One and done

Steve Trachsel's debut is shorter than expected after he allows 3 runs in a 28-pitch first inning

Orioles Exhibition Opener

March 02, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun Reporter

JUPITER, FLA. -- Steve Trachsel's mood was much better than his pitching yesterday, which might be a good sign.

Trachsel wondered why reporters waited until the fifth inning to enter the clubhouse, joking that New York writers would have instantly pinned him against his locker after he allowed three runs in one inning in the Orioles' 8-6 loss to the Florida Marlins in their exhibition opener.

He turned down the stereo to reduce the noise level, ran his fingers through his thick hair, smiled a few times and seemed totally at ease.

Nothing to worry about here.

"It's just about getting your feet wet, working with new guys, getting to see guys behind you, just working on pitch count," he said. "Obviously, you want to do well, but at the same time you try not to put too much emphasis on anything because your stuff's not sharp and you're not locating well yet. You're trying to build arm strength and get pitches going."

Trachsel threw too many of them - 28 in all, which was enough for manager Sam Perlozzo to summon reliever Jeremy Guthrie for the second inning.

Hanley Ramirez led off with a single and Dan Uggla walked, both batters working the count to 3-1. Miguel Cabrera followed with a run-scoring single, Josh Willingham doubled and Aaron Boone singled to give Florida a 3-0 lead.

"My location was up in the zone, but down in the bullpen I was good," said Trachsel, who signed a $3.1 million contract on Feb. 14, after the club learned that Kris Benson's injured shoulder likely would sideline him for the season. "I probably warmed up too much in the bullpen."

Trachsel usually throws only fastballs and changeups in his first spring start, but pitching coach Leo Mazzone didn't put any restrictions on him.

"I threw all four pitches," Trachsel said. "That's something me and Leo talked about the other day. He's like, `Why wait?' That's a little bit different."

The Orioles wanted Trachsel to give them two innings, but that plan was scrapped after the first. And there was no debate.

"I just came in and [Mazzone] said, `You're done. We don't want you to throw too many pitches your first time out. It's been a good couple weeks for you,' " Trachsel said. "So I was like, `All right, that's fine with me.' "

Not long ago, Trachsel wasn't sure whether he'd be taking the year off and finding other ways to occupy his time. He was collecting dust on a shelf of the free-agent market after going 15-8 with a 4.97 ERA last season for the New York Mets. But the Orioles wasted no time signing him once Benson's health became a concern.

"It's been a crazy two weeks," Trachsel said. "A lot more flying than I wanted to do. But it's nice, knowing where I'm going to be and what's going to happen. To actually have a plan that I can stick to, it's a lot off my head."

Trachsel is projected as the fifth starter in a rotation that needed another veteran to go with Jaret Wright. It most likely would take a monumental collapse for him to land in the bullpen.

"He's a veteran who's been around and knows how to pitch," said outfielder Jay Payton, briefly a teammate of Trachsel's in New York. "He throws strikes and keeps you in the game. You know that you're going to get a lot of innings out of him. He's going to keep you in the ballgame. He's not going to get banged around.

"He's not going to blow anybody away, but when he's got all of his pitches working, he can hold teams down pretty good."

Asked if his spring numbers will have any bearing on his standing in the rotation, Trachsel spoke more about his slot in it than the possibility of being excluded.

"I have no idea. It's not been brought up," he said. "To me, it doesn't matter, one through five. After the first week of the season, it's kind of meaningless anyway. If I get the ball every five days, that's all I worry about."

Said manager Sam Perlozzo: "I really don't like to lock anybody into anything, but we certainly feel like he's the guy. We didn't go out and get him for nothing. It's only a one-inning stint on March 1. This is nothing to panic about. He'll be fine."

Nobody needed to tell Trachsel.

"It's just a building block," he said. "You don't really put much on it. I'm not trying to overthrow and light up the radar gun. Not that I do that anyway. I'm just trying to get location, work on all my pitches and get my work in."

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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