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Orioles' Berken fares well in his spring debut

The Baltimore Sun

While dealing with a left hamstring injury this spring, Orioles right-hander Jason Berken maintained a throwing program to keep his arm in shape.

That was evident Sunday afternoon, when Berken made his spring debut against the Philadelphia Phillies with a scoreless inning. He threw his slider and sinker effectively, consistently hitting 92 to 94 mph with his fastball.

“The biggest thing for me is I was able to keep throwing while I was rehabbing my hamstring so my arm really never fell behind in terms of throwing,” said Berken, who was 1-2 with a 5.36 ERA in 40 relief appearances last year. “As a whole, my arm feels good, my shoulder is healthy, my legs are feeling better. So I don’t gauge myself on velocity in terms of how I feel, but I feel good. And if the velocity is up there, that’s even better.”

Berken entered in the sixth inning and, with his second pitch, allowed a double to Carlos Ruiz. He then retired the next three batters in order, with two ground outs and a strike out. He threw 13 pitches, 10 for strikes.

“To be able to throw from the stretch, with guys on base, in situations to simulate a game in the season, is good,” Berken said. “You make the most important pitches from the stretch, with guys on base, so it worked out well.

Because he missed so much time this spring, it has been assumed that Berken would be too far behind to challenge for a spot in a crowded bullpen. But when asked if Berken still had time to make the 25-man roster, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Sunday, “Sure, we have plenty of time.”

And Berken hasn’t given up hope yet, either.

“Whether I have a ton of time or not that much time, it’s all the same for me. I’ve got to pitch well,” Berken said. “I sure hope there is [enough time]. Coming in this spring I had every intention of making the team, and that hasn’t changed.”

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