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Gabriel Ynoa delivers four strong innings in Orioles' 4-2 Grapefruit League victory over Red Sox

SARASOTA, FLA. — Right-hander Gabriel Ynoa might seem like an unlikely choice to become the first Orioles pitcher to throw four innings this spring. He didn’t even start Friday’s game against the Boston Red Sox at sold-out Ed Smith Stadium.

He came on in the fourth inning and gave up just one hit, setting himself up to get the decision when the Orioles scored twice in the sixth inning of a 4-2 victory.

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“I was not really expecting to go four innings today,” Ynoa said through interpreter Ramón Alarcón, “but they gave me the opportunity and I went ahead with it and took advantage of the opportunity.”

In three exhibition appearances, Ynoa has thrown a total of eight innings and allowed just a run on four hits. He has eight strikeouts and has not walked a batter. Not a bad early impression to make in the battle for one of the final spots in the starting rotation, especially when the emphasis in camp has been on pitching aggressively.

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Orioles reliever Branden Kline allowed a game-losing home run on Thursday in Bradenton. It wasn't fun, but it was the right time to do it: when it doesn't count.

“I’ve been working a lot in the bullpen, especially with my pitching coach, trying to be aggressive, to stay aggressive, not fall behind, so I think that has been the key for me so far,’’ he said.

Ynoa, 25, is back at full strength after a 2019 season marred by shin splints and shoulder soreness. He said that good health has definitely played a role in his early success.

“I think health is the key this spring training,’’ Ynoa said. “I also think experience helps. I feel more confident. I’m getting a lot of feedback from my coaches and that really helps.”

While it appears he is making a great case for a spot on the Opening Day roster, Ynoa wasn’t willing to speculate about where he might stand on the pitching depth chart.

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“Those decisions are really not up to me,’’ he said. “That falls on the team. My job is to go out there, work hard and try to put the team in the best possible scenario and just help them out.”

Cashner’s quick start

Starting pitcher Andrew Cashner, who threw three innings in his first game Sunday, lasted just 1 2/3 innings Friday, allowing one run on one hit and two walks.

He threw just 11 pitches in a scoreless first. But when Tzu-Wei Lin hit an RBI ground-rule double on his 29th pitch of the second inning, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde decided Cashner had been out there long enough. He left the game and completed his overall pitch count in the bullpen.

“I was really lobbying to keep going, but they didn’t want me going over 30 pitches [in an inning], and I understand,’’ Cashner said. “I got up to 60, so next time out I’ll get somewhere between 60 and 70 pitches, but overall feel great.”

Orioles outfielder Austin Hays had to re-learn how to run after offseason ankle surgery, and the resulting strides with that and his offseason fitness program have him in position to earn a major league job this spring.

The results aside, Cashner said he was pleased with the way the ball was coming out of his hand.

“I thought that was some of the better stuff I’ve had in a while,’’ Cashner said. “I’ve been working on my slider and I thought it was tight. Pushed a couple of changeups, but thought I was back spinning the baseball real well.”

Jackson stays hot

Rule 5 infielder Drew Jackson, who was in the lineup as the designated hitter, had three hits in three at-bats to improve his spring average to .417. Jackson, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies after the Orioles chose Richie Martin with the first overall pick, is part of a crowded competition for an infield utility job.

Other offensive highlights

First baseman Renato Núñez got the Orioles even in the fourth inning with his second home run of the spring. He was hit by pitches in his two other plate appearances.

Hanser Alberto gave the Orioles the lead in sixth with a double to left field, and Chance Sisco followed immediately with a run-scoring single to add to the slim lead.

The Orioles also scored a run in the seventh inning when Anthony Santander drove in Jackson with a double.

With the victory, the Orioles improved to 8-5-2 in the Grapefruit League, the best exhibition record of any American League East team.

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