 pitches in allowing seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings, and only 38 were strikes. He said spring results don't matter much to him then, but couldn't help but smile in reversing that Thursday with a bit of "good timing," when he threw 28 of his 48 pitches for strikes in five one-hit scoreless innings.
"Anytime you go out there and pitch well, it's always a positive thing — especially the last one," Gallardo said. "It's very important to get that timing, get that rhythm down in the last start of spring training to prepare for the regular season. You've got to be ready. From here on out, there's no excuses."
Gallardo pitched so efficiently that he had to go to the bullpen to throw another 30 pitches to get him around his 80-pitch target. He said he's where he wants to be, even though he didn't start his spring on time.
"It's not an excuse, but I just felt a little bit behind early in camp," Gallardo said. "Now I feel good. … That's what you want to see leaving spring training."
Norris only made the one mistake, striking out five and scattering six hits in five innings.
The Orioles broke the game open with a three-run eighth inning off reliever John Gant.
On the day he found out he had made the Opening Day roster, right-hander Tyler Wilson gave the team another three innings of reliable relief. Wilson issued his first walk of the spring, and allowed a run on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning, but struck out three to finish the spring with a 2.60 ERA.
Small-ball for Wieters
In a lineup of mashers, catcher Matt Wieters seems to be volunteering to play a little small-ball. On Wednesday, he bunted for base hits twice to account for half of the team's four hits. On Thursday, Wieters stole second base for his first steal of the season. Wieters finished the day 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and an RBI.
Nonroster outfielder Xavier Avery raised his spring average to an even .300 with his third home run of the spring in the eighth inning. Avery represents a useful piece of outfield depth on the Orioles roster, though his spring has been largely under the radar.