BRADENTON, Fla. -- Chris Leroux experienced two things Sunday he never had before: allowing eight runs in a single inning, and being taken off the hook for a loss after leaving a game in an 8-0 hole.
Leroux, who had a spotless Spring Training until his encounter with the Orioles, was left shaking it off as one of those things -- and hoping Pirates decision makers saw it the same way.
"Probably the worst inning I ever had. Let's all be happy it's Spring Training," Leroux said after facing nine Orioles and recording only one out. "But I've been sharp up until this point, so this was just one day."
But was it a crushing day for the right-hander, who has had strange ends to Spring Training before? He was in line for a relief job a year ago, then tore a pectoral muscle in the final Grapefruit League game and was sidelined until June. Now this, after seven scoreless outings.
Manager Clint Hurdle sympathized with Leroux -- to a point -- over an apparently shrunken strike zone that led to catcher Russell Martin's ejection.
"That was a part of it. We've got people battling for jobs and [Martin] thought there were a whole bunch of pitches that we could've gotten strikes on that weren't," Hurdle said. "If he's getting pitches, who knows how the inning plays out for [Leroux]? But you also want pitchers to find ways to shut things down, to put an end to things, to stay aggressive and pitch with intent. A number of things got away from him today.
"You want to make sure not to be swayed by one-game results … but sometimes they can tell a big story."
Leroux was a relatively late replacement for Jeff Karstens, who was scratched from his scheduled start with shoulder discomfort about four hours prior to first pitch.
"It's not the easiest thing in the world, but I'm not going to make excuses," Leroux said. "I could've pitched four scoreless, and we'd be all smiling and happy now."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.