Thrown into a competition for a rotation spot, Orioles left-hander Chris Lee made his second career Grapefruit League start Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays. He acknowledged some nerves, but nothing like before his first start six days ago, when he said he had trouble sleeping the previous night.
Both of his spring training starts have ended prematurely because of deep pitch counts. In Wednesday's outing, Lee lasted just two innings in after throwing 55 pitches and allowing two runs.
The Orioles won, 7-4.
Lee threw first-pitch strikes to the first three batters he faced in the first inning and the first four hitters in the second inning, but he also went to a full count four times. Seven of the 12 hitters he faced reach base.
"I was going too deep in counts not making the right pitches, finishing them early," Lee said. "I just need to be more efficient in that and just finish them early and just when I get two strikes just put them away as quick as possible."
Lee, who was coming off back-to-back scoreless outings, said receiving starts in his past two outings — and knowing he's competing to fill the rotation spot empty by Chris Tillman opening the season on the DL — hasn't affected the way he has pitched.
"I have the same approach," Lee said. "I'm still trying to go out there and get ground balls in the least amount of pitches as possible, but this time is just didn't work in my favor."
In four spring training outings, Lee — who missed most of last season with a lat strain while at Double-A Bowie — has a 2.77 ERA, allowing four earned runs over 13 innings.
“He just couldn’t finish some hitters off,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s a good indication of some things he’s going to have to finish off to contribute, but I’m confident he will. He was a little better than last time. Obviously he’s crisp. The command wasn’t there where he needs to be. He’s got a chance to be a good one. Tonight was a good experience for him.”
Taking a chance on Sisco: Top prospect Chance Sisco continued to survive the latest round of cuts Wednesday, then delivered a game-winning three-run homer in the eighth inning off right-hander Andrew Kittredge.
Sisco's first home run of spring training went the opposite way, a towering blast down the left-field line that hit the foul pole.
“That was legit,” Showalter said. “I think that ball would have hit our foul pole in Baltimore. He’s got that type of use of the field and as you get closer to the lines, it plays a lot shorter.”
Sisco is 5-for-17 this spring, with all his RBIs coming on that home run.
Johnson's homer gives Orioles lead: Nonroster third baseman Chris Johnson has received more playing time than he might have anticipated this spring, thanks to Manny Machado playing in the World Baseball Classic and utility man Ryan Flaherty nursing a sore throwing shoulder.
Johnson is still slotted to start the season at Triple-A Norfolk, but his 61 Grapefruit League at-bats lead the Orioles. With Flaherty scheduled to return Friday and Machado coming back Saturday, Johnson's playing time will dwindle quickly.
But that's not before Johnson provided a spark, hitting a two-run homer off Rays starter Chris Archer that gave the Orioles a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning.
Alvarez continues being offensive: Designated hitter Pedro Alvarez had his third multi-hit game in five spring training games, going 2-for-4 on Wednesday.
In his first at-bat, Alvarez doubled into the right-center-field gap past Rays right fielder Tim Beckham. He added a single in his second at-bat, in the fifth, and scored on Johnson's homer.
Alvarez is 8-for-19 this spring with two homers and two doubles.
Wilson strong in relief: Right-hander Tyler Wilson had his best Grapefruit League outing, pitching perfect relief innings in the seventh and eighth.
Wilson entered the night having allowed runs in four of his five appearances, including each of the past four.
But he made quick work of the Tampa Bay reserves, retiring all six batters he faced.
Around the horn: Relievers Darren O’Day and Donnie Hart each threw an inning in a minor league game at Twin Lakes Park, giving them their first work on consecutive days this spring.