"Simon was really improved from the last time he pitched. He looked much more comfortable as a starter," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "I thought his delivery and the way he threw was much better. Obviously, I would have liked to have got him a win. We couldn't get the third out. We couldn't stop it. That's a tough way to lose."
And with that start, Simon, who began his season in the Mexican League, made good on Baltimore's reclamation project. The Orioles went out of their way to acquire him from the Monterey Sultans on a recommendation from John Stockstill, the team's director of international scouting, and Simon pitched just once for Triple-A Norfolk before his promotion.
Simon, who made two forgettable relief appearances, showed his potential in Tuesday's start. The right-hander held the Rays (95-62) to two runners in scoring position in the first seven innings and recorded 12 of his 23 outs on ground balls. Simon went into the eighth with a 5-1 lead but gave up a leadoff triple and a monster home run to Evan Longoria.
And in the aftermath, Simon said he was pleased with the way he threw, final result notwithstanding.
"He said he felt like he gave us a chance to win," said translator Juan Samuel. "He wished that he could've stayed out there to face a couple other hitters, but he got hurt there by the home run. There was nothing he could do. He felt like he did a great job of working ahead in the count. It was unfortunate that whatever happened happened there in that inning."
The Rays went on to make things even more interesting against Walker, sandwiching two singles around a walk to pull within one run and pushing the potential tying run to second base. Walker (1-3) even uncorked two wild pitches -- the latter of which sent the go-ahead run to second -- before giving up the game-breaking double to Dioner Navarro.
"It's not the outcome I wanted," said Walker, who was mostly miffed that he walked a key batter. "I try to hit bats, and for me to [walk Gabe Gross], it's unacceptable. I wish I could change it, but obviously I can't. So I've got to live with that. That's baseball. I've got to forget about it when I walk out that door, but that's a game we should've won and it's a hard one to swallow."
Baltimore (67-90) shrugged off an early Tampa Bay lead by scoring twice in the second inning on four singles. The Orioles added single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, and Simon made sure that the lead stood up into the eighth. Trembley was impressed by the difference between Simon as a starter and in his two relief appearances.
"I think obviously he looked a lot more comfortable as a starter," he said of Simon's rapid transformation. "I think the side sessions with [pitching coach Rick] Kranitz helped him. You saw his delivery was a lot more repetitive and he wasn't dropping down on different pitches and doing all that kind of stuff. He stayed pretty consistent with his arm angle."
"It definitely helped him," added Samuel on Simon's behalf. "Basically, Kranitz told him to make sure he keeps the ball down with whatever pitches he's going to use. Make sure everything is down and stay consistent with his split, his fastball or whatever he feels comfortable throwing. Throw it in any count, make sure those pitches are down in the zone."
Simon, who went 7-2 with a 2.67 ERA for Monterey this season, left the game perhaps a moment too late. Trembley had wanted to get reliever Jim Miller in the game, but the rookie felt something pull during his warmup tosses. As such, Trembley was forced to switch to Walker, who had to hurry to warm up and never seemed to get comfortable.
"Miller was going to come in the game," said Trembley, putting his cards on the table. "Miller was loose and ready to come in the game and he threw one more pitch and felt something in his side in the bullpen. So we had to get Walker going. I thought the real key one was the walk to Gross. ... That's an out that you want to get."
"I'm warming up to come in. I was about 20 pitches deep," said Miller of his warmup tosses. "Everything felt fine. And [then] I threw two sliders, and it just grabbed right next to my armpit on my right side. ... It's a little sore. I'm don't want to try to guess at what it is at this point. I'm just going to wait and see what the doctor says [on Wednesday]."