FORT MYERS, Fla. — Right-hander Bud Norris has talked this spring about showing Orioles fans what he can do when he is healthy and pitching at the level he demands from himself.
He used the Grapefruit League to make his point, finishing a good spring with a solid effort Tuesday in a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
"Felt really strong. A little windy, so you really have to control your body out there," Norris said. "I felt I did a really good job of pounding the strike zone."
Norris lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk while striking out two batters. He battled a swirling wind and a couple Orioles defensive gaffes as much as he did the Twins' hitters. He threw 78 pitches, 52 for strikes. The Orioles scored just one run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Steve Pearce.
"He should have given up what, one run maybe at the most," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "Was a good outing for him. Got his pitch count where he needed it to be. … Now it's a matter of if he's going to carry it over into the season."
Showalter hasn't yet named the order of the back-end of his rotation, but Norris will slot either fourth or fifth behind Opening Day starter Chris Tillman, veteran Ubaldo Jimenez and lefty Wei-Yin Chen. That trio will pitch in the season-opening series against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards.
Norris and Miguel Gonzalez will start two of the three games in the following road series in Detroit. Both Norris and Gonzalez likely will stay back in Sarasota this weekend and get side work in before joining the club for Monday's Opening Day ceremonies in Baltimore, Showalter said.
Norris started Opening Day last year for the Houston Astros and went 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA before being dealt to the Orioles in July. In 11 games (nine starts) with the Orioles he was 4-3 with a 4.80 ERA, and he dealt with elbow soreness in September.
This spring, he's compiled a 2.65 ERA in 17 innings, giving up 16 hits, six walks and striking out 15 batters. He had one bad outing — against the New York Yankees — and otherwise has pitched fairly well.
"You can't get too far ahead of yourself. You can't get too far behind yourself. You've got to take these six, seven weeks and take it one day at a time and get stronger," Norris said. "So, I think from a throwing program standpoint, from a body standpoint, I've gotten a lot stronger, and mentally stronger, too. I'm healthy, and that's the No. 1 priority, and would love to make 30, 35 starts."
Flaherty, Clevenger make team
The Orioles' 25-man roster is coming more into focus with five days remaining before Opening Day. Or, at the least, the expected decisions are now becoming official. Showalter confirmed that he told infielder Ryan Flaherty and backup catcher Steve Clevenger that they have made the team.
Flaherty's status was never really in doubt; he's expected to start Opening Day at third base with Manny Machado sidelined. Flaherty will make his third consecutive Opening Day roster, but he has said all spring that he wasn't taking it for granted.
"Flaherty, I told him today so he'd quit walking around on eggshells," Showalter said. "Those two fall under the 'no [kidding]' category, right?"
On Monday night, Showalter told Clevenger, a Mount St. Joseph graduate and former Pigtown resident, that he'd be running down the orange carpet at Camden Yards for the first time.
"I don't know if he has looked around yet, but there is no other catcher in camp," Showalter said.
Clevenger was excited, but he knows the team could still add a catcher from another organization, so he is tempering his enthusiasm.
"It was great that they told me that, but like I said before, I'm going to play out the spring," Clevenger said. "You never know what can happen between now and then or what kind of options they run into between then. So I'm going to continue to do what I do and work hard and show them that I am the guy for the spot."
Clevenger had three hits and scored the Orioles' lone run Tuesday. He is hitting .484 (15-for-31) in 12 spring games.
"Being from Baltimore, making the Opening Day roster is great," Clevenger said. "I think this one is going to be a little more exciting just from it being the Orioles, I would say. It's going to be a special day."
Almanzar could go on DL
An MRI on Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar's left knee revealed patella tendinitis, which will shelve the young corner infielder for a few days and may require a disabled list stint, according to executive vice president Dan Duquette.
Almanzar, 23, injured the knee while playing first base Saturday in Port Charlotte, Fla.
If he has to go on the disabled list — and that seems to be a likelihood — the Orioles won't have to make an immediate roster decision. The Orioles need to keep Almanzar on their big league roster all season or offer him back to the Red Sox at half the $50,000 purchase price. Being on the disabled list does not count against the 25-man roster.
Duquette had been looking at the possibility of working out a trade with Boston to keep Almanzar, but he said that won't happen if the player is injured.
Almanzar hit .200 with one homer and nine RBIs in 19 spring games, mainly at third base.
Around the horn
Lefty Kelvin De La Cruz cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. He was designated for assignment last week when the club picked up infielder David Adams. … Tommy Hunter allowed one run in one inning Tuesday while Zach Britton (2/3 of an inning) and Brad Brach (one inning) had scoreless outings. Hunter and Britton also will pitch Wednesday, the first time either has pitched in consecutive games this spring. … Right-handed pitching prospect Mike Wright will start for the Orioles in their exhibition game against the Triple-A affiliate Norfolk Tides on Saturday. No Orioles on the 25-man roster are expected to pitch in that game. Farmhands that will oppose the Orioles include Zach Davies, Tyler Wilson and Chris Petrini. … Cuts are likely to come before both split squad games Wednesday. The Orioles play the Red Sox in Fort Myers at 1:05 p.m. and then in Port Charlotte against the Tampa Bay Rays at 7 p.m. … The Orioles had their final Grapefruit League game with instant replay capabilities on Tuesday and did not challenge a call. There wasn't a challenge in any of their five replay games this spring.
Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.