SARASOTA, FLA. — Even though right-hander Tyler Wilson went just three innings in the Orioles' 6-5 Grapefruit League victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, manager Buck Showalter said Wilson is still contending for a starting rotation spot heading into the final week of spring training.
"He's still a candidate for a starting pitcher and I think his next outing will indicate that," Showalter said about Wilson, who has yet to go more than 31/3 innings in a spring outing. "He could go five or six the next time out. Physically, he's ready to do that."
Wilson won't have many more opportunities to show he deserves an Opening Day roster spot, but he did nothing to hurt his chances Thursday.
A solo homer to Matt Joyce with two outs in the first inning was the only run Wilson allowed. He retired the final seven batters he faced — six on groundouts.
"I felt good," Wilson said. "I had to find the bottom of the zone a little bit early. The ball had good life to it in the bottom of the zone. I just left a couple pitches up. Obviously, that pitch to Joyce was a sinker that didn't sink. I left it up in the zone. I wanted to try to run it off the plate before I went back in there, but he put a good swing on it. That's my fault early in the game. Other than that, I felt like my stuff was really good down in the zone."
Wilson has a 2.92 ERA (four runs in 121/3 innings) in five Grapefruit League games, best among Orioles starting candidates. That doesn't include two scoreless innings in a minor league intrasquad game Sunday.
"I feel like I'm pitching every day to try and help the team," Wilson said. "I definitely want to get better every single day, like we all do. Obviously, I'd love to make the team. It's their decision, and it's outside my control, so I just go out every day and give it everything I can and compete."
Wilson pitched into the fourth inning two outings ago — then pitched just two innings in the intrasquad game — so it appears the club is shortening him up as the regular season approaches, possibly preparing him for a bullpen role.
Wilson said he didn't know he'd be shortened up Thursday until pitching coach Dave Wallace told him before the game. Wilson said he definitely could have pitched another inning.
"Yeah, I felt great, I felt great," Wilson said. "Obviously, in the first inning there were some deep counts and that's not what you're looking for, especially in the first inning of the game. But we settled back in and had some quick innings in the second and third to salvage my pitch count. I felt great. I felt like I could have gone again."
Gausman won't rush back: Right-hander Kevin Gausman said his right shoulder tendinitis is improving after a cortisone shot Sunday. But a day after Showalter said he could start April 10 even if he goes on the DL, Gausman said that would happen only if he isn't risking further injury.
"Obviously, I don't want to miss any time," Gausman said. "I don't want to miss any starts, but if I start throwing and I feel it again or I don't feel comfortable coming back out, I'm not going to jump into it having an issue still. If we get to that point and I'm still kind of struggling a little bit, I might have to miss a couple starts, or one. It's kind of all on how I feel, really."
Gausman has been doing light exercises in hopes of playing catch today, he said.
Around the horn: Catcher Matt Wieters (elbow), who went 0-for-4 as the designated hitter, threw out to 120 feet Thursday. Showalter was impressed with his at-bats, considering he hasn't played in a major league game since March 12. Thursday was the final time Wieters would be able to play in a Grapefruit League game before it would affect any DL backdate. He still has to throw to bases before catching in a game, Showalter said. … Reliever Chaz Roe left the team Thursday morning to be with his wife, who is having a baby. … Matusz had a stomach virus and stayed home Thursday.