SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel threw 86 pitches over six innings in a Minor League game Friday, and Tommy Hunter threw 51 pitches in relief of him against Tampa Bay's Class A affiliate. The pair faced the usual challenges of trying to get some work while facing the always anxious younger hitters.
"You can't really get deep enough in the counts with them to work on some of the things you want to work on -- i.e., like striking people out," said Hammel, who has made two spring starts with the Orioles and gotten a lot of work in at Baltimore's Minor League facility at Twin Lakes Park.
"If you want to work on a slider back foot or a curveball in the dirt or something like that, you can't get there because they swing at the first three pitches, no matter what. But you just get your work in, just treat it like that. There were some good at-bats where I was able to do some things that I wanted. And if we had short innings, you just stay out there and work on some other stuff. Whatever level you're at, there's still a batter in the box, and you've still got to throw strikes."
With the Orioles playing three American League East opponents in the final week of Spring Training, they are sending their projected starters to the Minor League complex instead. Top pitching prospect Kevin Gausman and Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland will make Grapefruit League starts next week, with the team's pitching announced through Tuesday.
The Orioles also flipped Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman for Sunday, with Matusz pitching in Grapefruit League action against the Pirates, and Tillman throwing to the Orioles' Minor League hitters. If Tillman has a setback -- there is no reason to think he would, as he has said abdominal soreness experienced earlier this spring is behind him -- pitching in the Minors would allow the team to backdate his time on the disabled list.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.