BRADENTON, Fla. — The Orioles made a few more cuts Monday, optioning three members of their 40-man roster to Class AAA Norfolk while bringing the number of players in camp to 53 with three weeks remaining in spring training.
It was no surprise that outfielder Xavier Avery, right-hander Zach Clark and lefty Mike Belfiore, all of whom could have roles with the Orioles at some point this season, were sent down to get more consistent playing time.
The 23-year-old Avery, who hit .223 in 32 games for the Orioles in 2012, had just two singles in 11 at-bats this spring. He was a long shot to make the opening day roster heading into February and Manager Buck Showalter said he could tell he was trying to do too much.
“In his mind, coming in here, every at-bat was like the World Series for him,” Showalter said. “I think what will happen is two or three games down there he’ll get back in step, relax a little bit. He had a little anxiety, but we’re pretty excited about his future.”
Clark and Belfiore were added to the 40-man roster this winter and were experiencing their first najor league camps. Both acquitted themselves well and will eventually be back in camp — along with Avery — to fill in on occasion when needed in Grapefruit League games, Showalter said,
The 29-year-old Clark, a University of Maryland Baltimore County product, was 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in seven innings over five exhibition games.
“He is an option for us,” Showalter said of Clark, who is expected to be in the Norfolk rotation to begin the season. “Any time you can locate a fastball you’ve got a chance. . . . He’s got an idea about pitching. He is a pro.”
Belfiore, 24, was acquired from Arizona last season as the player to be named later in the Josh Bell deal. He was 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 71 / 3 innings in four spring games. Showalter said the club hasn’t decided whether to use the converted first baseman out of Boston College as a starter or reliever.
“If it is all the same to him, he’d rather relieve,” Showalter said. “I think it is something that he and (director of pitching development) Rick Peterson and the organization will continue to talk about. But we’ve got to come to a decision here soon for him to get stretched out.”
Jake Arrieta’s bid to make the Orioles’ rotation likely was strengthened Monday when he allowed two hits and struck out five through four innings in a 4-3 loss against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Arrieta became the first Orioles’ pitcher to go more than three innings this spring, allowing just a two-out double and a two-out single. Otherwise, he was perfect.
“Overall, yeah, I liked the outing. I started out very strong,” said Arrieta, who has not allowed an earned run in his last seven innings pitched. “All in all, today was a good day. I was able to work my way back into some counts that I got behind in and get some big outs.”
Arrieta, however, threw only 34 of his 60 pitches for strikes, a ball-strike ratio that Showalter said needs to improve.
“Jake was okay; he only had four, first-pitch strikes, that’s something he’s got to get better at,” Showalter said. “He had some deep counts he shouldn’t have had. But statistically, results, he threw zeros out there. But he’s got to get some counts in his favor.”
The Orioles held a 3-0 lead, in part due to Lew Ford’s second homer of the season, but the Pirates scored a run against Zach Britton in the seventh, a run against Daniel Schlereth in the eighth and two against Adam Russell in the ninth for the comeback. With the loss, the Orioles dropped to 10-4-1 in Grapefruit League action. . . .
The Orioles don’t have a Grapefruit League game Tuesday, but there will be baseball played at the Ed Smith complex. To get some extra work in, some Orioles will participate in an intrasquad game on their Camden Yards replica field.
— Baltimore Sun