Steve Trachsel faced the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday for the first time since allowing five runs on five hits and five walks in one-plus inning of work during Game 3 of last year's National League Championship Series. This time, Trachsel held the Cardinals -- who boasted four of the same starters from that October evening -- to one run on three hits in three innings.
Some observers claimed that Trachsel's loss in the NLCS helped cast his free agent status in a new light, moving him from being perceived as the Mets' 15-game winner to a pitcher that got hit hard on the game's biggest stage. Trachsel has taken issue with that perception in the past, and he wasn't claiming any sort of retribution Tuesday.
"[It's] completely different," said Trachsel, who repeated himself before moving on to another thought. "Here, I'm working on things. There, I was just trying to get through some innings."
Trachsel only got three outs in the NLCS, and he gave up five runs in a game his team eventually lost, 5-0. That would normally be ancient history, but nobody really gave him a call this winter. Trachsel finally signed with Baltimore last month, shortly after the Orioles learned that Kris Benson would be out with a partially torn rotator cuff.
Now, Trachsel is attempting to switch leagues and re-establish himself as a proven starter. He only worked one inning in his spring debut, but he said he was much improved in his second outing. Trachsel gave up a hard single in the first inning Tuesday, but he got outs on scorching line drives caught by infielders Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff.
"It's a big difference having the ball down in the zone. It's that simple, really," he said. "A couple balls in the first inning were up, and they were hit hard. In the next couple innings, the ball was down in the zone. If I field my position on one ball, they don't score. That was an adjustment I wanted to make, and hopefully we just continue to do that."
Trachsel retired superstar Albert Pujols twice Tuesday -- once on a hard liner and once on a popup to shortstop. Scott Spiezio, Preston Wilson and Yadier Molina were also common starters from last year's NLCS. Trachsel walked one batter and gave up back-to-back hits in the second, but he said he was pleased with his outing.
"It's still early," he said. "There are still some things we're working on mechanically that I'm trying to take out onto the field. There are still some things I want to work on before we really get down to sitting down and going over hitters. My last two or maybe three starts, we'll start doing that."
"I was pleased with him. He got his feet on the ground," added manager Sam Perlozzo. "I'm sure he's not where he wants to be yet. But that was a good outing compared to what it was the first time. I'm sure he feels better about it."
Fresh legs: The Orioles have planned a reduced schedule to keep catcher Ramon Hernandez fresh for the regular season. Hernandez served as designated hitter Monday and got a rare day off Tuesday, yielding to Minor League veteran J.R. House against the Marlins and Rule 5 Draft pickup Adam Donachie against the Cardinals.
Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo originally planned to alternate Hernandez and Paul Bako, but Bako has a sore right oblique muscle and hasn't been able to play in recent days. When he's back, he'll help spell Hernandez, who logged one of the heaviest amounts of playing time in the league last year, much to Perlozzo's chagrin.
"It's hard, because he's a top-notch catcher and he handles all your guys great, so you want him in there as much as you can without wearing him out," Perlozzo said. "And I thought we did a pretty good job of that. A stud catcher for you should be able to catch 135 games. And probably at least five of those games, he came in for one inning."
Donachie, meanwhile, never expected to start a game this spring. Prior to Tuesday morning, the youngster had been soaking in the big-league atmosphere and fighting for scraps of playing time late in the games.
"I'm always excited to get to play, and starting's even more of a plus," said Donachie, who was selected by the Phillies from the Royals organization and subsequently traded to the O's. "I walked in and figured I'd maybe come in late again or make the trip [Wednesday]. But I looked up there, and I was starting. I was pretty surprised."
Still sidelined: Bench coach Tom Trebelhorn is still away from the team attending to a severe illness in his family, and Perlozzo said the Orioles still aren't sure when to expect him back for good.
"I spoke with Treb last night, and without giving you any medical details, he's hopeful to come back here around [Saturday]," he said. "Hopefully, he'll stay for a while, and we'll try to get organized. It's a day-to-day thing for him. ... He was coming back five or six days ago, and then there was a little setback. We'll just keep hoping for the best."
Give it away: The Orioles released their promotional schedule Tuesday, a list highlighted by two bobblehead dolls featuring Baltimore icon and 2007 Hall of Fame inductee Cal Ripken Jr. The first one will be given out June 10, and the second one -- commemorating Ripken's consecutive games streak -- will be distributed on July 24.
Baltimore also plans four cap giveaway nights and a regular promotional event called T-Shirt Tuesdays. In the first Tuesday home game of every month, the first 10,000 fans ages 15 and older will receive a free T-shirt with a player's name on the back. Nick Markakis, Erik Bedard and Chris Ray are the first three featured players.
Quotable: "That's what they're there for, right? No, that was awesome. You try to execute pitches, but if you don't, the guys have got to pick you up. I'm going to be excited if they do that during the season." -- Trachsel, on his team's defense, which bailed him out on several hard hit balls on Tuesday
Coming up: The Orioles will travel to Jupiter, Fla., to play the Marlins on Wednesday afternoon at 1:05 ET. Baltimore's Erik Bedard will make his second start against Florida ace Dontrelle Willis.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.