CHICAGO — From the looks of his first rehab assignment at Triple-A Norfolk, Orioles left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada could remain in the minors for a while.
Wada, a former standout in the Japanese Pacific League who signed a two-year, $8.14-million deal this offseason, lasted just 2 2/3 innings Thursday in his start against the Gwinnett (Ga.) Braves, allowing six runs — all earned — on six hits with four walks and one strikeout.
Wada struggled through a 35-pitch first inning, allowing three runs on four hits in the opening frame. He left with the bases loaded in the third in an inning that began with a two-run homer by Gwinnett first baseman Ernesto Mejia. Tides pitcher Steve Johnson walked in an inherited runner in relief of Wada, who threw 77 pitches and just 39 strikes.
Wada, signed to be a member of the Orioles' starting rotation, began the season on the disabled list, allowing him to stay at extended spring training to work on elevating his pitch counts. He missed significant time during the spring with left elbow discomfort, which put him behind in Sarasota.
He pitched in two successful extended spring training starts before joining Norfolk. The Orioles brass were expected to make a decision on whether Wada was ready to join the club — Orioles vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was at the game — but it seems obvious that Wada will stay at Triple-A for now.
"We were talking to him through his interpreter and talking to his agent too," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I think Dan was talking to them. I think they were aware that he wasn't ready physically and everybody really wants him to start right. If it had to be extended, I think we feel comfortable. You only have so many days."
Plenty of faith in Markakis
Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, who entered Thursday's game in the midst of a 4-for-39 slump in his last 10 games, has said he's completely recovered from offseason surgery to repair multiple tears in his abdomen.
But gauging whether Markakis is truly healthy, is "unchartered territory," as Showalter calls it. Markakis has been extremely durable throughout his career, and has missed just five games over the past three years.
"You never know," Showalter said. "Nick's never going to tell you, but he felt really good in the spring, got off to a good start. He's had a little bump here where he's not being as good as he's capable of being but we know he will be. I'm not going to say it's completely out of the realm of possibility, but he'd gone through some period where he hasn't done as well as he's capable of over the course of a season. It's a little uncharted territory with him so I don't have a whole lot to base it on. There's only one way to find out. He feels good physically though."
Johnson still seeking first hit
Struggling first baseman/designated hitter Nick Johnson started in the No. 5 spot in the order for the first time.
That's normally been Matt Wieters' spot, but with Wieters given the day off, Showalter said it was a nice fit.
"It just fits better," Showalter said. "If not him, then who? I really don't want to move a lot of people around from places where they're having success from."
After a 0-for-4 afternoon on Thursday, Johnson is 0-for-20 on the season, the most at bats for a hitless player in the major leagues.
Reimold battling neck spasms
Orioles left fielder Nolan Reimold, who is 9-for-20 with four homers and seven RBIs on the road trip so far, was out of Thursday's lineup because of neck spasms, Showalter said.
Showalter said Reimold had been treated for the spasms before and after Wednesday's game, but the injury was still bothering him Thursday morning.
Around the horn
Brian Roberts will accompany the team on their final road-trip leg to Anaheim. Roberts, who is on the disabled list recovering from multiple concussions, is making his first road trip with the team since last May. … Center fielder Adam Jones has hits in 12 of his last 13 games and is hitting .321 (17-for-53) in that span. … First baseman Chris Davis is hitting .455 (10-for-22) with three doubles, a homer and three RBIs in his last six games.