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Matt Wieters returns to game action as Ubaldo Jimenez dominates another minor league game

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters prepares to play in a minor league game at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, Fla., 10 days after injuring his elbow in a major league spring training game.
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters prepares to play in a minor league game at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, Fla., 10 days after injuring his elbow in a major league spring training game. (Jon Meoli)

A host of major leaguers, including catcher Matt Wieters and first baseman Chris Davis, skipped the Orioles' trip to Fort Myers to play the Twins Tuesday to get more work at the team's minor league complex back in Sarasota.

The afternoon at Twin Lakes was highlighted by right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings in a Triple-A game. After the start, Jimenez said he hasn't felt this good this early in a long time.

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"I feel healthy," Jimenez said. "I think every time I get on the mound, I can command the fastball, the breaking balls, everything for a strike.

"I felt really good. I've been able to command the fastball, and my last three, four games, especially the last two. I've been able to throw the breaking ball when I needed to, behind in the count, ahead in the count."

Jimenez also made his last start, on March 17, in a minor league game, where he struck out seven Red Sox minor leaguers in five innings. He went a little deeper Tuesday, and allowed four hits and issued one walk while striking out eight.

He said the work in minor league games is good for both himself and the team.

"You come over here and you just go out there and do what you're supposed to do," he said. "They can even give you more hitters if you need it, or if you get in trouble, they can take you out and let you rest then come back out.

"When you get to the point when you're supposed to throw more pitches in a game, it feels good to be here because they have way too many guys over there. It gives them a little bit of room to see the guys that they need to see, and us, the guys that are supposed to be on the team, just get the job done."

Davis, one of four Orioles hitters who jumped between the Double-A and Triple-A fields Tuesday, said he was glad to see that version of Jimenez in person.

"We just need him to be him," Davis said. "We know what kind of pitcher he is and what he's capable of. I was glad to get down here and see him throw the ball and get his confidence up. This guy's a horse and I think he's going to be really good for us."

Davis, Wieters, first baseman Pedro Alvarez, and left fielder Hyun Soo Kim all had at least six at-bats apiece Tuesday, with all finding success late in the games. They batted second and third in essentially every inning of both the Double-A and Triple-A games, ensuring they'd get as much work as they could. Davis hit a massive home run to right-center in the Double-A game in his fifth at-bat, and also walked twice in nine plate appearances. Wieters had a double from the left side of the plate and a single from the right side, and also walked in seven plate appearances.

"It's nice to get out here and get swinging and get some live pitching and get seven at-bats in a day, seven or eight at-bats in a day — it's a good way to kind of catch up quickly," Wieters said. "First couple of at-bats, you kind of start swinging and don't remember to watch the ball and it takes a little while to remember what your focus points are and go from there."

Wieters had taken batting practice this weekend, but hasn't played in a game since experiencing elbow soreness on Saturday, March 12. Manager Buck Showalter said he also threw out to 90 feet today, which Wieters said went "good."

"We'll keep moving and see how it goes," he said.

Alvarez and Kim both saved their best at-bats for late in the day as well. Alvarez hit a long double in the eighth inning of the Triple-A game, and Kim, who has eight singles and no extra-base hits in the major league games so far, hit a line drive triple to the warning track in his last at-bat in the Double-A game.

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