PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. — A second-string Orioles lineup had a terrible time with World Baseball Classic-bound ace Chris Archer and the Tampa Bay Rays pitchers in general Saturday afternoon. But counterpart Ubaldo Jimenez and a cadre of relievers matched zeroes until the Orioles manufactured the game's only run for a 1-0 win.
Archer fanned five of the nine Orioles batters he faced in three perfect innings, and Jimenez worked around a difficult first inning to give the Orioles three scoreless innings of his own.
For the veteran Jimenez, it was another positive step in a spring he knows will be a long one and hopes will be productive.
"I felt pretty good," Jimenez said. "I was able to command the fastball and work on what I needed to do, and I was getting my breaking ball for a strike. So I think I was able to do that.
"I think that as the day goes by, you're going to feel more comfortable around there, especially in spring training. But I think today, I was trying to throw my breaking ball in the first inning. I couldn't get it for a strike, but I got it back. That's why I was falling behind in the first."
Once he got his breaking ball on track, it was smooth sailing for Jimenez, who allowed only an infield single in his final two innings. The right-hander has pitched in WBC springs before, but said he's where he needs to be with nearly a month remaining until Opening Day.
"Well, you have to take it easy," he said. "You don't want to rush anything, especially because it's a long spring. You have to find a way to stay in your room and do everything to get ready for the season, but at the same time don't rush it."
"Sometimes in the past, it's been a struggle early to get a lot of our guys, including Ubaldo, their work in," manager Buck Showalter said. "You end up having to go down to the bullpen and throw some more, but there's a little different look to him than I've seen in past springs. I hope that bodes well. We'll see. All the guys threw the ball well."
Jimenez wasn't the only Orioles pitcher who excelled Saturday. Vidal Nuno, Brad Brach, Richard Bleier and Zach Stewart combined with Jimenez for a four-hit shutout.
Third baseman Chris Johnson, back in the lineup after a pitch hit him in the thumb and cost him a couple of days, hit a ground-rule double down the left field line to open the seventh inning. Joey Rickard pinch ran, took third base on a wild pitch by top Rays prospect Blake Snell and scored the only run of the game on a chopper to shortstop by center fielder Logan Schafer.
Former Orioles right-hander Tommy Hunter pitched the fourth inning for the Rays, and fared well against his former mates. He hit second baseman Robert Andino with a pitch, but struck out right fielder Chris Dickerson, left fielder Hyun Soo Kim and Johnson.
Looking for lefties
Two of the newest additions to the Orioles' roster, left-handers Nuno and Bleier, each got his second Grapefruit League appearance with the club and impressed. Nuno pitched two scoreless innings behind Jimenez, ceding only a hit and striking out one. Bleier, who allowed a run on three hits in his two-inning Orioles debut Wednesday, fanned two in a perfect seventh inning.
"Bleier, that was a little more the guy we thought we'd see," Showalter said.