Right-hander Jake Arrieta turned in the longest big league outing this spring for an Orioles starter, fluctuating between unhittable and utterly shaky Thursday evening.
In the Orioles' 11-7 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Arrieta allowed two homers in the first inning and one in the sixth but was superb in between, cementing his spot in the Orioles' rotation.
Arrieta lasted 51/3 innings, surrendering four runs on five hits and three walks. He gave up three runs on back-to-back homers in the first to Lyle Overbay and Neil Walker before retiring 14 of his next 15 batters. At one point, Arrieta set down eight in a row in front of an announced 6,677.
"I made a lot of strides. From the second to the fifth inning, I feel like I was throwing like I was in midseason form. That's a good sign," Arrieta said. "I just have to iron out some kinks in the first inning. I have to attack better and stay down with the ball. When the wind is blowing out like it was early in the game, you have to be down, and I wasn't down in the first. But I settled in after that."
In the sixth, Walker homered again and Arrieta walked consecutive batters before being pulled. He threw 91 pitches (51 strikes) and struck out four. His ERA sits at 5.79 this spring. He'll likely get one more exhibition start.
"The sixth inning, I talked to [pitching coach Mark Connor], and he said I was getting a little sloppy on my delivery, falling off to the first base side, which was causing me to cut off my pitches," Arrieta said. "That's just one of those things I have to self-correct and try to get back on track when I feel something like that."
Before the game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter all but confirmed that Arrieta, who was battling for one of two rotation spots, would pitch the team's home opener at Camden Yards on April 4. Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Matusz will start the first two games of the season in Tampa; Showalter has yet to name his starter for the third game.
Otherwise, Thursday's game was one of firsts for the Orioles.
New third baseman Mark Reynolds hit his first homer with the club, a towering solo shot in the second that nearly hit the back fence in left-center field. The home run, off Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf, came in Reynolds' 52nd at-bat of the spring.
In the fifth, Derrek Lee singled to left, his first hit in nine exhibition at-bats. He had been shelved previously with wrist and foot injuries. Later that inning, Felix Pie gave the Orioles a 5-3 lead they never relinquished with a two-run, 400-plus-foot homer to center that bounced off the batter's eye wall. It was Pie's first homer of the spring.
Pie also had a RBI single and a sacrifice fly, giving him four RBIs on the night. He entered Thursday with three RBIs this spring.
Luke Scott also homered against Ohlendorf, who gave up nine hits and six runs (five earned) in 42/3 innings. J.J. Hardy was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, and Brian Roberts had two hits and an RBI. Reynolds had a homer, double and a walk.
The Pirates scored one run in the eighth on two hits and a walk against Dan Klein, the Orioles' third-round selection in 2010 from UCLA. It was Klein's first time pitching with the big-league club.
Orioles reliever Mark Hendrickson allowed a two-run homer to Josh Rodriguez in the ninth.
The Orioles are 12-12-2 this spring. They've won all five of their games against the Pirates.