Fox blasts Orioles past Pirates, 13-3

Backup catcher candidate hits two homers, leads majors this spring

March 17, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

BRADENTON, Fla. — — Jake Fox is stating his case to be on the Orioles' Opening Day roster one long homer at a time.

The burly catcher blasted two two-run home runs, extending his major league-leading spring total to seven, and the Orioles downed the Pittsburgh Pirates, 13-3, before an announced 5,158 on a picturesque afternoon at McKechnie Field.

Fox, who is battling Craig Tatum for the backup catcher spot, went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .356. His 12 RBIs are four more than any other Oriole has this spring.

"At this point, I'm trying to leave no doubt that I should be a part of this team," Fox said. "I think coming into spring training, that was the biggest thing I wanted to come in and prove. I know what I'm capable of. Coming in, I wanted to show them exactly what I was trying to do for this team and for this lineup. Anything else is out of my control."

A night after being held to just one hit in a blowout loss to the New York Yankees in Tampa, the Orioles broke the game open with a six-run third inning that featured four-straight two-out RBI hits off Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy got the first one to tie the score at 1. Nolan Reimold followed with a broken-bat RBI single, and Matt Wieters hit a two-run double on a ball that was misplayed by Pirates left fielder Jose Tabata. Fox then crushed a pitch onto the roof of a building beyond the left-field wall. The Orioles sent 10 batters to the plate, and seven of them had hits in the inning.

For the game, Wieters went 4-for-5 with the two RBIs and Fox, Reimold, Brandon Snyder, Randy Winn and Robert Andino each had two hits as the Orioles improved to 9-9-2 this spring.

On a day when Zach Britton, his main competitor for the final rotation spot, was pitching in a minor league game, young starter Chris Tillman authored an effective but uneven outing.

He allowed one unearned run, three hits and three walks over four innings. He threw 71 pitches, 43 for strikes, after struggling to adjust to the height of the mound in the bullpen.

"I felt OK," said Tillman, who has a 3.55 ERA this spring. "I felt like I was battling myself the whole time to keep the ball down. Going from this [bullpen] mound to that one is a big difference. Overall, I was pretty happy with what happened."

Jeremy Accardo, who had logged seven scoreless innings entering the day, relieved Tillman and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk over two-thirds of an inning. Josh Rupe pitched three scoreless innings for the Orioles; he hasn't allowed an earned run in 11 2/3 spring innings.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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