Leicester challenges Sox in first start

Leicester challenges Sox in first start

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Before the Orioles' 7-4 rain-shortened loss to the Red Sox at City of Palms Park on Friday, manager Dave Trembley said Jon Leicester's outing would be "an important start for him, obviously."

Prior to the outing, Leicester had pitched 5 1/3 innings over four Grapefruit League games -- all in relief -- allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits for a 5.06 ERA and .222 opponents' batting average. His last outing was Monday, taking the loss after allowing three runs in the eighth inning of a 7-4 defeat to the Dodgers. His longest previous outing was two innings against the Nationals on March 2, when he allowed one unearned run.

In his first start of the spring Friday -- in place of Adam Loewen, who had been scratched the day before -- Leicester went three innings and allowed three runs on four hits in taking the loss. He threw 43 pitches, 27 for strikes, and struck out two.

After the game, when asked to summarize Leicester's outing, Trembley replied:

"[There were] two pitches that he'd like to have back. He threw strikes. His location could have been better."

The two pitches were an 0-1 fastball in the first inning to Manny Ramirez, who deposited it behind the backstop of the practice field over the left-field fence. J.D. Drew led off the second inning by belting a 2-2 slider to left.

"It went all right," Leicester said of his outing. "I threw some good pitches. [It's a] tough lineup, so they let you know when you don't execute a pitch.

"[A tough lineup] gives you a better idea of what's going on than maybe in the ninth inning and facing some guys that are getting called up from Minor League camp. It's different because those are the guys you're going to face during the year. That's what it's going to be about.

"J.D. Drew hit a home run on a hanging breaking ball, but there was nobody on base. That was the leadoff guy. They're going to get at you sometimes, but it's when you walk the two guys in front of them that makes it three runs. That's where the danger is. That's what they do. They try and get people on base so Manny and [David] Ortiz are getting up there and really doing damage. So you just got to pump the strike zone and challenge them to put the ball in play."

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Although rain ended the game in the top of the seventh, Trembley was not disappointed that he wasn't able to get more players into the game, saying it was more important to see the pitchers. Leicester was followed by Dennis Sarfate and Lance Cormier.

"The only other guy that was going to pitch that I wanted to see was [Rocky] Cherry," Trembley said. "That's OK. He'll take a day off [Saturday], because he was ready to come in the game and he can pitch the day after. We'll get him in [Sunday].

"To be honest with you, today was a day to evaluate the pitching."

Sarfate went one-third of an inning, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks, while striking out one. Cormier went 2 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk, with one strikeout.

"Obviously, the experience for [Sarfate] lends itself to understanding what this thing is all about," Trembley said. "He comes in -- and the big crowd and the middle of their lineup -- and pitches behind and nibbles, and he walks a couple of guys and gets in trouble. He's got to throw strikes and trust his stuff. But Cormier did a nice job, and that's good. Cormier is a guy that came in in the middle of an inning, got a double-play ball, and he did basically what he was supposed to do, put a couple zeros up on the board for us."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.