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Wade Miley's Illness Gives Orioles' Unknowns An Unexpected Opportunity

March 20, 2017
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In the six-year history of JetBlue Park, the Boston Red Sox have never drawn a crowd larger than the one that witnessed the Baltimore Orioles' visit March 20.
 
The record attendance of 10,157 came to see the Red Sox panoply of stars: third baseman Pablo Sandoval, right fielder Mookie Betts, first baseman Hanley Ramirez and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
 
They certainly didn't come to see right-handers Cody Satterwhite, Jefri Hernandez, Stefan Crichton and Scott McGough and left-hander Brian Moran.
 
Those were five of the pitchers Orioles manager Buck Showalter imported from minor league camp. Crichton and McGough were hastily added when left-hander Wade Miley was scratched with flu-like symptoms.
 
Showalter's plan was for Miley to pitch five innings and have left-hander Vidal Nuno and right-hander Oliver Drake follow him. But that plan was scrapped when Miley's sickness -- which has been present since his previous start March 14, though they'd hoped he was past it -- worsened before the game.
 
Nuno couldn't even make it through two innings. He allowed three runs on four hits in 1.2 innings, as the Orioles lost to the Red Sox, 7-4. Drake had a rough time, giving up three runs on five hits while getting only four outs.
 
Then, Showalter brought in Satterwhite, Hernandez, Crichton, McGough and Moran, who is former Orioles outfielder B.J. Surhoff's nephew.
 
Each pitched an inning, and only Satterwhite was scored upon.
 
Every day, the Orioles bring a handful of what Showalter likes to call "JICs" to Grapefruit League games. In Showalter parlance, that stands for "just in case."
 
The Orioles were already bringing a spring-high 11 minor leaguers, including infielders Sean Coyle, Garabez Rosa, Alex Castellanos and Aderlin Rodriguez and outfielders Cedric Mullins and Michael Choice.
 
All except Choice had played in at least one game this year. He became the 28th JIC to appear in a Grapefruit League game. That's by design.
 
"That's the whole idea," Showalter said. "We make sure we see different ones. You can't sit there and ride the same one because he's being effective. These guys are going to impact our team this year.
 
"Just about every guy we're bringing over now we've seen multiple times. It's great to put a face with a name and see the box scores come across and everything."
 
Last year, left-hander Donnie Hart came over often, and the Orioles benefited from the exposure to him.
 
"Any chance you get -- a chance to pitch in front of our manager, and the pitching coaches, and the front office -- is a good thing," Hart said. "[When] they tell you you're going over there, you're going over there for a reason. You're not going over there just because they need bodies."
 
Showalter was especially impressed with Crichton, who threw his fourth scoreless inning.
 
"You get to see some arms that you ordinarily wouldn't get to see," Showalter said.
 
Showalter often says the Orioles are able to "out-opportunity" other teams, and the liberal use of players from minor league camp is a way to do that.
 
"I think it's a great tool for us," Showalter said. "And also, when we're selling to these guys about going to this camp, we can always say, 'Here's what happened last year.'"
 
For home games, the JICs dress in a separate locker room that isn't open to the media, but according to Hart, there's no feeling that the players are simply added for the day. One perk is they receive major league meal money.
 
"I think everybody down there makes everyone feel welcome, no matter who you are," Hart said. "We try and communicate [with everyone] that's in the bullpen during a game -- that's throwing that day and can throw during that game -- just because you don't want anybody sitting down there thinking they're on eggshells the whole game. For the most part, they don't think they have to sit in the corner."
 
NUNO LABORS: Nuno has started 42 games in the major leagues, and he found out a little more than an hour before game time he would start in Miley's place.
 
"We knew that Miley was kind of ill the last couple of days," Nuno said. "He said that he couldn't go, and I was the next one in line to get the ball."
 
EL TORO LAUNCHES: Pedro Alvarez played right field for the second time and launched a long home run, his second in as many games.
 
"People forget he was really good for us offensively for a couple of months," Showalter said, "and the last few days have been a reminder of that."
 
Alvarez had a hard time coming up with infielder Marco Hernandez's ball in right field in the second inning.
 
"The outfield is going to be a work in progress for him," Showalter said. "I've got an idea what would have to happen to get to the point for us to trust him out there. We're not at that [point] yet. He's working hard out there. It's an unfamiliar position."
 
COMING UP: The Orioles host the Toronto Blue Jays March 21. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez starts against right-hander Aaron Sanchez. … Showalter said third baseman Manny Machado and catcher Welington Castillo have been given the day off, and he expects them in the clubhouse, though not necessarily to play, March 22. … Utility man Ryan Flaherty (shoulder) and outfielder Seth Smith (shoulder) remain unavailable.