Orioles' Gregg taking his time, making progress

Reliever pleased with recent minor league outings; Machado joins club for game vs. Twins

March 23, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

FORT MYERS, Fla. — —

Michael Gonzalez was the newly signed reliever last spring who struggled early and then spent a decent part of the Grapefruit League schedule facing minor league hitters and working on his mechanics.

This spring, it's been Kevin Gregg who has made his past two appearances at Twin Lakes Park in minor league games. The purpose has been for Gregg to work on some mechanical alterations in a controlled environment. In minor league games, innings can be prolonged to allow pitchers to hit their pitch count and get their work in.

"He had a couple of [big league] outings over here where he threw like six pitches," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He forced himself to throw some breaking balls that he wouldn't have normally thrown. Over there, you know you are going to get 15-to-17 pitches regardless of how many outs. Obviously, you'll see him back over here in a game at some point, but I think it's good for him."

Against Single-A hitters from the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, Gregg faced five batters, striking out two, allowing two hits and hitting a batter. However, the big right-hander, who was signed to a two-year, $10 million deal in January and could end up being the Orioles' closer, felt that he had made some significant progress with his mechanics.

Gregg has been working with pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Rick Adair to make his delivery more compact. He struggled early with the changes and it showed on the mound as he allowed nine earned runs, eight hits and a walk over his past two Grapefruit League outings spanning 1 1/3 innings. He hasn't completely gone back to his old delivery, but it's getting closer to that.

"It's kind of a combination of both. I kind of went back to where I was originally and made a little bit of an adjustment," Gregg said. "I was leaning forward, but I overcompensated and had too much separation between my hands and my body and my feet. There were too many moving parts to control, so we kind of moved them back and we're able to balance it out a little bit better."

Gregg, who has a 13.50 ERA in six Grapefruit League appearances this spring, has said since his arrival in Sarasota that exhibition results don't matter to him. He simply wants to feel comfortable on the mound, whether it's in a big league or a minor league game.

"That's all I try to do, get in a good rhythm, get in a good place. Results in spring training aren't a big deal. I'm not worried about it. In fact, I don't think I've ever pitched good in Florida anyways during spring training. Once the season starts, I'm ready for it," Gregg said. "They know what I can do. I think that's the whole point of sending me down there. They're not real worried about it."

Take a good look, kid

Manny Machado got the news, and in about 10 minutes, he had to pull on his uniform, catch a bus to Ed Smith Stadium and inform friends and family members that he was joining the Orioles' big league club for the first time.

Less than 10 months after the Orioles made him the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, Machado, the 18-year-old shortstop who is considered the organization's top prospect, was summoned for the night to give the team a little more infield depth. Minor leaguer pitchers Brandon Cooney and Sean Gleason, catcher Brian Ward, infielder Tyler Townsend and outfielder Ronnie Welty also made the trip from minor league camp.

"Oh man, it was great," Machado said. "I was out there with a bunch of veterans, and I felt great. I learned a lot from them from this game."

Machado entered at shortstop in the eighth inning and made a slick play to field Jason Repko's slow roller up the middle. However, Repko was ruled safe on the play despite that it appeared Machado's throw had beaten him. Machado then led off the top of the ninth and grounded out against Chuck James. Machado said he was too patient during the at-bat.

Scheduled to start the season at Single-A Delmarva, Machado also took batting practice with the Orioles and spent some time during the pre-game working with Brian Roberts on turning the double play and talking base stealing.

"It's like [Billy Martin] told me long ago, 'Try as you may, you ain't going to screw up the good ones,' Showalter said. "We hope all of them, and the other guys we've brought over here, impact the major league club."Some guys may benefit, some may not."

Training room updates

Starter Justin Duchscherer (hip) felt good Wednesday after his first bullpen session in a couple of weeks. He started it on the half mound at Ed Smith Stadium and then graduated to the full mound. Showalter said that the club will have a more definitive plan for Duchscherer after they see how he feels Thursday.

Reliever Koji Uehara will throw in a minor league game Friday and Showalter said that if he has no setbacks, there is time for him to be ready for Opening Day.

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