Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez battled with his control through an unseasonably brisk afternoon Wednesday at LECOM Park. And despite issuing five walks against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he became the first Orioles starter to pitch into the fifth inning this spring training.
"That's what you want to do," Jimenez said about pitching 4 2/3 innings in the Orioles' 6-5 loss to the Pirates. "Keep getting the pitches up. So that's good."
Despite his location struggles, Jimenez was able to build his pitch count to 76 pitches Wednesday. He left the game with runners on the corners and two outs in a tied game, and he watched from the Orioles dugout as the fifth snowballed into a five-run frame for the Pirates.
Needing one out to escape the inning, right-handed reliever Zach Stewart couldn't save Jimenez. He allowed two inherited runners to score and three of his own after Phil Gosselin's grand slam.
Jimenez allowed seven base runners – both hits off him were singles -- and struck out five. Though he finished with three earned runs, he left having allowed only one.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter liked what he saw from Jimenez.
"I'm happy with where he is," Showalter said. "He's probably leading getting where you need to get this early. Hopefully that allows you – once you get that arm strength built up – to work on some other things, so that was good to see."
Jimenez, who put multiple batters on base in three of his five innings, said his control problems were rooted from working on throwing his breaking ball behind in the count.
"[That's] something you want to work on in order to get your breaking balls ready for the season," Jimenez said. "Two of those walks that I got were on fastballs, and the other three were with breaking balls, behind the count, 3-2 pitches. I wanted to get my breaking balls down, and I couldn't. I was working on that."
Jimenez said getting the feel for his breaking ball is still a work in progress, though he located his curve and slider well early in the game, though he's still needs to get more comfortable with his splitter.
"That's something I need to do in those situations," Jimenez said. "That's pretty much why I was throwing it when I was behind in the count."
After opening the spring with two scoreless starts, Jimenez has allowed three earned runs in each of his past two outings and now has a Grapefruit League ERA of 4.97.
Alvarez hitless in spring debut
Recently signed slugger Pedro Alvarez made his spring training debut Wednesday and was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
"He had a couple pretty good swings," Showalter said. "We talked about it. He wanted to come over. It was a good spot for him."
Alvarez will play his first game in the outfield in Friday's B game against the Pirates on the back fields at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. Alvarez will start in right field.
With the Orioles on the road in Bradenton on Friday, Showalter said regulars Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and J.J. Hardy could play in the B game as well.
Stewart hadn't allowed an earned run in his previous four spring appearances spanning 7 1/3 innings, but was charged to with three runs over one-third of an inning in relief of Jimenez
He had yielded just two hits entering Wednesday, but allowed five base runners against the Pirates.
After relieving Jimenez, he immediately allowed an RBI double to David Freese, then walked John Jaso and allowed a grand slam to Gosselin. Danny Ortiz then singled to right before Stewart escaped the inning by inducing a flyout to center.
"We're going through a period right now with some of the pitchers, they're not quite as crisp," Showalter said. "You see some of the velocities down. Not so much they creep down; it's more the finish of the pitches isn't quite there like it was early and will be again."
Orioles reserves rally
The Orioles scored four runs in the top of the seventh inning, two of them coming on Pirates second baseman Chris Bostick's throwing error while attempting to turn an inning-ending double play on Trey Mancini's grounder to short.
Paul Janish and Aneury Tavarez also logged run-scoring hits in the inning.
"Paulie can hit anybody's fastball," Showalter said. "He's not just a really good defensive player. He had a good spring offensively last year. … He's put a lot of good swings on balls this spring after getting here late."