Orioles' Showalter speaks with Red Sox's Francona about Epstein comments

Uehara, Gregg each pitch solid inning in win over Boston

March 27, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — Orioles manager Buck Showalter called his Red Sox counterpart, Terry Francona, before Sunday's game between the teams to address his recently published comments about Boston general manager Theo Epstein.

"I just felt like I owed him a call. I know Terry, and I like him a lot. I have a lot of respect for him," Showalter said. He didn't provide details as to the nature of the call.

The issue arose after Francona was again asked about Showalter's recent comments in a Men's Journal article before the Orioles' 4-3 victory Sunday over Boston. In the magazine, Showalter was quoted as saying: "I'd like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay [Rays'] payroll. You got Carl Crawford 'cause you paid more than anyone else, and that's what makes you smarter? That's why I like whipping their [butts]: It's great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, 'How the hell are they beating us?'"

Francona said he thought the comments were a "little bit out of line."

"I don't think he'd be appreciating if I said something about [Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail], which I wouldn't," Francona said. "None of my business. And for the record, I think Andy's really good. … It's not the end of the world. I just thought it shouldn't have been done."

When informed that Francona said he was irritated by the comments, Showalter said, "I would be, too."

The Orioles went 3-3 against the Red Sox under Showalter during the final two months of the 2010 season. That was brought up to Francona in regard to the "whipping their [butts]" portion of Showalter's quote.

"Way to go," Francona said. "I don't remember them beating us that much. Maybe there was some different schedule, I don't know."

Closer candidates see action

While Chris Tillman didn't exactly step up and seize the open rotation spot, the two top candidates for the closer role had solid innings in their returns to Grapefruit League action.

Pitching for the first time in a Grapefruit League game since Feb. 28, Koji Uehara set down all three Red Sox he faced, throwing nine of his 15 pitches for strikes and saying later that there is "more than enough" time for him to be ready for the Opening Day roster. Uehara, who had pitched in two minor league games over the past week, had been shut down after having a cortisone shot in his right elbow.

"I need to work on [my stuff]," Uehara said through interpreter Jiwon Bang. "I'm not there yet, but processwise, I'm in a good place."

Kevin Gregg allowed a hit and a walk in one scoreless inning against Boston, lowering his spring ERA to 11.37. Working on his mechanics over the past week in minor league games, the right-hander hadn't pitched in a big league spring training game since March 15.

"I was pretty much right there," Gregg said. "I thought I threw the ball well. Located good. Apparently, they don't want to call a strike on [David Ortiz]. Whatever … I'm ready for the season to start. I'm kind of sick of being here."

Randolph manages, for a day

Bench coach Willie Randolph, who managed the New York Mets from 2005 to 2008, was the Orioles' manager for the split-squad game in Dunedin. His group lost, 9-5, to the Toronto Blue Jays, but he had fun being the skipper.

"It just felt like old hat. That's all," Randolph said. "It's always nice to see the game from this perspective as far as focus and everything. Bench-coaching and managing are a little different. But it brought back a lot of good memories. … It was kind of cool for a day."

Regular first base coach Wayne Kirby coached third, and spring instructor Brady Anderson coached first in Dunedin.

Another Machado sighting

Orioles top prospect Manny Machado got his second at-bat in a big league spring training game, grounding out in the bottom of the eighth inning in the Orioles' victory over the Red Sox. Machado entered the game in the seventh as a pinch runner for Derrek Lee. He has grounded out in both of his plate appearances. He handled his only chance in the field in the ninth.

A host of other prospects were called up to add depth for the split-squad games, including L.J. Hoes, Xavier Avery, Ryan Adams, Brandon Waring, Mychal Givens, Steven Bumbry, Tyler Henson, Trent Mummey, Wynn Pelzer and Pat Egan.

Around the horn

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