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Jayson Aquino makes push for Orioles roster spot with impressive outing in 2-1 win

If the Orioles' 2-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday was the last chance left-hander Jayson Aquino gets to make an impression on the big league staff in hopes of earning a spot in the rotation, the 24-year-old spring training darling will break camp happy.

"I was really never given the opportunity to start in spring training, so I'm thankful for this opportunity and I'm really glad I had this opportunity with the Orioles," Aquino said through club interpreter Ramon Alarcon. "I'm very pleased with what I was able to show today."

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Aquino allowed a run on three hits in four innings against a lineup full of major leaguers, and after early struggles to find his control, he cruised. He allowed a leadoff double down the left-field line by Melvin Upton Jr., who scored after a pair of ground ball outs in a grind-it-out inning for Aquino.

Two of the three hits Aquino allowed came in the first, but he allowed three men to reach the rest of the way — on a single, a walk, and a hit batter — and struck out four, with seven of his outs coming via ground balls.

"At the beginning, I felt a little bit rusty, but as the game was going on, I felt better — more in rhythm of the game and confident that I was able to [have] a good game today," Aquino said. … I just tried to concentrate on making my pitch, throwing my breaking ball for a strike, and throwing it low in the zone."

It was just an extension of what's been an impressive spring for Aquino. He entered having allowed one earned run on seven hits in 11 innings — all in relief — but has cemented himself as a starting option for the Orioles, if not in April then at some point soon.

"We're real excited about his spring," manager Buck Showalter said.

"I wanted to see him in that role. It's a good look. You're looking for different things. These guys… are bright. They know what's going on here, and they know that our fifth starter is going down. But someone is going to have to come back up. They know what's going on, and like I said, his presentation has been good. There's some things that we didn't really know about him that we got to find out this spring. ... He's got a nice feel for pitching. He's got a good hand, and he's only 24 years old, and he's got options. There's a lot of good things about him."

Run, Craig, run: Center fielder Craig Gentry's first inning was enough to show the Orioles why he might be an asset off the bench.

Gentry drew a walk off Jays starter Francisco Liriano, then stole second and third base to put himself in position to score on a single by third baseman Chris Johnson.

That was the only run the Orioles scored until infielder Ryan Flaherty tripled off the center-field wall and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cedric Mullins in the eighth inning.

Bullpen sharp: Two key cogs in the Orioles bullpen — Donnie Hart and Mychal Givens — pitched out of minor jams to record scoreless innings as they prepare for the regular season.

Another unheralded reliever — Stefan Crichton — continued his quest to join them in the majors soon.

Crichton, who isn't even in major league camp, made his seventh appearance and retired all three batters he faced. This appearance was a scheduled one, with the Orioles hoping he'd be as effective as he was, knowing the circumstances.

"He’s been pitching well every time we brought him over," Showalter said. "That’s six or seven outings. He attacked the strike zone. He made a lot of quality fastball strikes in his outings here this spring. He’s really done well for himself, left a good impression. [Jimmy] Yacabonis has, too. I’m really glad we got them through that Rule 5 draft."
Yacabonis also had a scoreless inning, and Cody Satterwhite got the save with a scoreless ninth.

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