Tigers use two-run ninth to beat Orioles 6-4Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird hangs onto the ball as he hits the dirt after colliding with first baseman Donny Kelly while chasing a foul by Baltimore Orioles Jai Miller in the second inning of a spring training baseball game in Sarasota, Fla., Friday, March 30, 2012. Laird sprained his left knee on the play. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) Baltimore Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz kept hitting 92 mph with his fastball in the first inning Friday, and the Detroit Tigers kept hitting him.
The first four Tigers reached base on three singles and Miguel Cabrera's two-run double to right field. Matusz eventually settled down, retiring the last nine batters he faced in Detroit's 6-4 victory.
Cabrera went 2 for 3 with two RBIs in his first game since being hit in the face by a sharp bouncer 11 days earlier.
Tony Plagman tied it with a seventh-inning homer and hit a tiebreaking, two-run triple off Orioles reliever Jim Johnson in the ninth. Johnson, who is competing for the closer's job against Kevin Gregg, has a 7.71 ERA this spring.
Matusz gave up three runs, a walk and five hits in five innings. He struck out four.
''Just came out of the gates amped up with a lot of energy,'' Matusz said. ''The first inning, it killed me not getting ahead in the count. Gave up some two-strike hits. After that first inning, I was able to shake it off and just get back to work with (catcher Matt) Wieters. I really found a nice rhythm.
''I felt just as strong in the fifth inning as I did in the first,'' he said. ''I was able to get my pitch count up and I was able to iron out the mechanical adjustments I've needed to.''
Matusz is the favorite to break camp as the Orioles' fifth starter, but manager Buck Showalter hasn't confirmed it. Matusz's chief competitor for the last rotation spot, Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, will pitch Tuesday in an exhibition game against the State College of Florida.
The Orioles could choose to put Wada on the disabled list and leave him at extended spring training. He was sidelined early in camp with inflammation in his left elbow and is attempting to build up innings and his pitch count during the final week. He doesn't appear to be a bullpen option, since the Orioles don't want him adapting to a new role while also getting acclimated to pitching in the majors for the first time.
Matusz was coming off a disappointing outing Sunday, when he allowed three runs and six hits in 4 2-3 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. In three previous starts, he surrendered only one run in 13 innings, walked one and struck out 13.
Matusz struck out two batters in the second inning Friday, but a throwing error by third baseman Mark Reynolds increased his pitch count. On the plus side, Matusz's fastball topped out at 93 mph. He rarely broke 90 mph last season while going 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA in 12 starts.
Cabrera doubled again in the third and Matusz walked Don Kelly before retiring the next nine batters. He needed only five pitches to get through the fourth and 10 to complete the fifth.
''You know, I did what I needed to this spring in order to go out and continue to build up my pitch count and get comfortable on the mound again,'' Matusz said. ''I feel like I've built my pitch count up and I'm strong and I've made the adjustments I've needed to mechanically and I feel like I'm on the right track to prepare myself for the season.''
Adam Jones hit his fourth spring home run leading off the third inning - the Orioles' first hit off Tigers' left-hander Duane Below. Baltimore tied it in the fourth on an RBI single by Endy Chavez, who was playing in his first game since March 21 after injuring his groin.
Below, a candidate for the Tigers' fifth starter job, walked four batters in the second inning, with Robert Andino's free pass forcing in Reynolds and reducing Detroit's lead to 3-1.
''I just got out of rhythm, kind of starting rushing myself I guess, and I just didn't make the adjustment,'' Below said. ''Everybody kind of just unraveled a little bit.''
Below allowed three runs, three hits and four walks in 3 1-3 innings.
''I just couldn't locate my fastball,'' he said. ''I didn't throw any other pitches to try to get back to my arm slot or slow myself down. I was just rushing everything today. That's not really the start I wanted to have my last start of the spring. It's frustrating. Especially as we got out to an early lead, my goal was to attack the strike zone and get as many quick outs as possible, keep our guys out of the sun. That just didn't work for me.''
NOTES: The Orioles will place backup catcher Taylor Teagarden on the 15-day disabled list with discomfort in his lower back. He'll be eligible to return on April 10. Teagarden will have a second epidural on his back Monday morning. ... Orioles pitcher Matt Lindstrom (hamstring) was scratched from Friday's game and will make his next appearance in a minor league game. ... Detroit reassigned catcher Omir Santos to minor league camp. The Tigers have 30 players remaining on the major league camp roster.