Outlook: Machado can be among elite third baseman

BALTIMORE -- In a simulated game Saturday in Sarasota, Fla., Orioles third baseman Manny Machado had a successful outing and was cleared to go full speed on Monday.

Machado had previously not been permitted to run during extended spring training as he recovers from Oct. 14 surgery on his left knee.

Machado, 21, was feeling so good, he took six at-bats instead of his scheduled minimum of two.

"[The coaches] said they think he snuck a couple in today," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Machado's extra work.

Before getting hurt last year, Machado hit .283 with 14 home runs and 71 RBIs, making the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove in his first full season.

Also appearing in the simulated game, veteran pitcher and two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana threw 33 pitches in two innings of work in his attempt to come back from a shoulder tear.

Left-handed relief specialist Troy Patton, who is serving a 25-game suspension for testing positive for the banned amphetamine Adderall, also pitched Saturday in Sarasota.

Hardy, Lough return to O's lineup

TOR@BAL: Orioles catch Bautista in no-man's land

BALTIMORE -- Shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielder David Lough were back in the Orioles starting lineup for Saturday's game against the visiting Blue Jays.

Hardy, who has been sidelined twice this year with back spasms, last played a week ago. Lough, suffering from concussion-like symptoms, played Wednesday in New York as a late-inning defensive replacement. His last start was Monday against the Yankees.

Lough made a timely return, delivering the walk-off hit in a 2-1, 12-inning win. Hardy was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.

Both were cleared to play on Friday, according to Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who added that he wanted to give them an additional day to recover.

Lough was sidelined in Spring Training with the same ailment. After his most recent bout with concussion-like symptoms this week, doctors said he did not have a concussion, Showalter said.

"It's the same symptoms I was dealing with in Sarasota," said Lough, who hit in the eight-hole Saturday. "We took a different approach. Hopefully this time we figured it out."

After missing just seven games the last two seasons combined, Hardy already has missed six this year.

"It's been a long week for me. Spasms are no fun," Hardy said. "I hope they're behind me and I don't have to deal with it for the rest of the year."

Hardy admitted to being mystified by the ailment. His first series of spasms came in the season's third game while at the plate. After sitting out one day, another wave of spasms hit Hardy while he was playing the field against the Tigers.

"It's tough. I thought I was all better going into Detroit," Hardy said. "Then I took that ground ball and my back locked up on me, so you just don't know."

Hardy hit in the six-hole on Saturday.

"I think I will be 100 percent when I do something in the game without thinking about it," Hardy said. "The last step is getting over it mentally. That won't come until I do something that's kind of a reaction play in the game and realizing I'm better."

There was an example in Saturday's game when he took a pickoff throw and slapped the tag on Jose Bautista.

"I watched five tag plays in my office after the game last night," Showalter said. "There were five tag plays that guys would have been out if they had gone to a straddle-the-bag as the throw's coming like J.J. does it. Those are five outs that he would have gotten. Best tagger I've ever had. They don't chart taggers. They don't chart accuracy. They don't chart being in the right place on the relay. I can go on and on."

Clevenger starts as Wieters given day off

BAL@DET: Clevenger belts two-run double to right

BALTIMORE -- With the Orioles facing a quick turnaround because of Sunday's 1:35 p.m. ET start, backup catcher Steve Clevenger was in the lineup on Saturday night, giving starter Matt Wieters a rest.

With Toronto pitching right-hander Drew Hutchison on Saturday and left-hander Mark Buehrle on Sunday, it made sense for Clevenger, a lefty hitter, to play Saturday, and Wieters, a switch-hitter, to go on Sunday.

"It's just the matchups," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We haven't had a left-handed hitting catcher in the past. So that's where that variable comes into play."

Clevenger, who has one home run and a .208 average in 231 career at-bats, seems an unlikely player for the five-hole spot he occupied Saturday. But according to Showalter, Toronto has a pair of tough lefties out of the bullpen -- Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup -- who make it tough in the late innings.

"It's very evident one of the strengths is their bullpen," Showalter said. "If you set up your batting order where they can get multiple people out with one pitcher, if you do it any other way you're going to have a challenge with that."

Hunter beaten on homer with 'best pitch'

TOR@BAL: Rasmus smacks a homer to tie game

BALTIMORE -- Orioles closer Tommy Hunter has often been susceptible to the long ball. He gave up 11 home runs in 86 1/3 innings last year and 32 in 133 2/3 innings in 2012.

It was difficult to fault him for the first one he yielded this season though, even if it was a two-out, two-strike blast by the Blue Jays' Colby Rasmus that tied the score at 1 in the ninth inning of a game the Orioles went on to win, 2-1, in 12 innings on Saturday night.

After throwing two breaking balls for strikes and nearly getting a third strike with another breaking pitch on which Rasmus checked his swing, Hunter fired a 98 mph fastball. The Toronto center fielder deposited it into the bleachers in right-center field to force extra innings.

"I got beat with my fastball. I would say that's probably my best pitch," Hunter said. "Tip your cap. He got on top of a pretty hard fastball."

It was the first blown save in four opportunities this year for Hunter.

"Rasmus is a good hitter," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "To be on a fastball of that velocity after three straight breaking balls is impressive."

Worth noting

• The status of Orioles reliever Brian Matusz, who missed Friday's game with the flu, was uncertain three hours before Saturday's game, according to Showalter. Matusz was hospitalized on Friday but didn't stay the night.

"He's improved," Showalter said. "See what happens between now and game time."

• Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley, also battling the flu, was not with the team on Saturday.

"That's about as bad as a human being can look, [the way] he looked last night at about 6 o'clock," Showalter said of Presley. "We've had seven, eight, nine cases since the spring. Trying to keep it from spreading. Expecting one every other day now."