Possible Opening Day starter Arrieta struggles in tie

BRADENTON, FLA. — If Jake Arrieta is the Orioles' Opening Day starter, his final tune-up of the Grapefruit League left plenty of room for improvement when the season begins Friday.

Arrieta allowed six earned runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings as the Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates tied, 6-6, Saturday afternoon. But manager Buck Showalter, who hasn't officially named Arrieta as Opening Day starter, was not concerned about the pitching line.

"He's in a good spot. I'm happy with where he is compared to where he was when he left us last year," Showalter said. "So, at this point in the spring, (it's encouraging for Arrieta) to be healthy and throwing the ball good and feel good about his stuff."

On a windy day that included a 46-minute rain delay, Arrieta didn't give up a run until the third, when he allowed a solo homer to Alex Presley. The Pirates then reached Arrieta for four runs in the fourth, two on a Garrett Jones' homer.

"Gave up a few hits, but it was all right. It wasn't great," Arrieta said. "I was pretty upset with my changeup. Wasn't really good at all today. The two homers were off changeups. But command was good, everything was pretty good."

The Pirates scored their third and fourth runs of the inning on a play straight out of Little League: a sacrifice bunt by pitcher Erik Bedard led to a run when Rod Barajas waited for the throw to first before breaking home. Clint Barmes, who had been at first, rounded second when the Orioles left third base open. Barmes dashed to third and when left fielder Nolan Reimold couldn't handle the wild throw from catcher Ronny Paulino, Barmes scored.

Arrieta finished the spring with a 6.75 ERA in four Grapefruit League games. He allowed 17 hits and four walks in 14 2/3 innings while striking out 12.  Arrieta threw his fastball in the mid-90s on Saturday and hit 97 mph once.

Showalter was also encouraged by the one-inning performance of closer Jim Johnson, who was pitching in consecutive games for the first time this spring after dealing with a back injury this winter.  He walked a batter, struck out one and got two groundouts. His fastball was clocked at 94 and 95 mph.

"There was some unknown. He went through a little bit of an offseason that he has never done before," Showalter said. "Like I said before, I always feel like he is going to get there, it was just a matter of time. And that was real encouraging today."

Jai Miller and Ronny Paulino hit consecutive homers in the fourth against Bedard. Paulino had a three-run shot, his first of the year. Aaron Baker, whom the Orioles acquired from the Pirates last year for Derrek Lee, homered in the eighth to tie the game at 6-6.

It was Orioles' sixth tie of the spring, which sets a record dating back to 1996. 

"It beats beating the losing record, right?" Showalter quipped.