Orioles 13, Pirates 3

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Brian Burres deserves mention here, and serious consideration for one of the Pirates’ 25 roster spots. I understand that Spring Training results aren’t everything, but Burres has pitched quite well this spring. He shouldn’t be under the radar anymore.

Working against Burres is the fact that he would fit into a role much like the one Jeff Karstens is expected to hold — spot starter, long relief guy, etc. But since Karstens is on the roster and due to make $1.1 million this year, it’s hard to see the Pirates not bringing Karstens north.

If Charlie Morton gets the fifth spot in the Pirates’ rotation and the other four starters are healthy, there isn’t a place for Burres to start. There is at least one spot left in the bullpen, so maybe that is a place where Burres can fit.

To this point, the thinking seems to have been that Scott Olsen would land as the second lefty in the ‘pen if he didn’t crack the rotation. But Olsen hasn’t done all that well in his first two appearances, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that Burres could have an edge over Olsen. The fact that the Pirates owe Olsen very little in guaranteed salary would mean that the club wouldn’t be on the hook for that much money if Olsen doesn’t stick.

This is certainly something to keep an eye on as the last two weeks play out. Of course, Burres could also be asked to accept an assignment in Triple-A, where he would start and wait until the Pirates need a fill-in starter.

***

Speaking of Burres, he pitched four shutout innings in the Pirates’ intrasquad game on Thursday. He allowed two hits, walked two and struck out five.

“It went well,” Burres said. “I felt good and got the pitch count up. I worked with the fastball pretty good.”

In addition to those results, Burres has pitched nine scoreless innings in Grapefruit League action.

“There are a couple things that I still want to continue to do,” Burres said. “But as far as where I am now, I think I’ve done a pretty decent job this spring trying to do the things that I’ve wanted to do.”

***

Karstens hasn’t had as good of results as Burres has, but the right-hander is nonetheless pleased with his progression to this point. Pitching mostly against players from the Pirates’ Latin American teams, Karstens didn’t allow a hit and struck out six in three innings in the intrasquad game.

“With some of the young guys it’s a little bit easier because their approach is a little bit different,” Karstens said afterward. “When you’re over here [in big league camp], you know the guys have an idea of what they’re trying to do. But I tried to come in with some fastballs after the first inning. I made some mistakes with it – got away with them – and I made some good pitches. It’s a positive note. I was able to get ahead. Just nice to get back out there and throw more than two innings.”

Karstens has made four Grapefruit League appearances, three of which have been two-inning outings. In those seven innings, Karstens has allowed nine hits, two earned runs and walked three.

***

There was good and bad to Ross Ohlendorf’s start on Thursday — though Ohlendorf would attest that there was more good. The pitching line is ugly — six earned runs on eight hits in three innings. But it wasn’t, Ohlendorf said, as bad as it might have seemed.

“I was actually really happy with how I threw the ball today,” he said. “The results, obviously, weren’t very good in that last inning, but a lot of the early hits weren’t hit that well. I felt like I kept the ball down when I wanted to much better than the game before. I threw the ball much better than I did before even though the results weren’t really indicative of that.”

Ohlendorf did make a mistake on a slider to Jake Fox, and that resulted in a two-run homer. The only other ball hit pretty hard in that six-run third inning could easily have been caught by Jose Tabata in the outfield.

“The challenge at this level is putting innings away,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I thought there were times when he was throwing the ball really well – getting the ball inside when he wanted to. He spun the ball OK on occasion. But the one inning got away from us. There was some positive in it, but the inability to put away the inning that’s where we have to get better.”

Still, it’s not pretty when you consider that Ohlendorf has allowed 10 earned runs in his last two games (five innings). And probably the biggest concern is that Ohlendorf has yet to go more than three innings in any of his starts.

Yes, he is throwing the pitches needed to build up his arm. But there is something to be said for pitchers using those pitches efficiently to get through four or five innings by this point in the spring.

Right now, only Paul Maholm and Kevin Correia have made a five-inning spring start.

“We’ve got work to do,” Hurdle said. “We’re not throwing enough strikes. We don’t have good enough command right now. I have no idea what our pitch count was today, but we threw way too many pitches today. We’d like to see our starters lengthen things out. There is work to be done. That’s what Spring Training is for. That’s why you have the amount of games that you have, and that’s why these starters have to keep building up their pitch counts.”

***

Both Joe Beimel and Olsen pitched again on Thursday, and the results weren’t too pretty.

Beimel was charged with three earned runs on three hits and a walk in an inning of relief. This was his second spring appearance.

As for Olsen, he was unable to finish two innings, as he had to be taken out after pitching 1 1/3. Olsen gave up three runs on three hits and three walks. He struck out one.

“We’ll keep feeding them the ball, too,” Hurdle said. “They started out behind. Neither one of them are complaining about any injuries or any arm fatigue or anything like that, so just keep feeding them the ball.”

I’m still skeptical that Olsen is truly in that fifth starter mix, and Hurdle didn’t exactly affirm that Olsen was when I asked the question afterward.

In response to a question about whether Olsen was still a candidate for the rotation, Hurdle answered: “I don’t know. He could be. I can’t say no. I’ll leave the speculation out there for people who want to speculate. I’ll keep giving him the ball and see where it takes him.”

That’s not exactly a yes.

***

Catcher Ryan Doumit (mild oblique strain) is scheduled to play in Friday’s game against the Phillies. Doumit went 3-for-4 with a double and home run in a Minor League game on Thursday. 

Though Doumit hasn’t played since March 8, he will have plenty of time to get ready for Opening Day assuming there are no further setbacks.

***

Outfielder Miles Durham said he was OK after a nasty collision with the right field wall in the ninth inning. He was down for a while, but walked off the field without any help. And he seemed just fine about 20 minutes later when he was leaving the ballpark.

“A big man hit the wall really, really hard,” Hurdle said.

***

On the main site tonight, you can read more about the changes Steve Pearce is making to his swing and how those changes might help him in his case for a bench spot. There will also be items on Burres/Karstens, Pedro Ciriaco’s day in centerfield and Olsen’s focus on staying healthy.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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