SARASOTA, Fla. – As spring trainings go, this was one of the most fascinating of all for the Orioles.
A few days into spring training came the long awaited word that Yovani Gallardo signed a three-year contract with a fourth year option, but after a physical, the deal was hastily redone, and he ended up with a two-year deal and an option.
By then, the Orioles were anticipating the addition of Dexter Fowler to their lineup. Fowler was supposed to lead off and play right field, but two days after reports surfaced he had an agreement to come to the Orioles, he showed up in Chicago Cubs camp instead.
What was supposed to be an upbeat news conference for Gallardo was upstaged by the Fowler news.
Later that day, Fowler’s agent disputed Dan Duquette’s version of the sequence of events, and then a few days later, games finally began.
The Orioles first 12 games failed to produce a win as their winless streak was the longest to begin spring training play in seven years.
After an 0-10-2 start, the Orioles leave Florida with a 11-15-5 record thanks to their 6-1 win over the Atlanta Braves before 5,441 at Ed Smith Stadium on Thursday.
Gallardo, who had three rough starts, had a glorious finale, allowing just one hit in five innings, and faced the minimum 15 hitters because of a second inning double play.
“Good timing, I guess,” Gallardo said.
“Of course, anytime you go out there and pitch well, it’s always a positive thing. Especially the last one, it’s very important to get that timing, get that rhythm down in the last start of spring training to prepare for the regular season. You’ve got to be ready. From here on out, there’s no excuses.”
Gallardo threw 48 pitches and then went to the bullpen so that Tyler Wilson, who was told Thursday morning he had made the club, could work three innings. He allowed the only Braves run.
Jonathan Schoop hit a three-run home run off Bud Norris in the second, and the Orioles scored three more in the eighth.
Xavier Avery hit a home run. Matt Wieters, who had two bunt singles on Wednesday night, had a double, a single, a walk and a stolen base.
Wilson, who was thought to be competing with Mike Wright for a spot on the team, found out that not only he made it, but Wright did, too.
“There’s a lot of guys that I wish were all on the Opening Day roster, obviously I wish the number could be bigger than 25, and they have some really difficult decisions, so like I said I’m grateful that I fell in that number, and Mike as well,” Wilson said.
At the beginning of spring training, Miguel Gonzalez was thought to be locked in for a spot in the rotation while Wilson and Wright were considered long shots here.
Gonzalez is gone. Wilson and Wright stay. For now, 37 players are in camp. Kevin Gausman, Brian Matusz and Jimmy Paredes will begin on the disabled list, and nine players must be trimmed from the roster between now and noon Sunday. Right-handed pitcher Oliver Drake was optioned to Norfolk after Thursday’s game.
The Orioles continue to try and persuade Hyun Soo Kim that he needs to go to Norfolk to hone his skills. He’s resisted, and the club faces a difficult decision on whether to cut him if he refuses their request. He’s owed $7 million.
While Kim has been overmatched, Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard has been the camp star, ending with a .387 average and a good chance at being the Opening Day left fielder.
Decisions have to be made on the final two spots in the bullpen. T.J. McFarland, Zach Phillips, Chaz Roe and Vance Worley have the best shots.
Nolan Reimold is the favorite for the final outfield position, but the Orioles could begin with Paul Janish as an extra infielder since Ryan Flaherty is also able to play the corner outfield spots.
Showalter says the team continues to look at options on the waiver wire.
NOTES: Paredes will remain in Florida when the Orioles leave on Friday. The bone bruise in his left wrist that he suffered on Mar. 3 has been slow to heal.
“He’s got to get that last discomfort out…I’ll bet you that when we leave it will be shortly thereafter he’ll start swinging the bat. That’s what we’re hoping. He’s been forgotten by some, but not by us. It’s been a pretty long injury,” Showalter said.
-Worley will pitch against Aaron Nola in Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Friday.
-The Orioles had a team record 11 sellouts this spring and drew a total of 119,029, second highest in the team’s seven seasons in Sarasota.