Orioles 6, Rays 3

Jeff Niemann thinks people get the wrong idea about the kind of

pitcher he is. Because he is a very large man who drew attention in

college for throwing mid-90s out of the Rice bullpen, he is often

perceived as a power arm forced down a few miles per hour after

shoulder surgery.

However, Niemann said that was never him. He believes that even

in his college days, he was his most effective sitting in the low

90s and high 80s on the radar gun.

With four years of major league service time on his baseball

card, Niemann knows when he’s at his best and when he isn’t. That’s

why he wasn’t overly concerned when he gave up five runs and 10

hits in six innings in the Tampa Bay Rays’ 6-3 loss to the

Baltimore Orioles on Friday.

For Niemann, it’s about the process and not the immediate

results.

”Honestly, that’s the best I’ve felt all spring, the best I’ve

thrown the ball,” said Niemann, competing with Roberto Hernandez

to claim the Rays’ fifth starter spot. ”I just made a couple of

bad pitches, and the homer is what really upset me.”

The homer he was referring to was a two-run shot by Orioles

prospect Jonathan Schoop, who went 3 for 4 with three RBIs in his

first start since returning from playing for the Netherlands at the

World Baseball Classic. One of the best middle infield prospects in

baseball, Schoop doesn’t figure to earn a spot with Baltimore on

opening day, but he is the kind of player that the Orioles plan to

build around.

Niemann said his mistake to Schoop was a fastball that didn’t

get inside enough and got up in the zone too much.

”I felt like I finally had some life behind the ball as it was

coming out and the confidence just kind of kept growing as the game

went on,” said the Rays’ veteran.

Niemann’s four-seam fastball has become a cutter, and his

two-seamer is a regular piece of his game-plan.

”Nothing I throw is straight anymore,” he added. ”It’s just

how we evolve in this league. You have to constantly find a new way

to get guys out. As much info as we have on them, they have the

same info on us.”

Neimann’s counterpart, Steve Johnson, is also looking for a role

in the Orioles’ rotation. He allowed three runs on two hits and

three walks, most of which came in the three-run third inning, that

culminated in a bases clearing double from Evan Longoria.

”Any time you throw that many pitches in an inning, you start

to kind of tire,” Johnson said. ”It’s just really frustrating. I

was cruising, I felt good and it just didn’t work out that

inning.”

NOTES: Orioles RF Nick Markakis hit off a batting tee for the

first time since he was scratched from a game on March 3. Markakis,

who has a small disk herniation in his back, hopes to play next

week. … Baltimore lost RHP Todd Redmond on waivers to Toronto.

… LHP Wei-Yin Chen will pitch for the Orioles on Saturday against

Philadelphia RHP Aaron Cook. Members of the Rays organization,

including Joe Maddon, David Price and Ben Zobrist were treated to

an advanced showing of ”42” at a local mall Thursday night. Minor

leagues coaches, players and scouts were also invited to attend the

motion picture based on the life of Jackie Robinson. . Steve Pearce

hit his fifth homer of the spring for Baltimore.