Orioles' Patton putting himself in position for bullpen role

Left-hander, who hasn't allowed a run in 91/3 spring innings, is competing with Phillips

March 27, 2012|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — — When the Orioles finished their largest round of spring cuts Monday, left-hander Troy Patton was still in the clubhouse, still hanging on to a roster spot.

It's unfamiliar position for the 26-year-old reliever, but at this point in his career, he'll take it.

"It's been interesting and different than any other camp I have been in. Being so quiet in here and [there] not being many people in here is really a different thing for me," he said. "It's been kind of strange but fun when you are pitching well and getting outs and moving along to the next outing."

Patton, who was 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 20 games with the Orioles last year, has not allowed a run in 91/3 innings this spring. He threw a perfect frame Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins, tossing all nine pitches for strikes.

But his performance this spring might not be enough to guarantee him a big league job. He is basically battling fellow lefty Zach Phillips for a spot in the bullpen, and Phillips has allowed just two runs in 101/3 innings.

Phillips has had slightly better numbers against left-handed hitters this spring, but it's hard to read anything into such small sample sizes.

"They've both pitched well here," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I think both have done the things to continue to make us think good things about them. I like the fact that both of them can defend themselves against right-handed hitters."

Showalter said no determination has been made about how many lefty relievers — or which ones — he will take north when the season begins. Dana Eveland and Tsuyoshi Wada also could pitch out of the bullpen, depending on the makeup of the starting rotation.

"You could make a case for three [left-handers] or one or none," Showalter said.

Patton's chances of making the team are likely enhanced by the fact that he has no minor league options remaining, meaning that if the Orioles want to send him to the minors, he'll have to clear waivers first. Phillips can be sent to the minors without being put on waivers.

Given that Patton is a young left-hander who has had some big league success, he likely would be claimed by another organization. But Patton doesn't want to think about that.

"It's a numbers game. I'm not an idiot. I can add, and there are a lot of pitchers still left here. So if something happens to me and I am somewhere else, then it happens. They've only got spots for 11, maybe 12 guys," Patton said. "I know it is hard to get down to those numbers. There are casualties all along the way."

Flaherty not resting easy

When the Orioles sent Steve Tolleson and Matt Antonelli out of camp Monday, it left one candidate remaining for the club's utility infielder position: Rule 5 draft pick Ryan Flaherty.

Heading into camp, Flaherty was considered the favorite for the job since the Orioles would have to offer him back to the Chicago Cubs if they can't keep him on their 25-man roster.

And Flaherty has done everything to earn the job, playing every position in the field besides center field, catcher and pitcher while putting up respectable offensive numbers (one homer, eight RBIs and a .261 average).

But the rookie isn't getting too excited yet.

"There's so much you can do with a roster and stuff like that," he said. "Like I said from the get-go, all you can do is control what you can control, keep going out there and playing and until they tell you one way or the other. You try not to think much about it."

Monday was bittersweet for Flaherty. Although his stiffest competition left camp, so did the two guys he bonded with the most in Tolleson and Antonelli.

"It was definitely tough. You get a friendship with those guys," he said. "All three of us being infielders and being new to the organization, we bonded with each other, so it was tough to see them go. But at the same time, it's part of the business side of it."

Orioles escape being no-hit

The Orioles dropped a 5-0 contest to the Twins at home Tuesday, but they escaped the indignity of a spring training no-hitter with one out in the eighth inning.

Robert Andino smacked a double off the center-field wall against Minnesota's Glen Perkins for the Orioles' first hit. Andino was thrown out attempting to turn it into a triple. That was all the offense the Orioles could muster against five pitchers, including starter Anthony Swarzak.

The Twins jumped out to a big lead against Wada, who gave up four runs on four hits and two walks in three innings. He threw 62 pitches, only 38 for strikes, and walked two of the first three batters he faced in a three-run second before allowing Jamey Carroll's two-run double.

"That inning wasn't good, I feel really bad for the position players about it. I said sorry about it," Wada said through an interpreter.

Wada settled down and pitched a scoreless third but was still disappointed in his first exhibition start.

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