SARASOTA, Fla. — When the Orioles open the 2011 season April 1 against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, it is expected that Jeremy Guthrie will be on the mound for the visitors.
The Orioles' 12-6 victory over the Rays Tuesday before a sellout crowd at remodeled Ed Smith Stadium proved to be a good warm-up for the right-hander, who threw two perfect innings against a lineup that will likely resemble the one he sees in a month.
"Everything felt like it left off at the end of last season, so that's good," said Guthrie, who went 8-4 with a 2.76 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break in 2010. "I haven't thrown a strike in five months, so it's nice to go out there and be able to do that. The command wasn't tremendous, but I told [catcher Matt Wieters] we would work on corners the next couple times, I guess. We worked on strikes [Tuesday]."
That was a success as Guthrie found the strike zone with 19 of his 25 pitches. He got Johnny Damon to line out to first base to start the game, then retired Sean Rodriguez and Evan Longoria on groundouts for an easy first inning. He started the second inning by striking out Manny Ramirez looking before B.J. Upton popped out to first and Felipe Lopez grounded out.
"His tempo felt good," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It felt like it should. It felt like you hope it does early."
Guthrie said he would have happily stayed in the game, but he was told he was going to go only two innings regardless of how few pitches he threw.
Lee getting closer
While Showalter said there is no timetable for Derrek Lee to get into a Grapefruit League game, the first baseman took batting practice for a third straight day and said he feels he can start playing soon.
"I'm still feeling good," said Lee, who had surgery in November to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. "I don't see a reason to keep delaying it. I'm still going to be cautious, but I'm anxious to get in a game."
Lee said he's encouraged that he's progressing with each session. However, he acknowledged that there is still the matter of stepping into the batter's box against an opposing pitcher and sliding into bases, which could test the thumb.
"That's the last hurdle," Lee said.
Showalter has been monitoring Lee's progress closely and said he'll lean on the veteran when deciding to insert him in the lineup.
"He's not behind at all," Showalter said. "He's right on schedule with all the other stuff. It hasn't eliminated anything. Really, he'd doing everything but playing in the games. I'm sure he understands everything we're doing from a team standpoint. He's been involved in everything we're doing."
Justin Duchscherer acknowledged that he might have gotten ahead of himself a couple of days ago when he expressed concern about soreness in his surgically repaired left hip and described his frustration level as a "10 out of 10."
Duchscherer got through a throwing session Monday and is tentatively scheduled to throw off the mound Wednesday after taking Tuesday off.
"Everything was OK Monday," Duchscherer said. "It's one of those weird things: Guys who have surgery coming back have a day or two where they just feel concerned and worried. So far, since the other day, everything has felt fine. I threw off flat ground and you have a half mound, and everything was fine. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that it was just one day [of a] cranky hip."
Duchscherer has had three hip surgeries in the past four years.
"That's how I felt the other day, like, 'oh, no,' that kind of feeling.' But sometimes you get ahead of yourselves, which I think I did the other day," he said. "Now, we're hopefully getting back on progression and getting ready."
Around the horn
Reliever Jason Berken, trying to rebound from a season-ending shoulder injury, gave up two earned runs on two hits and a walk in one inning. … Brian Roberts made his 2011 Grapefruit League debut and went 2-for-3 with two runs. … Wieters also played for the first time and went 1-for-3 with an RBI double … Minor league first baseman Joe Mahoney is still sore after fouling a ball off his right knee in Sunday's intrasquad game and wasn't available to play Tuesday. … Chris Tillman will start for the Orioles on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater. Zach Britton, Michael Gonzalez, Jim Johnson, Pedro Viola and Nick Bierbrodt are also scheduled to pitch for the Orioles. Roy Oswalt will start for the Phillies. … Former big league manager Lou Piniella and former Orioles general manager Jim Beattie worked the game as scouts. Piniella is working with the San Francisco Giants, while Beattie is with the Toronto Blue Jays.