SARASOTA, Fla. — Although the Baltimore Orioles aren’t making any proclamations about their rotation with opening day looming in less than two weeks, Zach Britton’s chances of going north with the club seemingly took a hit Wednesday as he failed to get out of the second inning in a Grapefruit League start against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 25-year-old left-hander allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks while retiring only four batters, pushing his spring ERA to 6.10 and likely damaging his standing in a battle with Jake Arrieta, Steve Johnson, Brian Matusz and others for the fifth rotation spot.
Britton hopes that isn’t the case.
“Obviously you don’t want to have a game like this at all, whether it’s the season or spring training. But I think there’s other stuff they are looking at,” he said. “I feel healthy. My stuff has been pretty good. . . . You don’t want it in their mind at all like you had a bad one. You want to put a good foot forward.”
Britton said he was working on trying to throw his fastball inside to right-handers, the pitchers were up and “they just beat me with it.”
“Sometimes it’s more important that you work on [things] and if you do have bad outings, it’s spring training,” said Britton, who threw only 36 of his 59 pitches for strikes. “But I don’t have the luxury of having an outing like that when you’re competing for a spot.”
Orioles top infield prospect Jonathan Schoop returned after helping an upstart Netherlands team reach the World Baseball Classic semifinals before losing to the eventual champion, the Dominican Republic.
“I was happy. We did a good job. We showed the world that we could play baseball, compete at a high level,” said Schoop, who is from the island of Curacao, a constituent country of the Netherlands.
Schoop, 21, batted .214 with a .313 on-base percentage in eight games. He had two homers, including a three-run shot in his club’s upset of Cuba.
The Orioles made three more cuts, optioning catcher Luis Exposito to Class AAA Norfolk and sending non-roster invitees Daniel Schlereth and Adam Russell to minor league camp.
Exposito, who is on the 40-man roster, batted .381 with a .481 on-base percentage in 14 spring games. But the 26-year-old had struggled defensively. He will compete for the starting job at Norfolk.
The Orioles remain interested in adding catching depth — the ideal fit would be a defensive-minded catcher with minor league options remaining — to act as insurance for oft-injured backup Taylor Teagarden. But there’s not much on the market and several teams are looking for the same thing.
One possibility, Chris Snyder, who was released by the Washington Nationals and signed with the Los Angeles Angels this week, was not viewed as a good fit.