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Chris Davis homers, three starter candidates pitch well in Orioles' strange 11-5 loss to Rays

Slugger Chris Davis found his stroke Tuesday, launching his first home run of the spring in the Orioles’ strange 11-5 Grapefruit League loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium that was suspended in the eighth inning by rain.

Davis, who had to shake off a case of bronchitis early in camp, struck out in his first three at-bats of the exhibition season, but hammered a ball off Rays pitcher Austin Pruitt that easily cleared the right-center field fence in the fifth inning.

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“It felt really good,” Davis said. “I felt like today was really the first day I had my legs under me the entire day, coming off the last few days of that bronchitis, just getting it out of my system. I felt like I was getting my strength back and getting my legs underneath me, which makes it a little bit easier.”

Manager Brandon Hyde isn’t jumping to any conclusions, but he said it was good to see Davis get into one early.

“I just want to see him take good at-bats, and the results will happen,’’ Hyde said. “To hit a two-strike breaking ball for a homer, one, it shows you how strong he is. But I just think rhythm and timing is coming, and he's seeing the ball a little bit better his last two at-bats. It was nice to see.”

Everyone knows that Davis is coming off an extremely frustrating season, but he said that he worked over the offseason on shortening his swing and has seen some positive results in batting practice and even in a spring debut Sunday in which he struck out in two at-bats.

“I felt like I saw the ball well the other day, just a little in-between on my timing,” he said. “It's getting a little bit better each game, and obviously, had a positive result in my last at-bat today. It's a good one to end on.”

Davis said he thinks he will benefit from a chance to start over with a new manager and coaching staff.

“I think it's a positive, to be honest with you,” Davis said. “I think it was a good chance for me to reset and kind of regroup and put really the last couple of years behind me and just move forward.

“I like what we're trying to accomplish this year, as far as the environment we're trying to set, and the type of play, the way we're approaching the games. We're aggressive. We're going to make teams adjust to us instead of the other way around. I like what I've seen so far.”

Strange ending

The Rays scored 10 runs in the top of the eighth inning to take an 11-4 lead, but the game was rained out after the O’s scored a run with no one out in the bottom of a half inning that was not completed.

Since the game was suspended, the score stands and the stats count for both teams.

Wright has solid start

Orioles right-hander Mike Wright pitched two more scoreless innings in his second exhibition appearance this spring and said he’s hoping to win a place in the major league rotation after spending almost all of last season in the bullpen.

“I’ve done both obviously in the big leagues, and last year I was in the bullpen for pretty much the full season,” Wright said after allowing two hits and a walk Tuesday, “I learned a lot in the bullpen. I definitely like starting. They approached me and asked me if that’s what I wanted to do, and obviously, I said yes.”

Wright knows, however, that there’s a long road ahead and nothing can be taken for granted after a 2018 season during which he posted a 4-2 record and a 5.55 ERA.

“That’s not necessarily what I’m going to do,” he said. “I do have to win that spot. There’s a lot of people competing and a lot of guys who have a lot of promise. In a rebuild, I understand they get first dibs, so I’m just in a position where I want to get outs.”

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The offseason was spent trying to get in the best position possible for that competition. Wright figured he would need to be ready for either role so he started stretching out before he got here.

“I have to prepare to come in here to win a spot,” he said. “I’m out of options and I haven’t done great in my time up, so — regardless of what I came in [to do] — I wanted to be as prepared as possible, so I was already up to a decent amount of pitches ready to start if they needed me to. And pretty much the first week they came to me with that suggestion.

Hyde pointed out after the game that the exhibition season has just begun, but he was impressed with Wright’s performance.

“That's his second outing,” Hyde said, “and his two innings were a really good two innings. We're going to continue to throw him out there and continue to build him up and we'll see how it goes. But that was awesome. It was awesome to see his command, his aggressiveness, his velo was nice—the whole thing. It was a really good outing for him”

Rogers, Ramirez also throw two scoreless innings

Wright was one of three serious candidates for the rotation to make two-inning appearances and pitch well Tuesday.

Rookie Josh Rogers followed Wright to the mound and pitched impressively, allowing just a walk and single over two scoreless innings in which he got six ground-ball outs. He also pitched a scoreless inning of relief in his spring debut.

Yefry Ramirez, who made 12 starts last season at the big league level and posted a 1-8 record and a 5.92 ERA, made his second multi-inning appearance and looked very sharp. He retired six of seven batters, and the only one to reach base did so on an error by second baseman Jace Peterson.

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