At another sold out game at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Zach Britton took the mound for the Orioles today, pitching five innings of one run ball, allowing six hits and one walk while recording five strikeouts against the New York Yankees. Britton, who now has fourteen innings through four spring starts (not including a minor league game outing), is putting up a great fight to make the Orioles come Opening Day, though many feel that he is destined to start at AAA no matter what come April.
On the other side of the game, Jake Fox got the start at first base for the Birds today and hit his league-leading eighth home run of the spring. Fox, a utility player who can catch and play both infield and outfield corners, is fighting for a bench spot on the squad, a spot that Buck says will come down to his defense. But as this article on MLB.com points out, a strong spring could possibly lead to great things, a big reason that many believe that Fox as a minimum should make the team as a backup catcher.
Following Britton on the mound, Jason Berken pitched two scoreless innings, allowing a walk and striking out one in the daytime game being shown on ESPN. Mike Gonzalez pitched the 8th, allowing one run on one hit and a walk, striking out two. Chris George closed the game out, pitching a perfect 9th inning.
The Oriole bats, which started off early against Sergio Mitre of the Yankees, got on the board in the 1st inning on a Vladimir Guerrero RBI ground out. The 3rd inning, which brought Jake Fox’s home run, also brought another Guerrero RBI ground out, as well as a Luke Scott home run. Scott came into the game hitting just .132 this spring (5/38), but his home run to right-center was a blast, flying over the main scoreboard. J.J. Hardy then hit a solo shot in the 4th inning, putting the O’s up 6-1 at the time.
Derrek Lee, who was hurt in his spring debut on Saturday against the Phillies, is almost fully recovered and hit in the DH spot today following Guerrero. Lee went 0-2 on the day, but it was good to see him back in action. Matt Wieters, though going 1-4 on the day, hit two balls within feet of being home runs, caught on the warning track at the wall.
The Orioles take on the Minnesota Twins on the road tomorrow at 7:05 PM.