Orioles left-hander Wade Miley was slated to go five innings in Monday's Grapefruit League road game against the Boston Red Sox, but less than an hour before the scheduled first pitch, Miley was being driven back to Sarasota with lingering flulike symptoms.
His absence left the Orioles needing to fill his spot. They had brought just two other pitchers from big league camp, and the other eight were from minor league camp.
That made for a messy, drawn-out afternoon at JetBlue Park in what was the Orioles' ugliest Grapefruit League game of the spring, a 7-4 loss Monday afternoon.
Left-hander Vidal Nuno took Miley's spot and failed to give the Orioles two innings, allowing three runs on four hits over 1 2/3 innings. Right-hander Oliver Drake also struggled, allowing three runs on five hits over 1 1/3 innings.
"Spring training is [about] getting work in, whether it's the first inning or any inning, so it's just falling behind in the count and just not finishing my two-strike pitches," said Nuno, who said he found out he was starting about an hour before the game. "It was a little frustrating, but this is baseball. I'm going to keep my head up, look at film and keep on striving to be prepared every day."
Nuno was making his second outing since returning from the World Baseball Classic, where he pitched just 1 2/3 innings for Mexico. He has allowed four earned runs over 2 2/3 innings in his two Grapefruit League outings since his return.
"There's a little [transition] just being away, being in Arizona and traveling, coming back, the time difference," Nuno said. "It's one week down, so now I'm [making] strikes and getting accustomed to the time change, getting acclimated with all this preparation of being out in the field and getting these hitters out. …
"I'm trying to do too much with two strikes, trying to overthrow, and that's now how I've been throwing the past year. Florida is different than Arizona with the humidity, and the ball just don't spin the same, stuff like that. But I've got to find a way to get [better] in these two-strike counts and place the ball where I want it to be placed."
He left Monday's game after 50 pitches, having allowed five of the 10 hitters he faced to reach base and trailing 1-0 after Marco Hernandez's double put runners at second and third with one out. Drake allowed both runners to score as part of a four-run second inning.
Drake's struggles continue: Drake's rocky spring worsened Monday. Once the former Navy star entered the game for Nuno, he allowed three consecutive hits, including back-to-back doubles by Pablo Sandoval and Mookie Betts. He allowed six of the eight hitters he faced to reach base.
"We wanted to see him try to finish an inning," manager Buck Showalter said. "It didn't work out too well. He threw 18 pitches to get one out and he went back out. That's what he's going to have to do for us to make the club."
Drake, who saw his spring training ERA balloon to 10.61, pitched extremely well for the Orioles in September, posting a 1.46 ERA in his final 10 appearances spanning 12 1/3 innings. But he enters the season out of minor league options.
"The split strike is getting his hit and the split ball isn't," Showalter said. "He was pitching well for us last year. He attacked the strike zone and he made them honor both pitches. He's not doing that right now. He's a couple ticks down in velocity, too. … The big question is, will it play up here? It did some last year for us, but he's had high pitch counts. It takes a lot of pitches to get through innings, so you just about take him out as far as multiple-inning guys go."
Mullins making plays: Minor league outfielder Cedric Mullins, who has participated in eight Grapefruit League games, recorded his first hit this spring with a leadoff triple in the eighth. Mullins scored on Aderlin Rodriguez's single.
Mullins was hitless in six previous Grapefruit League at-bats but hit a towering home run in Friday's "B" game off the center-field batter's eye.
Miley's recovery: Showalter said Miley pitched through illness in his previous start, but he thought Miley had completely recovered heading into Monday's game.
"He looks rough," Showalter said. "He missed a couple things. … We thought he was over it, but it looks like he's had a little relapse. One of our [clubhouse attendants] is driving him back. … He actually came over here last night and said he woke up this morning [and was sick]."
Showalter said the missed start shouldn't affect Miley's status for the regular season, but the team could move up Miley's next scheduled outing in order to keep him on schedule.