Some Sunday morning Orioles notes and observations

March 10, 2013|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

Chris Tillman was supposed to start this afternoon’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but now Miguel Gonzalez will.

Tillman apparently first dealt with some abdominal soreness about a week ago, had it treated and believed it had gone away. But he felt it again this weekend and the Orioles decided to take it easy with the 24-year-old right-hander.

So he is a scratch and Gonzalez -- who was scheduled to pitch anyway -- will start.

I’m sure some of you are concerned that Tillman is dealing with a previously unreported injury that could linger. And I know I’ve been getting emails (or Tweets) wondering why the Orioles have so many small injuries this year.

Well, in the spring there’s no reason to push anything. Oftentimes, these guys would play through these things during the regular season and we wouldn’t even know about it. But the spring is the time to ease things along – especially this spring training because it is a week longer than usual because of the World Baseball Classic.

That also probably explains why the Orioles have been so cautious with right fielder Nick Markakis, who is getting a MRI on Monday for neck stiffness/spasms that have kept him out since March 1. Who knows what the MRI will reveal, but again the club is calling it precautionary. Markakis has begrudgingly gone along with having the MRI, but I’m sure if it were up to him he’d just deal with it.

Markakis is one of the sport’s tough guys – he plays just about every game every year – but was limited to just 104 games last season because of a broken wrist and a broken thumb. One thing I’ve learned in this business is you can’t ever dismiss an injury as not serious, so I guess we’ll just have to wait for the MRI results.

Here are my quick impressions on Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy after Saturday night:

Bundy was out of sorts (18 strikes, 17 balls in two innings) and his velocity was down. I can’t say I was thrilled with the performance. But there’s no reason to worry. The kid has dynamite stuff and a great work ethic. I mean, he struggled with his command Saturday and still only allowed one unearned run. And, remember, the guy is 20. It’s a learning process, even for a natural supertalent.

Gausman, on the other hand, was tremendous. The kid’s upside is scary given how hard he throws and the fact that he’s going to put muscle on that lanky frame. Not only did he hit 98 mph with his fastball once, but he did everything so easily on Saturday night. Yes, he looked better than Bundy in one short outing.

Who will be better of the two long-term? Not sure. And I’m not sure it matters if both of them can reach their potential.

One last thing: When the Orioles traded Josh Bell to the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, the original belief was that they might just get cash in return. Instead, they got lefty Mike Belfiore. I remember Dan Duquette telling me one day how excited he was at landing Belfiore. Duquette’s not normally a gusher, so it stuck with me.

Belfiore pitched on Saturday night after Bundy and Gausman and allowed three hits and no walks while striking out four in two scoreless innings. Afterward, Orioles manager Buck Showalter praised Belfiore and said the organization needs to make a call on whether the 24-year-old will pitch in the minors this season as a starter or reliever.

Regardless, they feel they got something of quality in return for Bell, who could never reach his potential in Baltimore despite opportunities.

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