TAMPA, Fla. –After Buck Showalter’s warning earlier this week that there may be more competition for Orioles starting pitchers, Miguel Gonzalez faced the New York Yankees with additional pressure.
Two of Gonzalez’s previous starts were awful, allowing 13 runs on 15 hits in two innings. His spring ERA of 22.24 couldn’t go any higher, could it?
It didn’t, and fell to 14.90.
Gonzalez, who was presumed to be one of the five starters earlier this month, now faces competition from Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright, both of whom delivered strong outings this week.
Wilson threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Chris Tillman on Tuesday and Wright five shutout innings on Thursday.
While Gonzalez has a track record, he also had a jagged end to 2015.
Last spring, manager Buck Showalter went through a spring filled with uninspiring starts from Bud Norris. Showalter professed confidence in Norris, who had won 15 games the year before, but it evaporated quickly.
Gonzalez, whose attitude Showalter admires, didn’t have the same recent track record, but a few good years before that.
He does have an option, and the Orioles aren’t afraid of making bold moves. Last year, they did option Wei-Yin Chen to Frederick for a start to keep him fresh and away from Toronto and Boston.
Gonzalez’s performance was much better, allowing two runs on four hits in four innings as the Orioles beat the New York Yankees 11-2 before 10,937 at Steinbrenner Field on Friday night.
“His command was a lot better. Had a good idea,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Thought he had a good idea of where he was throwing the ball tonight. Split was better. He was actually throwing it more. He hadn’t been throwing it a lot.”
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Mark Trumbo drove in four runs with a three-run home run and a single, Manny Machado had four RBIs on a double and two singles.
After that awful start where the Orioles didn’t win any of their first 12 Grapefruit League games, they’ve now improved and won five and tied one of their last eight. Winning their first road game and scoring a spring high, the Orioles are now 5-12-3.
Showalter likes playing night games, and thinks that’s helping his team.
“It’s that time. We’ve still got two weeks here. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’ve said it a lot, you play 7 o’clock, 6 o’clock games, you get crispness, you just do. The wind’s not blowing out, the elements, it’s more like a major league game. The other ones, you’ve got to weigh so many variables,” Showalter said.
Gonzalez had a 4-0 lead before he began, and he got a 1-2-3 first, and in the second, Didi Gregorius’ two-run single cut the lead to 4-2.
“You want to see guys getting after it and being aggressive and making plays,” Gonzalez said.
He allowed one hit in the third, and finished with a perfect fourth. Gonzalez struck out one and walked one.
“Our offense was great today, defense does that fantastic job they’ve been doing. Obviously, I was just focused out there, not trying to do too much, and Caleb [Joseph] called a great game. That was basically it,” Gonzalez said.
It was a start that Gonzalez desperately needed.
“I think we all do. We all do at some point. You want to feel confident going towards the season. We have a couple more days. We’re not counting, but it’s definitely good to have this type of outing,” he said.
Dylan Bundy pitched a perfect fifth, and Odrisamer Despaigne three scoreless innings with just one hit.
“I thought Dylan was good again. That was the first time we did that with one day off. It was good to see him carry over what he had been doing,” Showalter said.
This was the longest outing for Despaigne, who was acquired from San Diego just before spring training.
“He’s a guy who has a lot of different pitches, different arm angles. He’s into a league he hasn’t been in, in a lot of ways. I’m trying to give him the benefit. He’s been as advertised and he’s competing for a spot on our roster. He’s got a chance,” Showalter said.
NOTES: Showalter said he didn’t expect Xavier Avery (hip) to be ready for Saturday’s game in Port Charlotte. Julio Borbon will be brought over from minor league camp. … Hyun Soo Kim will play on Saturday.
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