04/09/10 9:45 PM ET
Jays, Orioles stage battle of No. 5 starters
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
While it's often the case this time of year for teams to skip over their No. 5 starters, both Toronto and Baltimore will see what their new arms bring to the table. The Blue Jays could have skipped lefty Dana Eveland because of Tuesday's day off, but decided not to. The Orioles didn't start until Tuesday, so they had little choice but to give the ball to David Hernandez.
Hernandez beat out front-runner Chris Tillman for the rotation spot with a strong spring. Now he's making his 2010 debut against a team he's never faced. According to Hernandez, that gives him an edge.
"For me I guess you have a little bit of an advantage with them not seeing you pitch," said Hernandez, who was 4-10 with a 5.42 ERA last year in the bigs, but posted a 3.00 ERA with 20 K's over 15 innings this spring. "They can go look at video. It's really not the same. As for me, I can kind of see what their swings are, what they look like. The less you can face a team the better."
The Orioles aren't exactly super-comfortable with Eveland. Baltimore hitters have gone just a combined 3-for-10 against him. The southpaw came to the Jays from Oakland in a February trade and, out of options, got a long look this spring. He took full advantage, beating out Brett Cecil for the No. 5 job with a 1.23 ERA. Saturday will be his first step in staking a claim to the spot for the long-term.
"It definitely feels good," Eveland said when he found out he had made the team. "It would've been really disappointing to put in as much hard work as I had over the offseason and throughout this spring, busting my butt really trying to get where I need to be and do my part, and then not have it work out. So I'm definitely relieved, happy, excited. It feels good."
Blue Jays: Frasor back in the saddle
After three save opportunities -- one blown, two converted -- Jason Frasor was given the day off on Friday. Setup man Kevin Gregg stepped up admirably, pitching a perfect ninth and striking out two in Frasor's stead. Gregg, who'd saved 84 games over the previous three seasons, has yet to allow a base-runner in 2 2/3 innings of relief work and provides manager Cito Gaston with a nice option when Frasor needs a breather. Don't look for a closer controversy here, though. Frasor will be the guy to come in to finish things off in the ninth if there's a save opportunity on Saturday. And given that the Blue Jays have had four of them in four games, the odds are good.
Orioles: Meredith next in line?
With closer Michael Gonzalez struggling out of the gate with two blown saves, it leads one to wonder who would be the next in line should a change have to be made. It could be Cla Meredith, who came in back of Gonzalez on Friday and struck out the one batter he faced. The right-hander had appeared in just one of the O's first three games and allowed a home run to Evan Longoria over his two-thirds of an inning of work on Wednesday. But Meredith had a team-best 0.84 ERA over 12 Spring Training games and pitched capably after coming over from San Diego last year. The one thing he doesn't have is a career save.
All four of the Orioles' games so far this season have been decided by one run. ... OF Nick Markakis didn't walk a single time over 63 Spring Training at-bats. With two more free passes on Friday, he's now drawn six walks in Baltimore's first four games. ... Friday was Toronto's second come-from-behind win of the young season. The Jays scored three times in the ninth to erase a 1-0 deficit against the Rangers on Thursday. ... Eveland is one of three lefties in the Blue Jays rotation, the first time they've had that many southpaws since 2006 (Gustavo Chacin, Scott Downs and Ted Lilly).
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.