Hammel, Gonzalez look to build on solid 2012 seasons

BALTIMORE -- It took two weeks of games, but Miguel Gonzalez will finally make his home debut Thursday night against the Rays, marking the first time he has pitched at Camden Yards -- including the postseason -- since Oct. 2.

"I'm excited for it," said Gonzalez, who is coming off of a six-inning start Friday in unusually poor conditions in New York, as the 28-year-old struggled to grip the ball and issued five walks and a hit-by-pitch against the Yankees.

"You always got to be short-minded," Gonzalez said of shaking off the outing, in which he was also tagged with his first loss this season. "You always have an opportunity to come back and pitch another day; that's the good thing about baseball. Just throw it away and forget about it and try to do my best next start."

Gonzalez, 28, is 2-1 with a 3.49 ERA in five career starts against the Rays, and he will try to become the first Orioles pitcher to go seven innings this year. The team's rotation, which was inconsistent last season, has fared OK early on but needs to start going deeper into games.

"Same thing with us walking a lot of guys," Gonzalez said of a rotation that entered Wednesday with 73 of the team's 113 innings pitched, accounting for 32 of 38 walks. "I think we got to minimize that a little bit and be able to go more [innings] than that. Hopefully, we can start to go seven, eight, and try to have the bullpen fresh for other days."

Strop attributes rough outing to 'two bad pitches'

2013 Outlook: Strop to serve as O's primary setup man

BALTIMORE -- Orioles reliever Pedro Strop allowed two home runs in one game for the first time in his career in Tuesday's 5-4 win over the Rays, and the right-hander said Wednesday he believed the rough outing was different from his struggles in the second half of 2012.

"Last year when I was struggling, I wasn't commanding my fastball; I was walking a lot more people, and it's totally different now," said Strop, who has issued one walk over five innings, allowing six earned runs and six hits in six appearances. "If you look at the outing in Tampa [during the Opening Week series] when all that crazy stuff happened, you take that out, I've had just one bad outing: last night. And that was two bad pitches. I'm not happy with the results, but I'm not crazy [angry] because I know I'm mostly making good pitches."

Strop recorded two outs to end the seventh inning Tuesday and was replaced after homers by Kelly Johnson and Evan Longoria, which resulted in three runs in the eighth. Manager Buck Showalter, who reminded reporters how good Strop was for much of last season, said he would continue to use Strop and Darren O'Day as "either or" scenarios in bridging to closer Jim Johnson.

"If we didn't like him, there'd be a lot of people standing in line," Showalter said of Strop, a converted infielder who pitched to a 2.44 ERA in 2012, setting career highs in wins, appearances, innings pitched, saves and strikeouts in his first full season as an Oriole. "I think he's going to do a lot of good things for us this year. He's gotten some big outs already. Last night wasn't one of them.

"I said something last night after the game [to him], but just in passing. I'm not mad at him. It's hard to do what they are doing. You know how many times [the Rays have] seen Pete? There's no secrets. He just second-guessed himself a little bit with pitch selection last night, where he located the ball. Which was actually, if you look back on it, is good for him. There was a while last year where he was kind of just throwing his hat out there. And it fell off his head a few times. I get more letters about his hat."

Worth noting

• Right-hander Steve Johnson (lat strain) will pitch four innings in extended spring training Thursday with lefty Tsuyoshi Wada slated to go three. Johnson could go out on rehab assignment or be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after that, while it is assumed that Wada will make at least one more start in extended spring.

• Outfielder Henry Urrutia is expected to leave extended spring and make his professional debut for Double-A Bowie later in the week.

• With Nick Markakis' first-inning single Tuesday, he had hit safely in 12 of the team's first 14 games.