BRADENTON, Fla. – Baltimore starter Bud Norris gave up a solo homer to Andrew McCutchen, then settled in and helped the Orioles beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 on Thursday night.
McCutchen homered to right field in the first inning. The reigning NL MVP has reached base in all 10 of his games this spring and is batting .556 (15 for 27) with three walks.
"It's a great battle," Norris said. "He's a great player. We all know who he is, and what he's capable of doing. He's someone a lot of teams are going to have to deal with this year."
In five innings, Norris gave up two hits, walked two and struck out five. The right-hander retired five of the final six batters he faced.
Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano left in the sixth inning with tightness in his left groin. Liriano limped slightly as he walked to the clubhouse. He gave up four hits in 5 2-3 innings, walked one and struck out four.
Nelson Cruz drove in the Orioles' first run with a double to center field.
Orioles: Norris bounced back well after yielding three runs in 1 2-3 innings during his previous start against the New York Yankees. "Considering the way the Yankees (game) went, I was happy to get through five tonight," Norris said. "The ups and downs are really important and I felt pretty good out there. We're all trying to elevate that pitch count each time we go out there. I think I got to about 75, which is good, and hopefully I can build on that."
Pirates: The 30-year-old Liriano is slated to start on opening day, but that could be in jeopardy if his groin injury turns out to be serious. "I felt a little tight the whole game and didn't want to keep pitching like that," Liriano said. "I think it's going to be OK. We'll see how I feel tomorrow and go from there."
Orioles: Third baseman Manny Machado had his surgically repaired left knee evaluated in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttrache. A buildup of scar tissue recently set back Machado's rehab program. ElAttrache lifted all physical restrictions on Machado, but it's still up to the Orioles when he's cleared and ready to play. ... Outfielder David Lough (stiff neck, concussion symptoms) played for the first time in more than a week. He came off the bench in the sixth inning, singled and scored a run. Lough was cleared after his MRI and heart test results were negative. He isn't sure what caused the symptoms, but thinks they might have been triggered when he attempted an inside-the-park home run March 8 against the Boston Red Sox. ... After having a colonoscopy and endoscopy Thursday, infielder Alex Gonzalez might return to action Friday.
Pirates: Left-hander Jeff Locke (oblique) threw two innings in a simulated game and reported no problems.
CALL TO THE 'PEN
Pirates right-hander Bryan Morris boosted his chances of making the team by improving his cutter and adding a two-seam fastball.
"I think (the cutter) has more depth right now than it had last year," Morris said, adding that the pitch will enable him to get more strikeouts.
He tinkered with a two-seamer toward the end of last season, and the new weapon has produced good results so far this spring. Morris, who is out of minor league options, is among four relievers fighting for three jobs in the bullpen. He has not allowed a run in his past four outings, including a scoreless inning against the Orioles.