Video: Showalter on O's win over Pirates
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If you didn't remember -- and Nolan Reimold certainly did -- the outfielder got off to an 0-for-22 start last spring. That was on his mind in the bottom of the second inning when he returned to the outfield following his solo homer on his very first swing.
"A year makes a big difference," Reimold said. "I did think about that when I was in the outfield, how I started 0-for-22. I didn’t want to do that again."
Reimold also walked three times, made a couple of solid catches in left field in windy and sunny conditions and was the only Orioles starter to play the full game.
“He knows that we’re kind of throwing out last year,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We’re starting fresh. You can tell that he’s at a good place in his life right now. I wanted to get him out there for a lot of at-bats today.”
That’s just fine to Reimold, who said that he has “no complaints physically, so he can run me out there as much as he wants.”
Manager Buck Showalter delivered a couple of positive injury updates after today's exhibition game. Pitcher Justin Duchscherer was able to throw both on flat ground and a half mound without pain this morning, and Derrek Lee took batting practice with "no soreness or puffiness." Duchscherer may throw again Wednesday or Thursday and Lee will determine his schedule from now on.
Overall, Showalter considered it a very positive first day of the Grapefruit League season. The Orioles pitching staff allowed a couple of home runs on a day when the wind was blowing hard to left field, but was pretty much in control of the game from start to finish. The Pirates scored twice with two outs in the ninth to make it closer than it looked.
"That's why evaluating is so hard,'' Showalter said. "To hold them to four runs in these conditions is pretty impressive."
Showalter was happy to see Nolan Reimold get off to a nice start, playing the entire game and juicing his spring on-base percentage (1.000) with a long home run and three walks in four trips to the plate.
"He knows we're throwing out last year,'' Buck said. "He's at a good place in his life. We're going to throw him out there and he's in a good place."
Brad Bergesen's first outing of the 2011 Grapefruit League season was quick and efficient, just the way the right-hander wanted it.
Bergesen allowed one hit and struck out two over two scoreless innings, throwing 17 of his 27 pitches for strikes.
"I felt good today for the first outing," Bergesen said. "There's definitely things I need to tune up a little bit. Fastball felt OK. I need to start working down. Changeup actually felt good today, and I threw a few good sliders in there. Overall, for [the] first outing, it was a good one to get my feet wet today."
Bergesen acknowledged that he had butterflies because he hadn't pitched in a game in a while.
"There's a little bit of an extra adrenaline rush going, so I've just got to hone in on it and fine-tune these things the rest of spring," he said.
The Pirates cut the Orioles' lead to 2-1 in the fifth inning when Lyle Overbay ripped Clay Rapada's 0-1 pitch over the wall in right center field. Lefties went only 1-for-19 against Rapada in the big leagues last year, so it is indeed rare for the southpaw to give up the long ball to a left-handed hitter.
The Orioles answered with a run in the top of the sixth on catcher Craig Tatum's two-out RBI infield single. Vladimir Guerrero led off the inning with a single to right before being lifted for pinch runner Josh Bell. Guerrero finished 2-for-3 with an RBI. Nolan Reimold then walked ahead of Tatum's two-out single.
Pittsburgh got the run right back in the bottom of the sixth against Koji Uehara. Jose Tabata led off the inning with a single. Center fielder Matt Angle denied Josh Rodriguez an extra-base hit by slamming into the wall to make the catch for the first out. However, with two outs, Pedro Alvarez lofted a high fly ball over second base that got caught up in the wind, causing Brendan Harris to overrun the ball. That brought a run home, making the score 3-2 after six.
The only Orioles starter still in the game is left fielder Nolan Reimold,, who is 1-for-1 with a homer and two walks.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was raving about a Nolan Reimold batting practice session the other day, talking about how the team may need to take a loan out to cover all the balls the outfielder deposited over the fence.
Reimold just lost another ball, and it's going to take a while for somebody to find it. Reimold's second-inning solo shot soared over the wall in left center field. The wind is blowing out at McKechnie Field but I'm not sure it would have mattered. Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen gave it a look but didn't bother to give chase.
I'm pretty sure that won't be the last homer we see this afternoon.
It's 2-0 Orioles after two innings. Bergesen allowed a leadoff double to Alvarez but then stranded him at second base. Second baseman Cesar Izturis made a nice play on Ryan Doumit's liner to end the inning.
With the Orioles' bullpen warming, that's probably it for Bergesen, who allowed one hit and struck out two in two innings. He threw 17 of 27 pitches for strikes.
Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Paul Maholm just threw the first pitch of the Orioles' 2011 Grapefruit League season at 1:07 p.m. at McKechnie Field in Bradenton.
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy took the first pitch for a ball, but his at-bat ended on a called third strike by plate umpire Wally Bell. Hardy shook his head at Bell in disagreement on his way back to the dugout.
Felix Pie followed the strikeout with a line double just over the head of young Pirates' third baseman Pedro Alvarez. It was a close play at second, but a hustling Pie beat left fielder Jose Tabata's throw.
Mark Reynolds grounded out to second base on a hard hit ball for the second out. However, Vladimir Guerrero plated Pie from third with a scorching grounder that Alvarez did well to get a glove on. However, he had no play on Guerrero, who made it to first without a throw. If you're counting, that's two infield singles for Guerrero in as many days.
Adam Jones ended the inning on a first-pitch groundout.
Brad Bergesen just finished an easy and perfect bottom of the first with a three-pitch strikeout of Andrew McCutchen. Bergesen threw 10 pitches. seven for strikes.
J.J. Hardy, SS
Felix Pie, RF
Mark Reynolds, 3B
Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Adam Jones, CF
Nolan Reimold, LF
Brandon Snyder, 1B
Craig Tatum, C
Cesar Izturis, 2B
Brad Bergesen, SP
Ryan Drese, Koji Uehara, Kevin Gregg and Jeremy Accardo are expected to follow Bergesen in the game.
Jose Tabata, LF
Josh Rodriguez, SS
Andrew McCutchen, CF
Pedro Alvarez, 3B
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Garrett Jones, RF
Ryan Doumit, DH
Chase d'Arnaud, 2B
Jason Jaramillo, C
Paul Maholm, SP
The Pirates have a split-squad today, and former Oriole Garrett Atkins is with their other squad playing the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte. Brian Burres also pitched yesterday for the Pirates, so we won't see him throw either.
First base prospect Joe Mahoney, who fouled a ball off the inside of his right knee during yesterday's intrasquad game, was scratched from going on the trip to Bradenton, but he is feeling much better and will work out at Ed Smith Stadium today.
"I'm going to go out and try to do as much as I can and get the blood flowing a little bit," Mahoney said. "I was happy with how it feels. I'm hoping to be running around tomorrow."
We'll know the Orioles' lineup for their Grapefruit League opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates tomorrow morning, but manager Buck Showalter is sending many of his regulars to Bradenton.
That includes designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, center fielder Adam Jones, shortstop J.J. Hardy and third baseman Mark Reynolds. Outfielders Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold are also expected to make the trip.
Brad Bergesen will start the game and will likely be followed by Ryan Drese. Kevin Gregg and Koji Uehara, the Orioles' top two closer candidates, are also scheduled to pitch in the game. Paul Maholm will start for the Pirates.
Meanwhile, Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts will likely make his debut Tuesday at Ed Smith Stadium against the Tampa Bay Rays. We haven't gotten a target date for first baseman Derrek Lee to begin playing in games. However, I would suspect that if he has a few more batting practice sessions like the one he had earlier today, it won't be too long.
The home team, which was the one that includes most of the position players projected to be on the 25-man Opening Day roster, won today's intrasquad game, 7-4.
Mark Reynolds was the star of the day, hitting a grand slam in his first at-bat off Chorye Spoone. Adam Jones and Randy Winn also hit home runs. Shortstop Pedro Florimon made an error that led to a run, but he also had three hits, including a double. Josh Bell hit a two-run triple on a ball that center fielder Matt Angle misplayed, and Bell's defense at third base was also singled out by manager Buck Showalter. Felix Pie had two infield singles and a stolen base.
As for the pitchers, Chris Jakubauskas retired all six batters that he faced on groundouts. Showalter also praised Mike Ballard after his scoreless inning of work.
Back to Reynolds: He spoke in the clubhouse after the game about the importance of getting off to a quick start with his new team.
"Obviously, it was against guys that I had never seen before, but it felt good to get in there and have a little bit of adrenaline going, not knowing what pitch is coming in a game setting," he said. "I felt good. I was able to work on some stuff with my new timing."
After he got back to the dugout following the grand slam, Reynolds told hitting coach Jim Presley, "There’s no where to go but down from here."
Reynolds hit a 1-2 curveball from Chorye Spoone.
"I barreled it, I hit it pretty good. I just didn’t want to be the first to strike out," he said. "The wind was blowing in today. But if you juice one, it’s gone. I thought both sides swung the bat real well. I know the pitchers are just working on some stuff. It makes you feel good about where you are at to get in there and square some stuff up and get back in the flow of it.
It’s obviously good to make a first impression, but a long way to go. A lot more at-bats. Talk to me at the end of the year."
OK, it's only an intrasquad game, but I can confirm that Mark Reynolds has some serious pop. The Orioles third baseman belted a grand slam in the first inning off Chorye Spoone to give the home team a 4-0 lead.
Reynolds hit a 1-2 pitch off Spoone over the wall in left-center. It was a rough inning overall for Spoone. The young right-hander walked Cesar Izturis to lead off the bottom of the first and then threw a wild pitch. He then issued another walk to Nick Markakis before getting Luke Scott to fly out for the first out.
Vladimir Guerrero reached on an infield single that shortstop Pedro Florimon did well to keep in the infield. Reynolds followed with the homer.
The score remains 4-0 through two innings. Chris Jakubauskas, who started the game for the home team, retired all six hitters he faced, getting six ground balls. Spoone rebounded to pitch a perfect second inning.
(UPDATE): The home team extended its lead to 5-0 on an RBI groundout from Guerrero in the third inning. It was an unearned run because Florimon made an error to allow Brandon Snyder to reach to start the inning. Nick Markakis also singled in the frame, and Luke Scott drew a walk.
The visitors got on the board in the top of the fourth on Randy Winn's solo homer off Troy Patton. However, Adam Jones just made it 6-1 with a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth. Reynolds, the batter before Jones, just missed another homer, flying out to the base of the wall in left field.
Justin Duchscherer threw from 90 feet this morning and sounded a lot more optimistic about his left hip. "No problem," he said. "We'll treat it symptomatically. Hopefully, it's just inflammation."
Duchscherer will not start Wednesday's exhibition against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Chris Tillman will start Wednesday instead. Tillman had been scheduled to pitch Monday in the Grapefruit League opener after Brad Bergesen, but his spot will be taken by Ryan Drese. That means that Drese won't pitch in today's intrasquad game.
Brian Roberts participated in a full workout for the second straight day and looked good. He will not be playing in the intrasquad game. Bor will Derrek Lee, but he did take batting practice today and looked much more comfortable than he did Friday.
Roberts, Lee and a few catchers are likely the only position players not participating in today's intrasquad game.
FOR THE VISITORS
Matt Angle, RF
Randy Winn, DH
Felix Pie, CF
Nolan Reimold, LF
Josh Bell, 3B
Joe Mahoney, 1B
Ryan Adams, 2B
Craig Tatum, C
Pedro Florimon, SS
Chorye Spoone, SP
FOR THE HOME TEAM
Cesar Izturis, 2B
Nick Markakis, RF
Luke Scott, LF
Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Mark Reynolds, 3B
Adam Jones, CF
J.J. Hardy, SS
Matt Wieters, C
Brandon Snyder, 1B
Chris Jakubauskas, SP
Other pitchers scheduled to throw in the eight-inning game: Ryan Drese, Adrian Rosario, Wynn Pelzer, Raul Rivero, Troy Patton, Armando Gabino, Pedro Viola, Mike Ballard, Chris George, Nick Bierbrodt, Alberto Castillo and Mark Worrell
Orioles pitcher Justin Duchscherer, who was shut down with recurring hip soreness, acknowledges that his latest discomfort in his surgically repaired left hip is concerning.
"Anytime my hip doesn't feel 100 percent, I'm concerned because I've been through this three times before," he said. "Like I said, we're going to be cautious and make sure we don't push it too far too quick because I know the result of that."
Asked how frustrated he is, Duchscherer said: "Ten out of 10. I hope I wasn't rude yesterday. I just wasn't in the mood to talk about it. It's been a long road. It's certainly difficult."
Duchscherer has had three surgeries on his hip, two on the right side and one on the left. He had an operation on his left hip June 7.
"I know what it's supposed to feel like, and I know the last couple days it hasn't felt as good as it was feeling, so when something like that happens, obviously my first move is to go in there and say: 'Hey, something's not right. Let's see what we can do to keep it from getting worse.' That's kind of where we're at," Duchscherer said.
He'll try and play catch today, but his start Wednesday is in jeopardy.
"I haven't even talked about it," he said.
Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who had missed the previous three workouts with a stiff neck, decided to return to one of the back fields before most of his teammates had already finished up to take a few more swings. That's a good sign for the Orioles, who need their leadoff man healthy.
"Hopefully, [the neck discomfort has] been knocked out for the most part," he said. "I’ll probably have to manage it for the next week or so for sure but hopefully not for an extended period of time. It’s just continually gotten better. We’re just trying to get to the point where it was good enough where we weren’t going to go out there and think about it."
Roberts had said all along that he didn't think it was anything serious and it was unrelated to the herniated disk in his lower back that limited him to 59 games last year.
"I wasn’t worried about it being anything major, but any time you’re hurt as a baseball player, you got to think about it," he said. "I wasn’t overly concerned."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said: "Robby had a good look on his face. You can tell he felt a lot better."
As for other news, Showalter reiterated that Justin Duchscherer (hip discomfort) will be re-evaluated in 48 hours. That Duchscherer is feeling any discomfort at all obviously isn't good news, but the Orioles knew what they were getting with the pitcher. He has had three surgeries on his hip. It's also probably not a good sign that Duchscherer declined comment about it. Showalter didn't want to say too much on Duchscherer, though he did say that no further tests are scheduled at this point. Obviously, the pitcher's outing on Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla., is in jeopardy.
I'd expect the Kevin Millwood questions to roll in if it comes out that Duchscherer will miss significant time. Showalter, not addressing Millwood specifically, said that he is comfortable with the team's starting pitching depth.
First baseman Derrek Lee, who took live batting practice for the first time Friday after having his right thumb surgically-repaired in November, sat out BP today but is scheduled to take it tomorrow. He just had some normal soreness that the team expected.
Nonroster invitee Mitch Atkins, who has been sidelined for much of the spring, will have a MRI on his left oblique. Showalter said he's progressing but it has obviously been a long process.
And finally, outfielder Nolan Reimold had a pretty impressive batting practice session today, prompting Showalter to say, "We may have to take a loan out to pay for all the balls," that the right-handed hitter deposited over the fence. Showalter said that Reimold has a different look to him this spring.
Pitcher Justin Duchscherer was not on the field for the start of today's workout, which raised some antennae. He apparently has been complaining of some hip soreness, so the team has shelved him for at least the next two days.
"We're going to give him 48 hours and see where he is,'' president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said.
Duchscherer came into camp as a high-risk, small-investment free-agent signing. The Orioles gambled $700,000 on him, even though he made only five game appearances over the last two seasons because of hip surgery and depression issues.
The Orioles are hoping he'll be able to regain the form that made him a very effective starting pitcher and reliever, but the signing was made with the understanding that he was a long shot to get through the season without any health problems. We'll pass along more on this after the workout.
Instant update: Just tried to check with Duchscherer on his condition but he said he wasn't ready comment on the situation.
Brian Roberts is on the field for today's workout, which is certainly a positive development. He underwent some ultrasound treatment on his sore neck after today's team photo session and was in full uniform to take part in early warm-ups.
First baseman Derrek Lee said early today that he'll take the day off from hitting live pitching after waking up with some soreness in his surgically repaired thumb. That's not great news, but he said that he has had to battle through some soreness after every advancement in his rehabilitation.
"It's a little tender,'' he said, "but that's probably to be expected. Overly cautious. I was hoping I would wake up feeling 100 percent, but I kind of knew I'd wake up sore. When I first did soft toss, the next day it was sore. Every step has been like that, so I'm not going to try and fight through it. Just come back tomorrow."
Second baseman Brian Roberts, who had missed the previous three workouts with a stiff neck, said that he was feeling much better and was hopeful that he could participate today. However, he still hadn't gotten the approval of the athletic training staff. He was hoping that would come soon.
Also, right fielder Nick Markakis bought a ping pong table and had it set up in the clubhouse this morning. (Yes, he got manager Buck Showalter's approval, and yes, the table does have some orange and black to it). New shortstop J.J. Hardy was cleaning up on the competition, including a victory over Markakis, who was the team's unofficial reigning ping pong champ.
Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts missed his fourth straight workout today with a stiff neck, and he doesn't sound too confident that he'll be able to participate tomorrow. Meanwhile, first baseman Derrek Lee, who had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb in November, took batting practice for the first time. He wants to see how his thumb feels tomorrow before he decides how he'll proceed. Below are some comments from both:
On whether he's improving: “It’s getting better every day. It’s definitely better than it was a couple days ago. It’s the time of the year where you just want to get it completely gone before you go back out there again.”
On whether he'll participate in tomorrow's workout: "I don’t really try to guess about tomorrow. To tell you the truth, it probably hasn’t really been my call. It’s a group effort. Everybody’s kind of collaborating to make the right decision. You don’t want something that’s two days to last 10 days. If one more day does you more good than harm, then you take one more day.”
On how he'd rank where he feels from one to 10: “If it was during the season, I’d be playing. Sometimes you play with a 10, sometimes you play with a two.”
On how he felt: "On the sweet spot, no pain. I hit a few off the end; it didn’t feel too good. Jam and it didn’t feel too good. But other than that, not bad."
On how he'll proceed: "See how it feels in the morning. If it feels fine, I’ll take more swings tomorrow. If it doesn’t, I’ll probably step back a little bit. So I’ll just play it by ear."
On whether he was nervous: "A lot of nerves. I’ve never had surgery. I didn’t know how it was going to respond. I was a little anxious about it. I got a lot of work to do, but it’s a good first step."
On making sure he doesn't rush back: "It’s still very early. [Manager Buck Showalter] already told me I wasn’t playing the first couple of games. But with that being said, you don’t want to be too far behind. April 1 comes really quick. I understand I’m a little behind but you don’t want to fall too far behind."
I'll have comments from Brian Roberts and Derrek Lee on the blog shortly, but first, just a few quick hits from manager Buck Showalter's post-workout media session.
Showalter was pleased with Derrek Lee's first live batting practice session of the spring. "It went well," Showalter said. 'He was pretty upbeat."
As for Roberts, Showalter said that the second baseman's stiff neck was a little better than yesterday, but that was about the only update on him. Roberts said that if it were the regular season, he could play. Still, Roberts isn't sure whether he'll participate in tomorrow's workout.
The Orioles will play an intrasquad game Sunday. As of now, the plan is to play it at remodeled Ed Smith Stadium. The pitchers scheduled to pitch in that game are Ryan Drese, Adrian Rosario, Wynn Pelzer, Mike Ballard, Raul Rivero, Nick Bierbrodt, Chris Jakubauskas, Troy Patton, Chorye Spoone, Armando Gabino and Pedro Viola.
Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman and Koji Uehara will all pitch on Monday versus the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Orioles' Grapefruit League opener. Paul Maholm will start for the Pirates. Jeremy Guthrie and Rick VandenHurk will pitch Tuesday against Tampa Bay. The Rays will start Andy Sonnanstine. Justin Duchscherer and Zach Britton will pitch Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater. Brian Matusz and Rosario will pitch Thursday with Jake Arrieta and Drese going Friday. Tillman and Bergesen will pitch again on Saturday.
Only a few pitchers threw bullpen sessions today as pitching coach Mark Connor continues to try to give his guys occasional days off from throwing.
Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail said that the team is not worried about Brian Roberts even as the veteran second baseman missed a third straight workout today because of a stiff neck.
“I don’t have any information to suggest it’s a concern at this present time,” MacPhail said.
Roberts woke up Wednesday morning with a sore neck. He had X-rays taken, but it was diagnosed as muscle spasms. Roberts said he didn’t think the discomfort was related to the herniated disk in his lower back, which limited him to 59 games last year.
MacPhail said that as of now, no further tests are planned on Roberts, whose condition has steadily improved. He also said that he’s hopeful that the leadoff hitter will rejoin workouts tomorrow.
“It’s Feb. 25. We have a long way to go,” MacPhail said.
New Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee is planning to take batting practice today for the first time since having surgery to repair the torn ligament in his right thumb in November.
Lee has been swinging a bat and hitting soft toss, but this will be his first time hitting off one of the coaches.
The Orioles will proceed with caution with Lee, and he was unlikely to play in the first couple of exhibition games anyway.
As for second baseman Brian Roberts, he's at Ed Smith Stadium but he wasn't available to the media during the 30 minutes of clubhouse access this morning (the team has some morning meetings). Roberts said yesterday that he was hoping to rejoin workouts either today or tomorrow.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter just met with the media after the completion of another workout. Here are a couple of tidbits:
Pitcher Josh Rupe, a nonroster invitee, did not participate in today's workout and was sent home with the stomach flu. Showalter is optimistic that Rupe will return tomorrow.
Showalter said that second baseman Brian Roberts (stiff neck) is about 50 percent improved and he's hopeful that he'll return to the field tomorrow. Roberts spent the day in the training room getting treatment on his neck. Showalter said that Roberts was unlikely to play in Monday's first exhibition game even if he didn't have the neck issues.
Derrek Lee is expected to hit live pitching either tomorrow or Saturday.
Showalter praised Chris TIllman's live batting practice session today. Justin Duchscherer, Jeremy Accardo, Jim Johnson, Michael Gonzalez and Jake Arrieta were among the other pitchers to throw.
Orioles starter Justin Duchscherer passed another test today, exiting his live batting practice session pleased with the crispness of his pitches and encouraged by how he felt physically.
"I felt awesome," Duchscherer said. "Everything was good. I had a little trouble with my breaking ball a couple of days ago, and today it was great. I threw probably seven, eight of them, and I threw all of them for strikes."
Duchscherer, who has made just five starts since 2008 because of various injuries and ailments, is scheduled to throw in the Orioles' third Grapefruit League game against the Philadelphia Phillies next Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla.
"I feel like I’m not behind," he said. "The last couple of years, I’ve been behind. Just to be on regular schedule with everybody else, to do what they’re doing, feels good. ... When I’m healthy, this is where I should be. The last couple of years, I haven’t had that luxury. I feel like I’m exactly where I should be to be ready when the season starts."
After finishing up his live batting practice session, Duchscherer consulted with head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, which was enough to prompt some questions because of the pitcher's injury history. However, Duchscherer simply asked Bancells to help him out with some stretches.
"I had Richie come in and stretch me to make sure I can minimize that [soreness] and keep going on my progression," he said.
Brian Roberts, who missed yesterday's workout and went for X-rays after waking up with neck stiffness, will not work out today, but said his neck feels better.
"I'm not going out today,'' he said, "but it's better. I'm going to get some treatment and just try to get it calmed down. Hopefully, I'll be out there tomorrow."
Also, Orioles manager Buck Showalter had Hall of Famer Frank Robinson speak to his team before they went out to the field this morning. Robinson spoke in the same clubhouse where his number is retired on a plaque along with the rest of the Orioles greats.
Right-hander Kevin Millwood, who was the Orioles’ Opening Day starter last season, is now in Irvine, Calif., working out and waiting for a job.
For the past week, Millwood, 36, has been training at a Southern California facility run by his agent, Scott Boras. Millwood works out every morning, running, lifting weights and throwing. Every two to three days, he has thrown a bullpen side session and expects to pitch to college hitters next week.
“I am just kind of keeping going, staying in shape and getting my arm ready to go when something does happen,” Millwood said.
A free agent this past offseason, Millwood was 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA in 31 starts with the Orioles in 2010. He had a disastrous stint in June and July, posting an 8.94 ERA in nine starts. In the first two months and final two months of 2010, spanning 22 starts, Millwood posted a 3.78 ERA. A lack of run support cost him, though, and he lost his first eight decisions of the season.
In 2009, Millwood was 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA in 31 starts with the Texas Rangers before he was dealt to the Orioles that December.
The Orioles had lukewarm interest in re-signing Millwood this winter but used their available funds in other areas. The New York Yankees have been linked to Millwood, but the sides have not been able to work out a deal. At various points in the offseason, Millwood drew interest from the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies, among others.
One team that could be a potential fit is the St. Louis Cardinals, which may have lost ace Adam Wainwright for an extended period because of an injury on Monday. Wainwright was sent back to St. Louis on Wednesday to have his right elbow examined, and it is feared he might need surgery -- a significant blow to the perennially contending Cardinals.
For now, Millwood is relegated to a waiting game hoping someone provides an opportunity. It’s the first time since 1997 that he isn’t assured of pitching in the majors.
“It’s definitely a little strange, but I still want to play and still feel like there is a lot left and I feel like I can contribute in a good way,” he said. “So I am kind of hanging out and making sure I am ready to go when and if somebody needs me.”
Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts returned to Ed Smith Stadium after getting X-rays and downplayed his stiff neck.
"We probably all had a stiff neck at some point in our life, right? I'm not overly concerned," he said.
Of course, any ailment involving Roberts will raise panic after he played just 59 games last season because of a herniated disk in his back.
Asked whether he understood that, Roberts was dismissive, saying: "I understand there's about a two feet difference from where my back hurt and where my neck hurt. So I'm pretty sure they are not related."
Roberts returned to the stadium to get some treatment. He isn't sure whether he'll be able to participate in tomorrow's workout.
"No idea. We will just see how it feels," Roberts said "We tried to get it calmed down, at least, so whenever it does feel fine, I'll go out there. It's the third day of spring training."
Orioles pitcher Troy Patton's court setting, which had been rescheduled for Friday, will now take place March 30 in Houston. That will likely allow Patton to not miss any time during spring training or during the 2011 season.
The Orioles' season opener is April 1, while Triple-A Norfolk will begin April 7. The 25-year-old left-hander is a long shot to make the Orioles' Opening Day roster.
Patton was charged with DWI on Jan. 23, when his vehicle ran over a curb in a Houston city street. He made a preliminary appearance at the Harris County Criminal Court on Jan. 28, according to Harris County Assistant District Attorney Donna Hawkins.
Patton, who has not had a previous drunken driving arrest according to Houston police, could potentially offer his plea March 30 if the hearing is not reset again. Hawkins said it is not unusual for court dates to be reset more than once.
It's possible that Patton requests admittance into an accelerated rehabilitation program for first-time offenders -- which would involve a strict year of probation.
Patton pitched in one game for the Orioles in 2010 after missing most of the past two seasons because of injury.
Second baseman Brian Roberts, who has been dogged by lower back problems for the past year, woke up with a sore neck and was not on the field for today's infield workouts. Manager Buck Showalter confirmed that Roberts likely was headed out for an X-ray to ascertain the source of the discomfort.
When the starting infield took the field, Cesar Izturis worked out in Roberts' place at second base.
Roberts left the complex at about 11:15. It's expected that he'll undergo further evaluation.
Buck Showalter already had announced that Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman would start Monday's Grapefruit League opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Bradenton, Fla., and today he mapped out the first turn through the spring rotation.
Jeremy Guthrie will start the home opener against the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium and newly signed Justin Duchscherer will start against the Phillies in Clearwater. Brian Matusz and Adrian Rosario will face the Twins on March 3 in Sarasota before Jake Arrieta and Ryan Drese throw against the Tigers at Lakeland.
Obviously, relievers will fill in the blanks after the starting candidates pitch 2 to 3 innings.
The Orioles had to move their regular batting practice off the northeast practice field because too many balls were wreaking havoc in the fan parking lot. The wind has been blowing out in the direction of left field, making the fence reachable for even the lightest-hitting players.
So, today, they used the field that has the dimensions of Camden Yards, but that didn't keep Vladimir Guerrero in the house. He has an interesting BP routine, which starts with some soft swing to the opposite field and ends with a laser show. He finished with a ball over the left-center-field fence that was never more than 25 feet off the ground.
Obviously, there's still a lot of work to be done around the renovated complex, so look for some modifications to be made over the next few weeks to keep batting practice on the back fields from interfering with traffic on the main drag east of the complex.
Second baseman Brian Roberts, the longest-tenured member of the Orioles, acknowledged that he looked around his batting practice group during the team's first full-squad workout yesterday and had a prevailing thought.
"It was [Mark] Reynolds, [Derrek] Lee even though he’s not really hitting, J.J. [Hardy], Cesar [Izturis]. I ... said, ‘Man, this is a talented group of players,’ " Roberts said. "Obviously at times over the years, we’ve had talented pieces in different places. But I think as a core and as a group, this is as talented as we’ve been in a long time."
That obviously includes new designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, a guy Roberts never thought he'd able to call a teammate.
"Certainly, I think you are talking about a Hall of Fame-type guy when you look at Vladi," Roberts said. "It never crossed my mind when he turned down that contract with us seven, eight years ago, that he would ever end up in an O’s uniform. It’s a little surreal and strange, but it’s great to have [him]."
Roberts, 33, has been attending Orioles big league spring training for almost a decade. This year, he said, has a little different feel, and the best part about it is he is healthy again after struggling with a herniated disk in his back all last spring.
Then, there is the Buck Showalter factor. Roberts said he enjoyed the manager's team motivational video on Sunday and he agreed with the message that it's time for the team to take the next step.
"I don’t think anybody needed to be told that," Roberts said. "It’s getting close to put-up-or-shut-up time in this clubhouse and in this organization. [President of baseball operations] Andy MacPhail and [owner] Mr. Angelos have really gone out and done a great job and opened things up for us. They’ve provided us with an opportunity to go out there as players and make it happen."
Buck Showalter will send Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman to the mound for the first exhibition game next Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. Both pitchers will pitch either two or three innings.
For Sunday's intrasquad game, Showalter said that he will go largely with relievers.
There's quite a buzz around camp about the methods that manager Buck Showalter uses to encourage team unity. The players don't want to get too specific about their team-building field trip on Sunday night, but all seem to think that Showalter has a special skill for bringing players together.
"I think it feels different this spring,'' said pitcher Jake Arrieta, who is in his fourth major league training camp, "mainly for the fact that everyone has sort of come together as one unit as a team. A lot of relationships have already started to build. I think it's unusual to see that this early."
New third baseman Mark Reynolds described the Sunday night trip to a local movie theater as very "cool."
"We went to the theater, and he sat us down and went through some general things and he had a little motivational video for us,'' Reynolds said. "Too bad we didn't have a game last night, because most of us were ready to roll."
The first full-squad workout yesterday brought all the players together on the field, and one major difference is the way Showalter expects the pitchers and catchers -- who have been working out for a week -- to help put the position players through the drills.
"I guess it's unusual to have the camp run through us,'' Arrieta said, "but when you think about it, everything kind of happens on our cue. If we are able to run these kinds of things correctly and let the position guys follow our lead, it makes Buck's job easier and [John Russell's] job easier. They have put the responsibility squarely on our shoulders, and that's what the pitchers and catchers should want."
A quick reminder: While my Orioles Insider partners are in sunny Florida watching and reporting on baseball, I’ll be in rainy South-central Pennsylvania tonight talking baseball.
(By the way, there are no violins being played for me in Sarasota. While those guys are working 12-hour days without a break, I’m on vacation until I head down there in March. So I am getting the better of the deal for now.)
Tonight at 7 p.m., I’ll be taking an hour or two out of my vacation plans to talk baseball, and specifically the Orioles, at Zion Lutheran Church at 2215 Brandywine Lane in York. It’s a fundraiser for the church’s dilapidated furnace.
I’ll be joined by Jim Seip, who covers the York Revolution for the York Daily Record. Jim will talk about the 2010 Atlantic League champions and the overall league in 2011.
And because we are in Pennsylvania, and because “national baseball writer” is still part of my responsibilities, we’ll speak all things MLB, including the Philadelphia Phillies’ dominating rotation, the New York Yankees’ lack of one and the Boston Red Sox revamped lineup.
Come armed with questions and we’ll try to answer them as we get revved up for the 2011 baseball season. Should be a good time.
The church isn’t far from Interstate 83 and Route 30, so it’s not a bad drive for those in northern Maryland or Southern Pa.
There is no admission fee, though a freewill offering will be taken for Zion’s new furnace fund. For more information, call the church at 717-767-4673.
After Orioles players reported to Ed Smith Stadium last night for the first full-team meeting, they were herded out to buses and taken to a local movie theater.
There, as part of manager Buck Showalter’s presentation to the team, he showed them a 12-minute custom-made highlight video set to music. The video celebrated individual highlights of the players and included other motivational footage, such as clips from past Orioles bench-clearing brawls.
I haven’t seen it, but I’m told that the video was well done, and also well received. You never know how players are going to react to these types of things. They could think it’s corny or they could eat it up. Showalter has done this sort of thing in the past and one former player -- Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young -- still raves about how fired up he and his teammates got after one watching the highlight video.
I’ll be able to get reaction for you later today after the team’s first full-squad workout. The clubhouse is closed this morning as the players undergo their physicals.
However, the message Showalter was sending to his players seems pretty clear: There is enough talent in the room, and it’s time to come together as a team and start winning games.
Not wanting pitching prospect Luis Lebron to do too much too soon, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that the right-handed reliever will throw only from flat ground for the time being. Lebron, who had Tommy John elbow ligament-reconstruction surgery last May, threw two bullpen sessions from off the mound since arriving at spring training, but the club has decided to back off on him.
"It's not a setback," Showalter said. "Nothing is hurting or anything. We just don't think he's quite ready. In this environment with people throwing, you could tell that he might feel like there's an allure to push himself, and he shouldn't. He's come so far. So you won't see him throwing off the rubber."
Also, nonroster invitee Mitch Atkins was sent home before today's workout with a stomach illness. Atkins has already been sidelined with a left oblique strain.
Showalter will conduct a full-team meeting tonight ahead of tomorrow's first full-team workout. He declined to reveal his plans, but the manager has a few things up his sleeve to fire up the team.
Showalter also said that the team will play an intrasquad game next Sunday.
Even when his velocity was down and he looked extremely uncomfortable last spring, Orioles reliever Michael Gonzalez told anybody and everybody that he was healthy and he would be ready "when the lights come on" for the regular season. You know how that story ended.
Gonzalez, who was signed to a two-year, $12 million deal to serve as the Orioles' closer, blew two of his first three save opportunities before going on the disabled list for 3 1/2 months with a left shoulder strain.
"As a competitor, you say, ‘Oh, it’s just soreness, it doesn’t feel too good, but it’s going to feel better.’ I definitely learned last year about talking a little bit too much, about saying, ‘When the lights come on, I’ll be ready,’ " Gonzalez said. "The thing is for the last 10 years in my professional career, when the lights turn on, I am ready. It wasn’t a big deal for me to go and say that. I don’t worry about spring training just for the fact that the last eight years, I’m throwing 84 to 86 [mph] and once the game days start, I’m anywhere between 93 to 96. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind. I don’t want to say I regret that, but when you can do it consistently eight, nine years in a row, then why isn’t it going to happen this year? That’s what I was dealing with. I was fighting with that. I felt some soreness, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal."
Gonzalez returned from the disabled list and pitched to a 1.76 ERA in his first 18 appearances. Over his last 26 outings, the lefty had a 2.76 ERA. He acknowledged the strong finish gave him extra motivation for the 2011 season.
He has already thrown three bullpen sessions, and he looks like a far different pitcher than he did at this time last season.
"I’m 32 years old. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I feel like I’m 20 again. That’s not the case," he said. "I can’t tell you I feel the best shape I have in my life. I can say that I feel the best I feel for 32, man. I really busted my butt, and I really worked hard in the offseason with my shoulder. I don’t know how I look from the outside, but I feel like I’m night and day. Just the release point, the way my arm is, the way I’m throwing my bullpens, I feel night and day from how I felt last year. I’m in a positive mode. I feel really good about it."
Aside from a couple of the new arrivals, mainly Derrek Lee, it was a pretty quiet day at Orioles camp. Brad Bergesen, who was sent home a day earlier with flu-like symptoms, returned and threw his scheduled bullpen session. Nonroster invitee Mitch Atkins (left oblique strain) remains sidelined, and manager Buck Showalter said his recovery is going pretty slowly.
Pitchers will get the day off tomorrow from throwing bullpen sessions before starting to throw live batting price Monday. At first, hitters won't be swinging. It's more an exercise for the pitchers just to remind them what it's like to throw with hitters back in the box.
The only Orioles that have not been at Ed Smith Stadium are right fielder Nick Markakis and minor league shortstop Pedro Florimon. However, Markakis is in Sarasota and has been in touch with the team, and club officials expect Florimon to report by tomorrow.
"It is what it is," Showalter said. "It’s good to see. It seems like everybody is ready to get moving. But it’s voluntary. If it’s voluntary and somebody doesn’t show up, we shouldn’t go, ‘why the hell isn’t he here.' ”
As Peter Schmuck wrote earlier, Lee, who had thumb surgery this offseason, is probably a week to 10 days away from taking live batting practice. Lee is hitting soft toss, though Showalter said that they are planning to take it slow with the veteran first baseman, just like they are doing with injury-prone pitchers Justin Duchscherer and Koji Uehara.
"We know where the finish line is on him," Showalter said. "We have a pretty good idea how he’s going to fit if he’s healthy."
Showalter said that several others, like Joe Mahoney and Brandon Snyder, will get an opportunity to play first early in exhibition games to ease the burden on Lee.
And finally, Showalter said it's "not impossible" that both Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold could make the club.
"There is a place for them," he said. "They got to go get it. The way we sit right now in February could be different than things between now and at the end of March. You keep all your options open and see what presents itself. Let’s get to camp, see where things stand for a while and the pieces may start moving. I hope not. I’m just trying to get the 25 we are going north with. It’s not impossible. On Feb 19, everything is possible. But we all know the reality of the way it looks like it may work out."
New Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee arrived in the Orioles clubhouse and took a few minutes to talk to the O's media. He said that his surgically repaired thumb is ahead of schedule, but he probably won't start hitting live pitching for a couple of weeks.
Lee also talked about the rebuilt Orioles lineup, in which he is expected to bat either third or fifth -- in front or behind newly signed DH Vladimir Guerrero.
"We've got a good lineup,'' Lee said. "It's exciting. One through nine, we've got guys who can hit. We've got some speed in the lineup. So, I think we're going to be able to score a lot of runs. When you're scoring runs it's fun. When you're not scoring runs, it can be frustrating."
When Lee signed with the O's and took part in a conference call with the media last month, he seemed upbeat about the club's offensive potential, and that was before the Orioles signed Guerrero to join him at the heart of the lineup. Now, he says he's even more excited.
"I'm fired up,'' he said."This guy is one of the premier hitters in the game. He's just a pure hitter. This guy falls out of bed hitting. So you stick him in the middle of the lineup and it just makes guys around him better. He's one of those guys other teams have to focus on. When he's hot, he can carry a team for two or three weeks at a time."
So, what does he think about the overall outlook for the team?
"I think we're going to be a good team,'' he said. "I think we're going to score runs. We've got a lot of young pitchers with good arms, so I think we're going to be OK. You throw Kevin Gregg into that bullpen, he's going to give those guys some leadership there. I think we're going to have a good year. I think it's going to be fun."
Felix Pie said that Luke Scott is still "my man. Nothing has changed." But that doesn't mean he's ready to concede the starting left field job to him.
With the addition of Vladimir Guerrero to serve as the designated hitter, it's expected that Scott will become the starter in left. But Pie said that he's prepared to fight for that job.
"For me, I’m not mad," Pie said. "I’m happy Guerrero is here. He can help the team to win. I know I have to do my job to be the starter in left field. That’s what I’m going to try to do. Like I said, the manager is going to make the decisions on who is going to start in left field."
Pie began the 2009 season as the starter in left field, but he ultimately lost that job to Nolan Reimold. He didn't handle it well at the time, but teammates have said that the 26-year-old has matured.
Asked whether he would be able to handle the situation better now, Pie said, "I came here after the trade and started every day in left field. Something happened and [Reimold] played more than me. Now, I feel that I’m ready to play every day. If the manager thinks I’m going to be on the bench and play some days in left, that’s his decision. I can’t control that. The only thing I can control is to play hard every and do my job when he puts me in the field to play."
Left fielder Luke Scott and infield prospect Ryan Adams became the latest two position players to arrive at camp ahead of Sunday's report date. That leaves just three players who haven't yet arrived: first baseman Derrek Lee, right fielder Nick Markakis and minor league shortstop Pedro Florimon.
Nolan Reimold, who arrived at Ed Smith yesterday afternoon, said that it's "night and day" comparing how he feels now with how he felt last year at this time. Last spring, Reimold was still limited after having surgery on his Achilles, and he was also dealing with some off-the-field issues.
"Last year when I came in, I was not in the best of shape amongst other things," Reimold said. "This year, I feel great, I’m ready to go. I had a good offseason and I’m looking forward to the year ... I'm 100 percent."
Reimold is well aware that the late signing of Vladimir Guerrero pushes Luke Scott to left field, and means that he's likely competing with Felix Pie for the fourth outfield role.
"He’s a great player. Of course, they are going to sign him," Reimold said when asked about Guerrero. "I just got to take care of my self and my business and hopefully I can help the team out this year. ... I’ll be ready to play if I’m in the lineup, if I’m on the team, whatever. I’m planning on having a great spring."
A couple of other things: Brad Bergesen, who was sent home yesterday because he was sick, is back at Ed Smith and ready for today's workout. Former Orioles and current instructors Brady Anderson and Mike Bordick have also arrived.
Vladimir Guerrero received his new Orioles' jersey from manager Buck Showalter, and said, "I’ve been feeling very much at home, they are like family here."
Guerrero passed his physical, making official today his one-year, $8 million deal with the Orioles. In a news conference this afternoon in a room adjacent to the clubhouse at Ed Smith Stadium and attended by Jeremy Guthrie and Adam Jones among others, the 36-year-old slugger said that he's not thinking about retirement and he just wants to stay healthy and help the Orioles win.
"Hopefully, God-willing, I’m going to have a healthy, productive year," he said, speaking through agent and translator, Fernando Cuza. "I’d like to stay in the lineup like I did last year. If I stay in the lineup, I feel like I can be very productive."
Guerrero currently has 436 home runs, and has no plans on stopping there.
"I haven’t thought about retirement yet," he said. "My whole mindset is to have a good year, continue playing and if I stay healthy and things keep going well for me, I’m going to continue playing. Five hundred home runs is definitely something I’m after. And whatever comes after that."
The news conference was pretty anti-climactic, but Guerrero did garner some laughs when he said, "Since I was little, I’ve always swung at bad pitches.”
Before putting his signature to a contract and getting Guerrero to do the same, president of baseball of operations Andy MacPhail lauded the player's achievements, and thanked team owner Peter Angelos.
"It’s rare when you get a chance to introduce someone who has had over 10 seasons of 100-plus RBIs, he’s been an MVP award winner, lifetime .320 hitter, and I can’t remember in recent memory where we’ve made a signing that has generated as much enthusiasm as this one has.
"I would be remiss if I really did not thank ownership for this. I blew past a couple numbers that we had agreed on and this signing certainly takes us there. I think we’ll have a payroll in excess of $20 million where we were a year ago. This is really ownership’s objective to try to capture and sustain the momentum that we showed when Buck came on board in August and we played with almost a .600 winning percentage. We’re very grateful to Peter and his family to be able to make this announcement today."
Third baseman Josh Bell and outfielder Nolan Reimold have arrived at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, and the reports of Bell's new physique were not exaggerated. He looks terrific, but he quickly tried to make the point that his weight wasn't the reason he struggled at the plate at the major league level last year.
"I really didn't want this spring to be about my weight,'' he said. "It's about performance. I don't think my weight was the problem. I'm going to go about it the same way this year. Just come in and perform."
The Orioles acquired veteran third baseman Mark Reynolds over the winter, which could push Bell back to Triple-A, but manager Buck Showalter said earlier in the week that there are scenarios in which Bell makes the team in a reserve role.
Things have certainly picked up around here. The arrival of Vladimir Guerrero and several other Orioles will do that. Anyway, here is the rundown:
Cesar Izturis, Nick Green, Randy Winn and Felix Pie all were in the clubhouse for the first time today. Josh Bell also has since reported and it's striking how much better shape he appears to be in than last spring.
Instead of mentioning the position players that are here, it's easier to mention those who aren't. The position players who haven't arrived are infielders Pedro Florimon, Derrek Lee and Ryan Adams, and outfielders Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold and Luke Scott. Markakis is expected here later today.
Pie entered with a huge smile on his face and immediately rushed Guerrero to say hello. If there was any hard feelings for the fact that Guerrero's addition pushes Scott to left field and Pie to a bench role, it wasn't evident.
Both Pie and Izturis immediately made their rounds in the clubhouse. Izturis, the starting shortstop the past two seasons who re-signed with the Orioles to serve as a utility man behind J.J. Hardy, may be the most popular Oriole among his teammates.
"When I signed, I got like 25 calls from the players," Izturis said. "I told my wife, ‘Look at my phone.’ It was exciting. It really felt good. I’m here and I’m happy. It’s going to be great."
Izturis said that he has been taking groundballs at both second and third base to prepare for his new role. He also called Hardy a great guy, and said his addition will really help the Orioles. His comments were no surprise as Izturis is as classy as they come.
"Like I said before, the organization has been great for me the two years that I have played here, and [President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail and manager Buck Showalter], they were talking to me the whole time, saying they needed me here. I like the club, I like the people. There were a lot of teams interested in me, but nothing to play every day so why go somewhere else? My family, they are happy in Baltimore. You have to consider that with them, too. They were excited."
Speaking of Guerrero, he's expected to be out on the field for the workout today. He'll also speak to the media in a 2 p.m. news conference. Guerrero played catch with Pie and then went to the indoor batting cages to get some swings in.
Also, Brad Bergesen has been feeling under the weather for several days. He was sent home today.
And finally an update on former 2009 first-round pick Matt Hobgood. He had an MRI on his right shoulder yesterday and he'll remain in a therapy and rehab program for another four-to-six weeks before being re-evaluated, If he is doing well at the end of the four-to-six week period, Hobgood could start a throwing program. Throwing programs traditionally take about eight to nine weeks before pitchers are able to get in any games, so that means even if there are no setbacks, you probably won't see Hobgood on the mound until late June, early July at the earliest.
While Vladimir Guerrero was suiting up for his first workout after finalizing his contract this morning, a few more position players arrived. Felix Pie, Cesar Izturis and Nick Green are in the clubhouse, and there's talk that Nick Markakis may arrive later in the day.
The first official full-squad workout it Monday, but we'll all be out watching Guerrero take his first swings in the batting cage today.
Pitcher Alfredo Simon was officially placed on Major League Baseball's restricted list today to make room for Vladimir Guerrero whose signing became official this morning.
Simon, who went 4-2 with a 4.93 ERA and 17 saves in 49 appearances in 2010, remains in a Dominican Republic jail as the prime suspect in a fatal shooting incident on New Year's Day in the Dominican Republic.
The restricted list is for players unable to perform baseball duties for reasons other than injury.
While on the restricted list, a player does not get paid and does not accrue service time.
The move was expected as it had become clear that Simon, who has been denied bail, wasn't going to be able to be in Sarasota by Feb. 26, which is major league baseball's mandatory reporting date.
Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero is officially an Oriole. He passed his physical and finalized the one-year, $8 million agreement he reached with the club on Feb. 4.
Guerrero, who turned 36 last week, will likely move right into the cleanup spot in the Orioles lineup and push Luke Scott out of the DH role and into left field. He was the final piece in the offensive overhaul that also included the acquisition of power-hitting third baseman Mark Reynolds, veteran first baseman Derrek Lee and shortstop J.J. Hardy.
It took longer than usual to get Guerrero together with the Orioles medical staff, but he was not required to report to training camp until Sunday. Pitchers and catchers – and a number of position players – have been working out at the Ed Smith Stadium training complex since Monday, but the first official full-squad workout is on Monday. Guerrero has been in the clubhouse at Ed Smith the past two days, but hasn't worked out or taken batting practice as he awaited the physical results.
A news conference with Guerrero, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and manager Buck Showalter will take place this afternoon,
The addition of the potential Hall of Fame slugger has been well-received by Orioles fans, who watched the O’s struggle to score runs for much of the 2010 season. Guerrero has 436 career homers and rebounded from a disappointing 2009 performance with the Los Angeles Angels to help lead the Texas Rangers to their first World Series.
He batted .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBI, but his numbers tailed off during the second half of the season and he struggled in the postseason, batting just .200 with 16 strikeouts in 15 games.
The contract calls for a $5 million base salary and $3 million in deferred compensation.
Your eyesight isn’t fading and we haven’t forgotten to pay the electrical bills (not recently, anyway).
Connolly’s has been dark for a few days – and will be for several more.
I am taking a little time off until I head down to Sarasota in March. Meanwhile, Jeff Zrebiec and, yes, Peter Schmuck, are busting their tails in Florida to deliver everything Orioles to you.
But I know there are a lot of thirsty people in Charm City and I have a few things I wanted to mention.
First, it has been a rough week. You all know about the death of Orioles’ umpires’ attendant Ernie Tyler. But his was not the only viewing I attended this week.
Harry Thomas Walker Jr., a former Howard County educator who received his doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Maryland and lived an incredibly interesting life (here’s the obituary), died Saturday of heart failure at age 66.
He was the father of Childs Walker, intrepid Sun reporter, good guy (despite his Gilman education) and occasional guest bartender at Connolly’s. To those bar patrons who have read Childs’ work in various sections in the past decade (his piece on Peter Angelos last summer was a must read) and interacted with Childs through The Toy Department blog or his fantasy sports columns, please keep him in mind during this difficult time.
Childs and I have formed several bonds over the years, including a love for music and the southern rock band, the Drive-By Truckers. Coincidentally, I had the pleasure of seeing the Truckers in concert again Wednesday night, their second gig since releasing their new CD “Go-Go Boots.”
The album – they also released it on vinyl, so I can call it an album – is exceptionally mellow, and, consequently, Wednesday’s Truckers’ show was a little more chilled than normal. There was plenty of the Truckers’ legendary energy and shredding guitars, however. And so I wanted to pass on this regional programming note to my fellow music lovers: The Truckers are playing shows Friday and Saturday at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. I hear both are sold out, but if you can finagle tickets, do so. You won’t regret it, I promise.
One other personal note: Those of you who live in Northern Maryland or York County, Pa. and want to talk a little baseball, I have an event for you. I’ll be talking (and answering questions) about the upcoming baseball season this Monday (Feb. 21) at 7 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church, 2215 Brandywine Lane in York. We’ll cover the Orioles and baseball in general.
I’ll be joined by York Daily Record sportswriter Jim Seip, who covers the York Revolution, the 2010 Atlantic League champs. There is no admission fee, though a freewill offering will be taken for Zion’s new furnace fund. For more information, call the church at 717-767-4673.
OK, with all that housekeeping out of the way, let’s talk a little baseball in here. Vladimir Guerrero is expected to be introduced today in Sarasota as the newest Oriole. Even at age 36, Guerrero becomes the club’s most feared hitter since Albert Belle in 2000 and maybe since Eddie Murray in the early 1980s.
Because he has been so successful throughout his career, because he can hit a ball out of the park at any moment and because, with his free-swinging nature and quick bat, he is a threat to hit any type of pitch thrown anywhere between the two dugouts, Guerrero is one of those guys that the opposition absolutely hates facing.
And that got me thinking. Who is the most feared hitter in the history of the modern day Orioles?
Miguel Tejada was a dangerous hitter and so were Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Brady Anderson, Jim Gentile, Robbie Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro.
But when I think about a hitter that really strikes fear in an opposing pitcher, the list is short. In baseball and in Orioles’ history.
I immediately think of two names: Frank Robinson, who I didn’t see play in an Orioles’ uniform, but boy did I hear the stories; and Murray.
I want to know who you think was the most feared Orioles’ hitter of all time. Not the best or the most successful, necessarily, but the most feared. This is tricky, because pretty much all of Murray’s best years were spent here while Robinson had some great ones, but didn’t get to Baltimore until he was in his 30s.
I am curious to see if Frank wins in a landslide, if it’s a Frank-Eddie or horserace or if there are others who make a run at the title.
Daily Think Special: Who is the most feared hitter in Orioles’ history?
Orioles catching prospect Caleb Joseph is back in major league camp after a difficult season at Bowie and a good experience at the Arizona Fall League.
“I’m just trying to build on what I did in the Fall League,’’ he said. “I learned a whole lot down there. I gained a lot of knowledge and experience and just want to put it into play.”
What he doesn’t want to do is suffer a repeat of his Double-A season, during which he struggled at the plate and – by his own account – compounded that struggle by letting it get weigh too heavily on his mind.
“It was terrible,’’ he said. “I regressed. I had a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure things out. I was not prepared (mentally) for that kind of struggle.”
The Fall League gave him a chance to refine his catching and hitting skills in a more instructional environment, but he said that he learned something very important from the 2010 minor league season.
“That the sun rises the next day,’’ he said. “I’m more prepared with my skills. Nobody’s swing is slump-proof, but I’m in a much better place mentally.”
As I mentioned earlier, many of the Orioles, including manager Buck Showalter, are participating in a charity golf tournament today, which was organized partly by reliever Jim Johnson. So it was a shorter and quieter day than usual.
Nonroster invitee Mitch Atkins has been sidelined with a left oblique strain. Atkins was a long shot to make the club coming in, and this obviously won't help his chances. Rule 5 pick Adrian Rosario was sent home for a second straight day because of a virus. Showalter said Rosario is feeling better.
Starter Justin Duchscherer, who went home early yesterday because he was under the weather, threw a bullpen today and came through fine. Rehabbing pitcher Luis Lebron also threw his second bullpen and was much crisper than he was in his first Tuesday.
Another nonroster invitee, David Riske also continues to impress. The well-traveled veteran threw another bullpen today, and it went pretty much like his first. "I'm a little surprised he's as far along as he is," Showalter said.
Vladimir Guerrero was in the clubhouse again today, though the Orioles still haven't announced that the deal is official, meaning they are still waiting on results from his physical. If he passes, Guerrero will speak to the media Friday afternoon. Showalter spoke to Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington last night to compare notes on Guerrero, who doesn't want any special treatment during drills. Showalter did say it's unlikely that Guerrero will play the outfield in any Grapefruit League games.
And finally, Showalter didn't rule out that the final bench spot goes to an outfielder, which could be good news to the trio of Nolan Reimold, Felix Pie and Randy Winn.
Every spring training, there are stories about guys coming to camp and being more focused and business-like. That's certainly been the buzz over the past couple of days about young Orioles starter Jake Arrieta.
Triple-A pitching coach Mike Griffin, who worked with Arrieta for parts of the previous two seasons, and Orioles starter Brian Matusz both said this morning that they've noticed definite and positive changes in Arrieta, who went 6-6 with a 4.66 ERA in 18 starts for the Orioles in 2010.
They used words like "focused" and "maturity" when asked about Arrieta.
"It’s nice to hear that the staff and people around me -- my peers -- are kind of able to see things like that and notice those types of changes for the better over the course of my career," Arrieta said. "I just think it’s a tribute to work ethic, trying to be professional and knowing when you walk through those doors, it’s about business and about getting something accomplished."
Arrieta is a favorite for one of the final couple of rotation spots, and the 24-year-old is certainly attacking spring training that way.
"I feel that I am on this team, and I don’t say this because I feel like I have a spot automatically," he said. "I’m in this clubhouse, and I carry myself with the intent of being a part of this team. That’s only going to make me work harder, knowing that I’m a guy on this team who has to set an example for some of the younger guys. I feel like that’s the right mindset to have."
Arrieta will throw his second bullpen session today in a workout that will be abbreviated as the Orioles take part in reliever Jim Johnson's charity golf tournament. He said he feels 100 percent physically and has experienced no problems with his elbow.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was as active and vocal today as I've seen him all spring. On Field One, he was presiding over a rundown drill for pitchers. Basically, the pitcher fielded a come-backer with a runner from third breaking toward home. Showalter was instructing his pitcher to walk toward the runner, make them commit and then throw to the base where the runner is headed. Not exactly ground-breaking stuff, but Showalter was making sure his message was getting across loud and clear.
"This is easy stuff, guys," Showalter said. "We can do this."
When Jim Johnson did exactly what Showalter had just finished teaching, the Orioles manager said: 'That's it, that's beautiful. Lock and load."
A couple of other notes: Robert Andino showed up to Ed Smith Stadium to drop his stuff off tonight, becoming the latest early position-player arrival. Showalter has mentioned several times that he expects the battle for that final bench spot to be spirited. The main candidates, at least as I see it, are Andino, Nick Green, Brendan Harris and Jake Fox. I'd say Andino and Fox are the front-runners because they are on the 40-man roster and neither has an option remaining.
I also wanted to correct a mistake I made earlier today. Pitching prospect Matt Hobgood, who has been dealing with a sore right shoulder, was seen by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens today. He did not have a magnetic resonance imaging. I thought that was scheduled for today, but it's actually scheduled for tomorrow. Either way, he'll have an MRI and team officials remain optimistic that he'll avoid surgery and rehab is the right route.
Finally, I'm not much for self-promotion. I've said this several times, but I leave that up to my colleague, Peter Schmuck. However, I'd encourage you to check back on our website later to check out a story I wrote on the Orioles' farm system. It was a little early in the spring to write that type of story, but on a day when Brandon Snyder was trying on catching gear and Hobgood was getting his shoulder looked at, I felt it was appropriate.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter just met with the media after the conclusion of today's workout. There is nothing earth-shattering to report, but there are a couple of tidbits worth passing along.
Pitchers Justin Duchscherer and Adrian Rosario were both sent home because they were under the weather. Neither was scheduled to throw a side session today. Showalter said they could have participated, but the training staff didn't want to risk them being around the other players and a virus spreading around the clubhouse.
Showalter said the decision to allow Brandon Snyder to do some catching just "enhances his value to the organization." Snyder will still take ground balls at first base and could also see some action at third. This isn't a full-time position change; it's just a way of making Snyder more versatile.
While the final roster spot would appear to be down to Jake Fox, Robert Andino, Nick Green and Brendan Harris, Showalter said not to rule out young third baseman Josh Bell. "I think Josh is going to come in here and have a really good spring. I expect him to come in here and be impressive. There is a way he could make this club if the at-bats are there." Showalter also made it a point to say that Bell is capable of playing first base.
Showalter said that as of now, Nolan Reimold will be used in the outfield and not at first base. It's possible that he could see some time at first later this spring, but right now, they want Reimold concentrating on the outfield.
As you know by now, new third baseman Mark Reynolds put on an impressive batting practice display. Asked whether he saw it, Showalter quipped: "I heard it, I didn't see it."
And finally, pitching prospect Matt Hobgood, the Orioles' first-round pick in 2009, had his right shoulder looked at today by team doctors. The results of a magnetic resonance imaging test performed won't be known until later this week, but team officials are optimistic that Hobgood can avoid surgery.
When he picked up a bat again in January and took his first couple of swings, new Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy acknowledged that he was a little nervous. He still felt some minor discomfort in his left wrist, which he bruised last season, limiting him to 101 games.
“The wrist just needed to rest, I think,” said Hardy, who became the latest Orioles position player to report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex today. “This offseason, I rested it for like two months. I started hitting in early January, and I still felt it a little bit. But it just kind of went away after first couple of swings. I feel 100 percent.”
The Orioles acquired Hardy, along with utility infielder Brendan Harris, from the Minnesota Twins in December for minor league relievers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson. That was one of the first moves of a busy offseason that included the additions of Guerrero, Mark Reynolds, Kevin Gregg and Justin Duchscherer.
“It’s awesome,” Hardy said. “It just shows you that they want to win and they’re willing to do what it takes to do that. I’m real excited to be a part of it. I know this whole division has made a ton of moves this offseason, but I feel real confident with what we’ve done.”
This is the second straight spring in which Hardy has to get used to new teammates and new surroundings. The Milwaukee Brewers traded the steady shortstop to the Twins before the 2010 season.
“I’m real excited,” he said. “It was something that happened early in the offseason, where I knew I was coming here, so I had time to get mentally prepared for it. It’s awesome. I’ve never been to this clubhouse. Even last year when I was in Fort Myers, I didn’t make the trip or maybe we didn’t play, I don’t know. So it’s my first time here.”
As Vladimir Guerrero arranged his new locker and was the subject of curious gazes from his new teammates, Brandon Snyder sat at his locker and tried on his new catcher's equipment.
Snyder, the Orioles' first-round pick in 2005, will get an opportunity over the next couple of weeks to catch some bullpens and do some other catching drills. The Orioles drafted him as a catcher, but he hasn't caught since 2006 after he had shoulder surgery and the club drafted Matt Wieters.
"I’m excited," Snyder said. "It’s always good to kind of have a new thing to do. It’s obviously a challenge. I haven’t caught for three or four years, but I feel like once you catch for a while, it’s one of those things where, hopefully, you can get back pretty soon. Obviously, I’m not expecting myself to be game-ready in a week, but I do feel like, because I caught for years, I should be further along."
Snyder said the idea of returning to behind the plate came after a conversation with manager Buck Showalter at last month's FanFest.
"I saw Buck at FanFest and he just said, ‘I’ve been running a thought through, and we were thinking that it could definitely help your value to get behind the plate again and add another tool,' " Snyder said. "And what a great opportunity to come early where I don’t have to be here to work on my defensive stuff. He just said, ‘You know what, let’s just catch for a week and see how it goes, and you can just go from there.’ I don’t really know what they have planned, but whatever I can do to try to do to help the ballclub, that’s what I want to do, especially if it’s something I’ve done in the past."
Snyder, who has struggled with injuries, acknowledged that this is a big season for him. He batted .300 (6-for-20) with three RBIs in 10 September games for the Orioles after batting .257 with nine homers and 43 RBIs in 98 games for Triple-A Norfolk.
"I get that question every year, and I always say that it is always my biggest year. But they don’t get much bigger, I guess," he said. "I understand what it’s like to play in the major leagues, and I want to get back. It’s not just getting there, it’s about getting there and staying and solidifying your job. I feel like I did a pretty good job up there last year, but I still feel there’s a lot of stuff I need to work on, and that will never change. It’s about coming here and not necessarily having to prove anything or impress anybody, but just going to play the game hard and show what you got. Hopefully, they like it."
Vladimir Guerrero arrived in the Orioles clubhouse a few minutes ago to take his physical, accompanied by a couple of friends and agent Fernando Cuza. He appeared to be in good shape and was sporting a goatee, which may have to come off under the Orioles restrictive facial hair policy.
The physical will take most of the day and the Orioles are expected to hold his introductory news conference at the Ed Smith Stadium facility on Friday. Of course, it's been more than a week since he agreed to terms on a one-year, $8 million contract, so I wouldn't get too cozy with any set timetable.
No word on whether Guerrero will remain in camp and work out with the position players or wait until Monday's first full-squad workout.
Good sign: While Guerrero was unpacking into his locker, the first thing he pulled out of his Texas Rangers bag was a Superman T-shirt.
Brandon Snyder was a high school catcher when the Orioles made him the 13th overall pick in the 2005 draft. However, shoulder surgery in 2006 necessitated a move from out behind the plate.
He will be headed back there this spring, if only for a little while.
Snyder, 24, will get an opportunity to catch over the next couple of weeks as team officials look for ways to increase his versatility and give him a better chance to stick on the major league roster. Snyder, who arrived at camp today and took batting practice, will be worked in some catching drills starting tomorrow,
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who knew that Snyder was drafted as a catcher, said that he thinks this could be a way to enhance the player’s value to the organization.
Snyder has primarily played first and third base as an Orioles minor leaguer. He hit .257 with nine homers and 43 RBIs in 98 games last year for Triple-A Norfolk.
Everybody knows that Buck Showalter has a lot more options in the bullpen than his predecessor did a year ago at this time. He's got a new closer candidate in Kevin Gregg and -- so far -- no reason to doubt the availability of right-hander Koji Uehara and left-hander Michael Gonzalez.
Last year at this time, Gonzalez was battling arm issues and Uehara was soon to start the season on the disabled list. This year, they have looked fine in their first bullpen sessions, and the late-inning depth doesn't stop there. Jim Johnson and Jeremy Accardo also have closer experience, so Showalter will have some decisions to make -- but on who will be in the bullpen and how they will be used.
"Everything [will be] according to the strengths of our players,'' Showalter said. "Everybody likes to have a clear-cut closer, but we'll see how it develops."
The question about the eventual structure of the bullpen was probably premature, but Showalter tried to frame his answer in a way that kept his mind and all his options open.
"It's too early,'' he said. "If we can keep the Orioles as our priority -- keep the focus on winning games -- we've got a chance to have a pretty good bullpen."
Right now, you'd have to think the predominant reliever in the ninth inning will be Gregg (above), who was one of the top save guys in the American League last year for the Toronto Blue Jays. Uehara's terrific control certainly is attractive, but he still has to prove that he can be depended on to remain available all season.
There's also plenty of possible scenarios for the setup and middle-relief situations.
"Those things have a way of solving themselves,'' Showalter said. "I've got to say if we're still talking (about that) here on March 28 ... I hope they're all doing well and we've got a real challenge for the manager and pitching coach."
Associated Press photos
Pitching prospect Luis Lebron, who had Tommy John surgery last May, threw from the mound for the first time today. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that he threw 30 pitches and felt good afterward.
There continues to be discussion among people outside the organization about potentially using Jim Johnson in the rotation. Showalter acknowledged that he thought about that in the offseason, but that's absolutely not in the cards right now. Johnson is expected to occupy a key role in the bullpen. The same goes for Jason Berken.
Michael Gonzalez threw a bullpen session today, and while it was clear that he wasn't going all out, he looked much more crisp than at any point last spring. His velocity also looked much better than it was last year. "I'm not going to dwell on whose fault it was," Showalter said when asked about Gonzalez's situation last spring. "Let's just get him ready. So far, so good. ... He's got a good look in his eye."
Showalter also was pleased that Justin Duchscherer got through his first bullpen unscathed. Duchscherer used all his pitches and threw about 40 total. "It's a health issue," Showalter said. "If he's between the lines and on the field, he'll fit high up in the rotation."
Catcher Matt Wieters, who looks to be in great shape (and it has been noticed by team officials), became the first Oriole to clear the right-field wall on Field 4, which has the exact dimensions of Camden Yards.
There was one light moment during pitching fielding drills. Koji Uehara calmly gloved the ball and, in one motion, flipped it to bench coach Willie Randolph who was covering first base. Randolph wasn't able to come up with the ball, but bullpen coach Rick Adair, who was running the drill, was pleased with Uehara's form. "Hey Derrek Lee makes that play," Adair said. To which Randolph replied, "Yeah, you're probably right."
Brandon Snyder became the latest position player to arrive. The Orioles position players on hand, including Brian Roberts, took batting practice today.
First base prospect Joe Mahoney, the winner of the Brooks Robinson Award as the organization's minor league player of the year in 2010, was in the clubhouse this morning, becoming the latest Orioles position player to arrive early.
He joins Brian Roberts, Mark Reynolds, Tyler Henson, Matt Angle and Brendan Harris as the position players in camp.
"I’m really looking forward to this, a lot of new faces, a lot of new guys," said Mahoney, who hit .319 with nine homers and 29 RBIs in 52 games at Double-A Bowie after batting .299 with nine homers and 49 RBIs in 72 games for Single-A Frederick. "I’m just looking forward to picking everybody’s brain and learning as much as I can. ... I want to be seen, but like you said, I don’t want to be heard and be that loud guy. That’s not my personality anyways. I’ll just listen, keep my ears open and see how it works."
Mahoney is specifically looking forward to talking to fellow first baseman Derrek Lee.
"I heard he’s a really good mentor," he said. "He’s a Gold Glover. He’s had some really good years and a heck of a career. I’m looking forward to working with him and picking his brain about the game."
Mahoney was supposed to play in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason, but he hurt his right wrist in his first game. He went home to get it checked out and ultimately got a cortisone shot to repair torn cartilage in the wrist. He also had surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee. Mahoney said his knee is fine and he's just going to have to play through the pain in his wrist.
In other camp news, Justin Duchscherer, Michael Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Jeremy Accardo and Jake Arrieta are among the pitchers scheduled to throw bullpen sessions today.
A day after throwing his bullpen, Jason Berken said his arm felt great and he hasn't felt this good in his entire professional career.
First, just a couple of tidbits from my notebook that will be in Tuesday’s paper:
Pitching prospect Matt Hobgood, the Orioles’ first-round pick in 2009, will see team doctors in Sarasota, Fla., on Wednesday to determine whether he’ll stay the course with the rehabilitation program on his right shoulder or consider other options. Surgery would be one of those options. Either way, Hobgood, who has a right rotator cuff strain, won’t be ready for the start of the minor league season.
If Vladimir Guerrero passes his physical Wednesday, he’ll likely be introduced at a Friday news conference. Guerrero would wear No. 27.
Now, a couple of observations before I shut it down on the blog for the night:
It’s been only two days down here, but it appears to me that young catcher Matt Wieters has a different presence about him. You could see him getting more and more comfortable during the 2010 season. However, he appears to have taken that up a notch this spring, joking freely with teammates and reporters and communicating regularly with third base coach and catching instructor John Russell. Wieters caught Kevin Gregg’s first bullpen session today, and after he was done, he immediately went behind the fence because he wanted to watch how much movement Brad Bergesen was getting. And then he moved down even farther to watch Jason Berken’s bullpen. I guess I’m not exactly going out on a limb, but Wieters is my No. 1 choice for a breakout season.
I know I’m going to be asked a lot in the next two weeks about how certain pitchers look, and I will probably repeat this line often: There’s only so much you can tell from a bullpen session. Nevertheless, I did carefully watch Rule 5 selection Adrian Rosario’s bullpen today because I know virtually nothing about the guy. My early impressions are that he is a big kid with a really good arm. I still think he is a long shot to make the club, but he certainly passes the eye test.
Much of the attention was on the 30 pounds that Berken lost in the offseason, and rightfully so. He looks like a different guy. But I was more impressed with the sound his fastball was making while it popped catcher Caleb Joseph’s mitt. Berken said he hasn’t felt this good in years, and it certainly appeared that he had a lot of life on his pitches today. But again, it was only a bullpen session.
It was a pretty uneventful first day for Orioles' pitchers and catchers aside from Jeremy Guthrie's fall off the mound and on his back while throwing a bullpen session. Guthrie, as you know by now, is OK, saying that he just slipped. However, any time your likely Opening Day starter lands in a heap during the first workout, I'd characterize that as scary.
Overall, manager Buck Showalter was pleased as 29 of the 30 pitchers invited to big league camp participated, along with all six catchers. The only exception was Alfredo Simon, who remains in a Dominican Republic prison and is not expected here any time soon.
Pitching prospects Brandon Erbe (McDonogh) and Luis Lebron are throwing, but not from off the mound yet. Lebron had Tommy John surgery in May, while Erbe had right labrum surgery in August.
"Our best hope is that they don’t have any setbacks and they make progress and we deliver them to Twin Lakes healthy," Showalter said. "I think Lebron is a little bit further ahead than Erbe, the way I understand it. I don’t think you’ll see them throw in a game here."
Second baseman Brian Roberts also showed up and he took some swings in the indoor cages with hitting coach Jim Presley. Roberts passed his physical earlier in the day. Several other Oriole position players worked out at the minor league complex at Twin Lakes Park. Minor league instructor Brian Graham will run a workout for the early arrivals tomorrow afternoon.
Guthrie, Kevin Gregg, Ryan Drese, Mark Hendrickson, Brad Bergesen, Josh Rupe, Koji Uehara, Jason Berken, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Pedro Viola, Wynn Pelzer and Adrian Rosario were among the pitchers who threw bullpen sessions today.
Matt Wieters caught Gregg, wanting to get familiar with the team's new late-game reliever.
Berken, as you also know by now, has lost 30 pounds and his shoulder feels great.
"He looks great," Showalter said. "It’s good to see the young guys get their arms around things like that where they don’t become an issue. There’s enough challenges between the lines. It just became a priority for him, it looks like. It shows you something. The shoulder feels good, too. It’s good to see him get up there today."
Another subplot today was the increased presence of the Japanese media with Koji Uehara's arrival. There were about 25 Japanese media members in attendance at the workout, out-numbering the American reporters by about 20.
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Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie slipped and crumpled to the ground during his bullpen session today, sending a quick shiver through the first workout of spring training, but he's apparently OK.
His left foot slipped on his delivery and he had to be helped back up by new teammate Kevin Gregg, but he got back on the mound and took a couple more throws to complete the session.
"No, scary moment,'' Guthrie said after the workout. "My foot just slipped out from under me."
Guthrie stayed down long enough to prompt some concern, but insisted that he was "milking" the moment.
"I did stay down, but I never pretended to be injured,'' he said.
-- Peter Schmuck
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The Orioles are about halfway through their first pitcher/catcher workout of the spring, and they got a great day for it. The weather had been chilly and rainy here over the past week or so, but it's a glorious afternoon without a cloud in the sky. The temperature right now supposedly is 68 degrees, but again -- through the miracle of temperature relativity -- it feels like 75 to everybody who just came in from Maryland.
Though full-squad workouts are still several days away, some of the position players are reporting early. Brian Roberts showed up on the field in workout clothes, looking like he's ready to go, and spent some time talking to manager Buck Showalter. He said at FanFest that he feels great after missing most of the 2010 season with a lower-back injury, and he looked eager to get started.
The fans are ready, too, though their expectations have been tempered by the club's long string of losing seasons.
"I'd say above .500 because of the added offense,'' said Frank Humphreys of Parkville. "If the young pitchers come through, I think they'll finish a little bit above .500."
-- Peter Schmuck
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Orioles pitchers and catchers are taking their physicals as we speak and are set to take the field in about 15 minutes for the first spring workout of the Buck Showalter regime. There was no player access this morning, but we'll get some after the workout, including an interview with Showalter.
As he has said several times, this is Showalter's favorite time of the year. He loves having the opportunity to teach and work with both the major and minor leaguers. He also views spring training as an important time for team building.
My colleague, Dan Connolly, spoke to Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young last year, and Young raved about how Showalter rallies the troops and makes everyone feel like they're a part of something special during spring training. Young spoke of a highlight video that Showalter made that got everybody fired up. One year, Showalter also took the Rangers to a nearby Air Force base to talk to fighter pilots, and watch different military exercises.
Showalter has something special planned before the first full-team workout next Monday, but he declined to reveal his plans because he wants it to be a surprise. "I have one chance on this and I'm not going to mess it up," Showalter said.
WBAL-AM 1090, which recently won the rights to broadcast Orioles games, will air 16 of the team's spring training contests, including the opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., on Feb. 28 and the first home game at renovated Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, against the Tampa Bay Rays on March 1.
Here's the schedule of spring games WBAL will air (*-- broadcast will feature 30-minute pre- and post-game shows):
*Feb. 28: at Pittsburgh Pirates, 1:05 p.m.
*March 1: vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 1:05 p.m.
*March 5: vs. Boston Red Sox, 1:05 p.m.
*March 6: at Minnesota Twins, 1:05 p.m.
March 7: vs. New York Yankees, 7:05 p.m. (split-squad)
March 10 : at Pittsburgh Pirates, 7:05 p.m.
*March 12: at Houston Astros, 1:05 p.m.
*March 13: vs. Detroit Tigers, 1:05 p.m. (split-squad for Tigers)
March 16 : at New York Yankees, 7:05 p.m.
March 18 : vs. Minnesota Twins, 7:05 p.m.
*March 19: vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 1:05 p.m.
*March 20: at Tampa Bay Rays, 1:05 p.m.
*March 24: vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 7:05 p.m.
*March 26: at Tampa Bay Rays, 1:05 p.m.
*March 27: vs. Boston Red Sox, 1:05 p.m. (split-squad)
*March 29: vs. Toronto Blue Jays, 1:05 p.m.
Reliever Michael Gonzalez was signed to a two-year, $12 million deal before the 2010 season to serve as the Orioles’ closer. A year later, his name is barely mentioned in the discussion of manager Buck Showalter’s closer options. And that’s just fine with Gonzalez, who is focused on staying healthy and fulfilling his contract
“[My role] has changed, but I feel good about the situation,” Gonzalez said. “I’m at the point right now where I feel that I want to prove in any way possible that I’m good and I’m healthy, and it’s more myself than anything else. I’m just excited about coming in here and getting going.”
Gonzalez, who said throughout last spring training that he wasn’t hurt despite his diminished velocity, had a disastrous start to the 2010 season. He blew save opportunities in two of his first three outings. He then went on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder and missed about three months.
“Well, obviously, last year was more of a nightmare to me, especially starting the year,” Gonzalez said. “It was one of those things where you’re fighting yourself. You always want to be healthy, and you always want to be able to go out there and prove what you’re able to do. I was fighting myself, and it came back and bit me in the butt, but it’s one of those things where I’ve got to put the past behind me, and I’m looking forward to what I can do this year.”
When he returned from the disabled list, Gonzalez pitched to a 1.76 ERA in his first 18 appearances. In 26 games after the All-Star break, he had a 2.78 ERA.
“It was one of those positive notes where I wish the season had kept going,” he said. “I wish I had gotten another month just because I felt good, but I didn’t feel great. My velocity started coming up, my stuff was better, but it wasn’t to the Gonzalez that I’m used to, when I just know I can go out there and get it done. I’m looking forward to going out there and getting it done this year.”
It’s expected that Gonzalez will serve as a setup man to either Koji Uehara or Kevin Gregg, though Showalter hasn’t established bullpen roles.
“We’ve got some great arms, man,” Gonzalez said. “And, obviously, it’s going to help a lot with the starting rotation. You’ve got some experience, you’ve got some live arms. It’s definitely an upgrade from last year. I’m looking forward to it.”
When Chris Tillman arrived at spring training last year, it was widely assumed that he was going to be the team's fifth starter. However, he was out-pitched by David Hernandez and Jason Berken, who both made the Orioles' Opening Day roster while Tillman started the 2010 campaign with Triple-A Norfolk.
This spring, Tillman enters camp as a decided underdog to make the team after the club's acquisition of talented but injury-prone Justin Duchscherer. However, Tillman's mindset hasn't changed.
"I think I’m in the same boat as last year," he said today as he joined teammates Brian Matusz, Jeremy Guthrie and Matt Wieters in the clubhouse on reporting day. "I think this year has been a little more public. I’m excited. I think I put myself in a good spot, and I’m really looking forward to it."
Tillman, who went 2-5 with a 5.87 ERA in 11 starts for the Orioles and 11-7 with a 3.34 ERA in 21 starts for Triple-A Norfolk, said he exchanged texts with Guthrie after learning of the Duchscherer signing. Before the addition, it was believed that Tillman was the front-runner for the fifth starter spot in a competition that would also include Rick VandenHurk and Zach Britton.
"Me and Jeremy were texting each other, and he just said, 'You’ve been working hard in the offseason, and you put yourself in a great spot to do it.’ That’s all you can really do. I’m confident that I did my job in the offseason," Tillman said.
Tillman spent the offseason working out at Athletes' Performance Institute in Los Angeles. He acknowledged it's really the first time he has been on a strict workout program.
"I think I’m very prepared for spring training," he said. "I put myself in a good spot in the offseason to get ready for spring training and the rest of the season. You walk in here, see a bunch of new faces, see the names on the [locker] tags. It’s an exciting time."
Peter Schmuck and I will be in Sarasota, Fla., tomorrow afternoon as pitchers and catchers report to the Orioles’ spring training complex for the start of spring training. Most of the players were at FanFest two weeks ago, so I think the biggest highlight of Day One will be the renovated Ed Smith Stadium complex.
I haven’t seen it since I dropped by in September when the Orioles were in nearby St. Petersburg for a series against the Tampa Bay Rays. But the people who have seen it over the past week have just raved about the facility.
“I think it will be the jewel of the Grapefruit League,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Orioles vice president of planning and development Janet Marie Smith, who has been directing the project, said: “It is a complete overhaul. You literally will not recognize it. It’s not just a new pretty face. It is new 45-wide concourses, every seat that we have is a seat that has come out of Camden Yards and been refurbished. The concession stands are triple what we had last year. We have a retail store, an air-conditioned cafe, a lot of shade. We really tried hard to think about the total experience there.”
There has been some concern about whether the project, which started about a month and a half late because of a lawsuit, would be finished by the time spring training began. As of yesterday, there were still some things to be done, but team officials didn’t sound particularly concerned about what remained. The Orioles won’t play their first game at Ed Smith until March 1, so workers still have about two weeks to finish that off. The important thing for Monday is the back fields are ready.
“I got here [last] Sunday at about 5 or 6 o clock, walked around by myself and kind of went ‘damn,’ ” Showalter said. “But you see how much progress they’ve made. It’s unbelievable the difference the way it looks from 10 o’clock in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. They’ve been killing themselves down here. They had a few setbacks with weather, but they’ve caught up. It will be ready. I have to tell you, my whole scheme of worrying about things, that isn’t one of them.”
Technically, the project won't be completed until before spring training 2012. Because of the late start, the construction crews were unable to begin the renovations on the clubhouse building, which includes the major and minor league locker room, a weight room, player dining area and team offices.
Another facet of the construction was the work on the team's minor league complex at Twin Lakes Park. I'm told that is just about complete, and it came out great. The result is certainly well deserved for Orioles minor league officials and players who have been forced for many years to work at a facility that had to be the absolute worst in baseball.
In his Q&A Thursday at the Baltimore School of Law Sports Symposium, Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail touched on a variety of subjects, including the state of the franchise, baseball's financial imbalance, whether the Orioles would hypothetically pursue a first baseman like Albert Pujols (should he become a free agent), the reasons manager Buck Showalter was able to make an immediate impact, and where the team stands with its international scouting department.
Much of it couldn't quite make it into our story Friday because of space, but MacPhail's comments are definitely a must-read for Orioles fans, especially as spring training looms.
--Kevin Van Valkenburg
On how Buck Showalter was able to lead such a dramatic turnaround in the final 57 games of the season:
"I think like anything there were probably multiple reasons for it, because it's such a dramatic change, and it happened the day he walked in the door. He would say if he was right here, 'Well, I think the team they envisioned on the field just got healthy.' That might have been part of it, but it's by no means the lion's share of it. I think it's sort of a testament to human nature. The one thing that when you make a managerial change, you're hoping you change the narrative. This is the way we're going forward. It's not a temporary guy. Those guys who might have struggled think: 'Well, I've got a clean slate. I might hit better in a different spot. Things can change.' And also you're dealing with someone who has the reputation in the sport, very well earned, that he's been there. He knows how to give players the tools to succeed. It might be something as simple as telling a hitter: 'You know, when you're 2-2, this guy is going low and away, low and away. It's all he ever does. Lay off it. It's never a strike.' Maybe now he lays off it, the next one is fat, and he gets a double. Or it might be something as simple as a story he told one of our young starters. He said: 'Hey, you're giving these guys too much credit. Throw the ball over [the plate]. You're stuff is pretty good. You don't need to nibble. You have stuff that's as good as Joe Smith, who I had back in '79.' Those are some of the reasons we had such a dramatic change. I think everybody was going, 'What the hell is going on?'
"Because I didn't bring him in with the idea that was going to happen. I brought him in, and I had to cajole him a little bit. I said: 'Buck, we need to make some changes in the offseason. Do you want to be hostage to what I think in the front office? Or do you want to participate and look people in the eye, see who is doing what, and make suggestions with us?' Ultimately, I might have hurt his feelings one time, but I told him that 'you've got to get your feet wet. You haven't done this in three years. You can't put all the pressure on yourself to come in in spring training and magically change everything. You need to get your feet wet and get back into the rhythm of managing.' "
On whether promises were made three years ago by ownership that some of the money generated by the creation of MASN would go toward increasing payroll, so that the Orioles could compete with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox:
"No, I went the other way. I told Peter [Angelos] you had to pare your payroll down, and you had to start investing in your farm system because you're never going to go toe-to-toe with the Yankees and Red Sox because MASN isn't NESN and it isn't YES. And right now, we actually do spend MASN money on our payroll. Now even more so. I think if you're going to be objective, for better or worse, when I came here there was a shift in the mentality. We're going to be a scouting- and development-oriented organization. We're going to throw our money where I think we are on an even field with our opponents. We're not going to chase every free agent and get our payroll up in the neighborhood of $140 million, because this franchise can't sustain that. ... So if you don't like the direction the team took, it's on me. It's more management than it is ownership."
On the organization's decision to raise ticket prices despite declining attendance:
"I have two answers to that. The quick and easy one is that I'm a baseball guy, thank God. So I really wasn't involved in that [decision]. But I have a couple of things on that, just based on my Chicago experience. For those people that are price sensitive, there are plenty of good options to buy Orioles tickets if you work at it. And that's what consumers do today with the Internet. They're pretty darn sophisticated. If you want a good price, you can get it. Now, it might be Wednesday night against the Royals and not Sunday night against the Yankees, but those options are still there despite the price increase. The second thing is, when we had the last two months that we had, we made the judgment that we're going to do what we can to sustain this [success], perpetuate this, and move it forward, just because this franchise has had 13 bad years in a row. We've got to move. We can't [keep losing] forever. So to fund in a small part -- and I do mean small -- of the additional $20 million that we went up in payroll, we went from $73 million to $93 million, and the ticket revenue is only going to make up a small fraction of that. But to me, it should be perceived as an indicator that we're making an investment back into the payroll. I took [the payroll] down, spent the money elsewhere, and now we're bringing it back up."
On whether the Orioles would ever go beyond their budget to sign a special player in free agency if they thought it would allow them to contend:
"Well, let's look at the history. We did offer Mark Teixeira $140 million with the idea that we could move up. Now, in my view, that was like the perfect storm. You had a local kid, a switch-hitter, a first baseman, above-average defense, you could [sign him] for seven years and still think you were going to get production at the position [at the end of the contract]. He's one of those rare players who is going to go 0-4 and still help you win a game with his defense. He was a local kid. Everything was there. But if we're wrong about a thing like that, and we're devoting $20 million a year, if you're devoting 20 percent of your payroll to one player, you cannot be wrong. That's a torpedo below the water line. So that was the one guy. But they don't come along that often. It has to be like that perfect storm of things where I would recommend to ownership that you make that kind of investment.
"And you know what? He got a better deal. He went to a team that won a championship. You wouldn't have done the same thing?"
On whether Albert Pujols would represent a similar perfect storm:
"I'll give you a different take on that as I try to evade that question the best I can. There is this assumption that because this guy got [a huge number] and this guy got [an even bigger number], Albert Pujols has to get [a salary bigger than both]. Well, what if there are no bidders? What if the music stops and there are no chairs? Let's say Pujols signs with St. Louis. Where does Prince Fielder go? Do you want to make that bet on Prince Fielder at $20 million per as opposed to Teixeira? I'll be honest with you, the likelihood of us stepping out to the degree that [Pujols] is looking at, for any one player, is remote at best. I read that he's looking for $30 million a year, and I just can't see how that's going to happen. Now, I'm management. I'm not ownership. I make recommendations. I don't own the team. But I just think with what you have to do, I can't see it."
On a real-life example of baseball's financial imbalance between the Orioles and the Yankees, and why it differs so greatly from the way the NFL is run:
"I went on our website to see what you can find for two full-season tickets. I found you could purchase two seasons in Section 14, Row 6, over the course of the entire Orioles offseason, for $5,184. So I went back on the Internet and I thought, alright, what can I get for a comparable seat with the New York Yankees. Well, in just about the same location, Section 13, Row 5, which is maybe just a little further out of first base than the ones I looked at in Camden Yards, you can have those two tickets for $57,500. We're not talking about sponsorships, we're not talking about suites, we're not talking about restaurants they have in ballparks now. That's just the ticket price. The disparity in the local revenue in MLB is so much greater than it is in the NFL. There is no local TV in the NFL. To me, that explains why in the year , you can still have a team in Green Bay in the NFL, and not only can you have a team in the NFL in Green Bay, but they can be the world champions.
On the Orioles' decision to sign Vladimir Guerrero, and how the team made the decision to increase its offer to $8 million:
"I don't know how much of this I can really talk about because he hasn't passed a physical. But I'll kind of go hypothetical. It's not something we were really anticipating. We tried to take advantage of the situation. They were rather dogmatic on what they wanted. We ended up finding a creative way of doing what we needed to do, and yet satisfying what they needed. And one of the motivations was I kept reading this Michael Young stuff. Michael Young was with the Rangers, but what if he does get traded? The [Rangers] had an interest in Vlad earlier in the offseason, and they had him last season, so maybe they jump back in the bidding. So finding a creative solution was [important]. While I didn't discern another active bidder at the time, my experience has taught me that that doesn't mean there is not going to be a bidder down the line. So if you can make the right deal, just go ahead and make the right deal."
On the relationship between owner Peter Angelos and Cal Ripken Jr., and why Ripken isn't working in the Orioles front office in some capacity:
"Cal and Peter will have lunch together -- I don't know when the last time was -- but usually on a monthly basis. I've gotten to know Cal a little since I've been here, and Cal will be the first to tell you he doesn't have the Aberdeen franchise unless Peter gave it up, because that was the Orioles' territorial right. They work together. Peter was the one owner who would not go for the replacement players, partly because of his union background, but because it was going to disrupt Cal's streak, which he held in high esteem. They have a good relationship. Cal has been clear to me that as long as his son Ryan is at Gilman, and he can make up some of the time that he wasn't able to spend with him as a player, that's what he's going to do. And then once Ryan goes to college, all bets are off. Cal is a great baseball mind. You can't achieve what Cal achieved on talent alone. There's got to be a lot more there. And he will make a good asset to what I hope will be the Oriole organization, or any organization that he goes into, once he determines that's what he wants to do."
On how the Orioles are doing in international scouting, specifically the Dominican Republic and Venezuela:
"It's a good question. We're still not head over heels in international scouting. We get criticized occasionally for not spending enough there. But you've got to understand, in the Dominican Republic, the whole game has changed. It used to be you'd go there and see a lot of kids playing baseball. Now there is something called a buscón. They're agents, and what they'll do is they'll take a kid who is 12 or 13 and has some promise. They'll feed them, clothe them, and put them in a workout regimen. They're not playing baseball anymore. What these guys prepare them to do is to come in all these complexes -- and now we have one of them -- and they'll do workouts. They're not playing the game anymore. They're guys who have been developed over three or four years to look good in a three- or four-day tryout. And there are those old-fashioned amongst us who are concerned that's not really the look we need to make a good read on a 17-year-old kid out of the Dominican. We would much rather see them play games. Just think about a lot of U.S. players who wouldn't do that well in a workout, but they are good baseball players because they can play the game. We've lost an element of that in the Dominican, and where we apply our resources is somewhat of a reflection of that.
"We are not in Venezuela nearly to the degree that we need to be in. We have our approach in the Dominican. It might not be the best, but Venezuela is definitely something we need to look into in a more studious fashion because the last time I checked, you've got 6 percent of players in the major leagues are coming out of Venezuela, and we need to be more active there."
In the past 24 hours, there have been plenty of glowing quotes and tributes concerning Ernie Tyler, the Orioles’ longtime umpires attendant who passed away late Thursday night.
I’d like to add my own 2 cents.
Back in 2004, the year Tyler won the Orioles’ Herb Armstrong Award for meritorious service by non-uniform personnel, I sat down with Tyler for an extended feature.
I was the Orioles beat writer for the York Daily Record at the time, but as a Baltimore boy, I was always fascinated with Tyler and his local celebrity. Where else but Baltimore, I wondered, could a guy who runs baseballs to the plate umpire during games receive hallowed status?
Baltimore’s love of Tyler had more to do with the man -- and the work ethic -- than the job, of course. Ernie was a fixture at Memorial Stadium and then at Camden Yards with that head-down sprint that became more of a trot and then a shuffle as Tyler turned 60 and then 70 and then 80.
But it was always there. You could count on it -- and frankly there are so few constants these days in any aspect of life. It’s human nature to take comfort in reliability and dependability.
And Ernie Tyler was as reliable and dependable as they come.
I also learned that day in 2004 that he had a tremendous, self-deprecating sense of humor. At one point, he told me the man who gave him the umpires attendant job way back when was Herb Armstrong, the executive for whom the award he was receiving was named.
That day, Tyler said Armstrong would have been proud -- then added in deadpan style: “He’d be proud of the award, not me.”
After reading the fantastic comments about Tyler in the past day -- from Orioles fans and players and personnel -- it’s obvious this city and franchise were proud to call Tyler one of its own. This city loves a tireless worker.
And I want to share one example of Tyler’s work ethic -- and his Christian faith.
He kept an air mattress in his small room in the bowels of Camden Yards. He couldn’t figure out a way to get his work done after a Saturday night game, drive home to Forest Hill, go to church on Sunday morning and then get back to the stadium in time to complete his pre-game work -- including taking the shine off six dozen new baseballs each day -- before the umpires needed him.
So he'd blow up that mattress on Saturdays and sleep in the office. Every home Saturday night. He’d then wake up at 7 a.m., do some work, go to 9 a.m. Mass and be back at his office to finish his pre-game duties. Even at age 80-plus.
That’s the man I’ll remember.
Here’s that story I did in 2004. Hope it holds up half as well as the seemingly indestructible and energetic Tyler did for all those years.
So join me in a toast and raise your glasses to Ernie Tyler, the self-proclaimed "glorified ballboy."
“What Ernie represented was really the epitome of hard work, dedication, class and loyalty. Those are the words that stand out in my mind. You can look at the streak or whatever, but I look more at him as a family man. He was so dedicated to his family and the organization and really everyone he came in contact with on a daily basis.”
“He’s always been in our dugout, so probably the first time I saw him was June of 2001 when I first got called up. And I probably thought, ‘Holy cow, I can’t believe this guy is still going like that,’ and he was what, (77) then? He always kept himself in such good shape, we had no idea what his age was. He just always loved being at the ballpark and putting a smile on your face. He really had a joy for life, a zest for life.”
“Over the years I was blessed to have the opportunity to get to know him a little more than a lot of people. He was not really in our locker room, he was helping the umpires. But after being there so long, you have a chance to get to know him. And what really stands out to me is the love he had for his kids and his grandkids and his great-grandkids. That was his passion, that and his faith. And that really hit home for me because those are my core values, faith and family and then dedication to your work and your company after that. That, for me, always resonated in a major way from Mr. Tyler.”
“He was an icon. There’s no question about it. He was as big of a part of the Baltimore Orioles as anyone I’ve ever come in touch with He was a man of graciousness, humility, respect. He’s seen all the great players come and go. It’s a really deep loss but what a family he leaves behind. I just talked to [his sons] Jimmy and Freddy and told them how lucky they were to have a Dad like Ernie. He’s just a big league guy. He will be missed, but what a legacy he leaves behind.”
“I thought one of the great moments was when he came over to our side, in the photographer well at the end of the dugout. I think that was the night he broke the record. They introduced him and his face was on the JumboTron. I went over and thanked him and he said, “No thank you, Dave. It’s been my pleasure to do this all these years.” This guy was so humble, just a real gentleman. What a big loss.”
“I had the opportunity to speak with him a number of times. He did a lot of things for me in terms of doing favors and collecting balls for me when I asked for them. He was really well respected among the players and the organization, and he was really applauded by the fans. That’s just a credit to how well he did his job and how much passion he had for the Orioles as well as the game of baseball.”
Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie agreed to a one-year, $5.75 million deal today to avoid arbitration. His hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, but that is now a moot point.
"I don’t look at it necessarily as a relief. It’s a huge blessing of course to agree on a contract that guarantees me a lot of money to play a game I really enjoy playing. When you get to this point in your career, there’s an understanding of the arbitration process and you understand that it may end up in a hearing or it may not. You do your best to be prepared for either one of them. It’s not necessarily a relief. It’s just part of the process and the next step for me personally, and it’s a good step for us as an organization. Now, all the attention can be on spring training and us molding together as a new team."
Guthrie expressed thanks to his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports, along with Orioles Director of Baseball Operations Matt Klentak who negotiated the deal. He also thanked Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who the Orioles' likely Opening Day starter has expressed an interest in meeting.
"If given the opportunity down the road, I just want to give him an expression of gratitude for allowing me to play a game I enjoy," Guthrie said. "I'd also thank him for the work he’s done in the community and the impact that he’s had."
Guthrie said that he is excited to get to work.
"I’m really excited to go into spring training, mainly because of the new additions that we have to the team," he said. "We have some great players that we brought aboard. That itself gets me excited and knowing that the fans are hungry and excited, that is great as well."
Guthrie is a free agent after the 2012 season. He said that his agent approached the Orioles about a long-term extension, but they weren't interested in the deal.
"I’m not ruling it out. I think they ruled it out for me," he said. "It’s a number of factors. It’s not a question of do they like Jeremy Guthrie or not. We asked them and they declined and that’s perfectly fine. Right now where the team is and where I am, it wasn’t a good fit in their opinion. I don't have any hard feelings."
The Orioles have avoided arbitration and agreed to terms on a one-year, $5.75 million deal with right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, their likely Opening Day starter this season.
That’s up from the $3 million Guthrie made in 2010.
Once again, the Orioles have avoided an arbitration hearing with their eligible players. The last time they presented a case was before the 2006 season with starter Rodrigo Lopez.
Guthrie, the club’s top pitcher last year, had asked for $6.5 million, while the club countered with a $5 million offer when the two sides exchanged figures in mid-January. They compromised at the midpoint. His hearing, which had been scheduled for Wednesday in Phoenix, has been canceled.
It was his second year of arbitration, and again he and the club avoided a hearing as the deadline neared. Last year, the case was resolved on Feb. 12. He can become a free agent after the 2012 season.
Guthrie, 31, rebounded from a rough year in 2009 to be the Orioles’ most consistent starter in 2010. He made 32 starts, going 11-14 with a 3.83 ERA in a career-high 209 1/3 innings. It was the second consecutive season in which he reached the 200-inning mark and third straight year in which he made at least 30 starts.
On Thursday, the Orioles avoided arbitration with outfielder Luke Scott, agreeing to a $6.4 million deal with the slugger. The club settled its other four arbitration cases without formally exchanging numbers, agreeing with Felix Pie ($985,000), Jim Johnson ($975,000), Adam Jones ($3.25 million) and J.J. Hardy (5.85 million).
We normally don't run a full press release from the Orioles. But this time it seems fitting.
Here's what the Orioles just sent out to media regarding the death of longtime umpires' attendant Ernie Tyler, who died late last night at age 86.
The Orioles mourn the death of longtime umpires attendant Ernie Tyler. Ernie passed away last night, February 10, at the age of 86. Born April 30, 1924, Tyler worked 51 seasons for the club, including a streak of 3,819 consecutive home games as umpires attendant at Memorial Stadium and Oriole Park from Opening Day 1960 through July 27, 2007.
A graduate of Baltimore’s Mt. St. Joseph High School, where he played in the same football backfield with former Orioles and Mets General Manager Frank Cashen, Ernie spent his career with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He began as a part-time usher at Memorial Stadium during the Orioles’ first season in 1954, then became a full-time usher in 1958 before becoming the umpires attendant in 1960, assisting the umpires before, during and after Orioles games. One of Ernie’s daily responsibilities was rubbing the game baseballs with mud, a meticulous process he took pride in explaining to visitors.
Ernie’s commitment to his job was evident in his string of 3,769 consecutive regular season, 40 post-season, nine exhibition and one All-Star Game worked over 48 years from 1960 through 2007. The streak ended only because Cal Ripken Jr. requested that Ernie be his guest at his Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York. Ernie returned to his post immediately after the Hall of Fame weekend, working for three more seasons with the club before his death.
In 2004, Ernie was named winner of the Herb Armstrong Award, presented by the Oriole Advocates’ Hall of Fame Committee to non-uniformed personnel who have distinguished themselves in service to the Orioles.
“For over half a century Ernie Tyler was an integral part of the Orioles organization,” said Orioles Managing Partner Peter Angelos. “Ernie’s kindness, loyalty and commitment to his work and to the Orioles defined who he was both at the ballpark and in his personal life. Ernie will be greatly missed by all who knew him and on behalf of the club I extend my condolences to his wife, Juliane, and his family.”
Ernie and his wife, Juliane, were married 64 years. In addition to his wife, Ernie is survived by 11 children – Theresa, Regina, Phil, Jim, Ernie Jr., Mary, Judy, Michael, Fred, Chris and Michelle. Nine Tylers, including Ernie, Juliane and seven of the children, worked for the Orioles at one time. His sons Jim and Fred currently serve as the home and visiting clubhouse managers, respectively.
Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time.
Ernie Tyler, the longtime Orioles’ umpires’ attendant known for his tireless work ethic and sly sense of humor, died late last night, a team official confirmed.
Tyler, 86, died at Long Green Center, a North Baltimore long term care facility.
A local legend, Tyler once worked 3,819 consecutive home games at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, from Opening Day 1960 to July 27, 2007. His streak, which included 3,769 consecutive regular-season games, 40 post-season games and nine exhibitions, ended when he accepted an invitation from Cal Ripken Jr. to attend Ripken’s Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Tyler had battled minor health problems for the past few years, but on Oct. 2 was forced to leave Camden Yards before against the Detroit Tigers after experiencing dizziness and slurred speech. A benign brain tumor was discovered and a few days later doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center removed the tumor in an hours-long surgery.
Tyler had been attempting to recuperate from the surgery this offseason.
A graduate of Mount St. Joseph’s High School, Tyler began working for the Orioles as a part-time usher in the Orioles first season in 1954. He became a full-time usher in 1958 and then took over the umpires’ attendant role in 1960.
In 2004 he received the club’s Herb Armstrong Award presented by the Orioles’ Advocates Hall of Fame Committee to non-uniformed personnel who have achieved meritorious service.
Tyler is survived by his wife, Juliane, and their 11 children, including sons Jimmy and Fred, who are the Orioles’ home and visiting clubhouse managers.
Tyler's funeral liturgy is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Forest Hill, and the interment will be at Bel Air Memorial Gardens.
With Luke Scott signing a one-year deal on Thursday, only Jeremy Guthrie remains unsigned among arbitration-eligible players.
If Guthrie, who asked for $6.5 million and the Orioles, who countered with $5 million, can’t find a common ground, a three-person arbitration board will choose one of the figures on Wednesday.
Guthrie and Scott, both of whom are eligible for free agency after the 2012 season, have shown interest in signing long-term deals. The Orioles aren’t willing to do that yet.
Of the other Orioles that qualified for arbitration, shortstop J.J. Hardy is a free agent after the end of this season; outfielders Felix Pie and Adam Jones are free agents after 2013 and pitcher Jim Johnson hits free agency after 2014.
Clubs like to sign players to long-term deals in order to ebb the potential financial escalation during the arbitration years and extend the tenure of coveted players beyond six full seasons.
Usually -- but not always -- players don’t get extensions until they are approaching or are in the midst of their arbitration years (which kick in after three seasons of service for most players and after two seasons for some players). Therefore, Orioles such as Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz, both of whom won’t see free agency until after 2015, aren’t likely in this discussion yet.
So let’s primarily consider the seven arb-eligible players above. They are the most obvious candidates for extensions – specifically Scott, Guthrie, Hardy and Jones. Would you offer any of them long-term deals right now?
Daily Think Special: Which Oriole or Orioles would you like to see get long-term deals? Why?
Luke Scott is in California working out right now -- he was also there to be with his representation in preparation for an arbitration hearing in Arizona on Monday.
No need to worry about that. Scott and the Orioles agreed to a $6.4 million on-year deal – with the standard awards package that could make it worth an additional $350,000. The sides compromised on a number that was slightly higher than the midpoint (Scott asked for $6.85 million; the Orioles filed for $5.7 million).
“I am happy and I feel the Orioles are happy with it,” Scott said. “It’s a good situation. I am going to give my best – regardless I always give my best – but it is a good feeling going into spring training that now I can be totally, totally focused in my mind on this upcoming season.”
Here are a couple more quotes from Scott:
On potentially going to a hearing: “I wasn’t concerned. On my part, I was very prepared. My team was prepared. (Agent Page Odle) had done a great job and it’s a business, that’s part of the business.”
On the prospects of playing left field again now that designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero has agreed to terms: “It’s been a really good situation for me, getting to go back to doing something I love, playing left field.”
He said he’ll be in Sarasota probably next Friday or Saturday, a few days before position players’ first workout on Monday, Feb. 21. And he said he can’t wait.
“I am excited with the bats they have added to our lineup, all are great additions to our team, and I am excited about the young pitching staff that really matured for us last year,” Scott said. “I am excited to see what happens.”
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The Orioles have agreed to terms today with Luke Scott on a one-year $6.4 million deal, avoiding arbitration for the third consecutive year with the designated hitter/outfielder.
Scott, the Orioles’ top hitter last year, had asked for $6.85 million, while the club countered with a $5.7 million offer when the two sides exchanged figures in mid-January. His hearing, which was set for Monday in Phoenix, has been canceled.
The signing leaves starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie as the Orioles’ lone arbitration eligible player whose 2011 contract has not been settled. Guthrie asked for $6.5 million while the Orioles offered $5 million. If they cannot work out a deal, his hearing will be Wednesday in Phoenix.
Scott, 32, made $4.05 million last year, but is coming off his best big-league season. He hit .284 with 27 homers and 72 RBIs in 131 games, earning him the 2010 Most Valuable Oriole Award.
He led the Orioles in home runs (27), slugging percentage (.535) and on-base-plus-slugging (.902) and was second with 72 RBIs despite missing much of July with a hamstring injury.
He’ll be asked to do even more in 2011 as the signing of Vladimir Guerrero means that Scott will become the team’s regular left fielder.
The club had settled four of its six cases before exchanging numbers, agreeing with outfielder Felix Pie ($985,000), Jim Johnson ($975,000), J.J. Hardy ($5.85 million) and Adam Jones ($3.25 million).
The Orioles haven’t gone to a hearing with a player since pitcher Rodrigo Lopez before the 2006 season.
With spring training beginning in earnest Monday with the Orioles’ first pitchers and catchers workout, this seemed like a fine time to talk about our darkhorse candidates to make the club’s 2011 Opening Day roster.
Our buddy over at masnsports.com, Roch Kubatko, is going with recently signed right-handed reliever David Riske. An interesting pick since there could be a spot available in the bullpen and Riske, before arm surgeries, was a quality big-league reliever.
I will warn you, however, that a couple years ago Roch had more confidence in Brad Hennessey’s chances of making the club out of spring than Brad Hennessey’s parents did in their own son. So Rocco’s past selections are checkered.
Then there is my Sun colleague Jeff Zrebiec, who has gone on record as saying Ryan Drese is his sleeper pick. Drese was once a successful starter – winning 14 games for Buck Showalter and the Texas Rangers in 2004 – but the big right-hander hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2006. That’s not sleeping; that’s hibernation. That’s an actuary training video.
Sun columnist Peter Schmuck, who is still living off his Wilfrido Perez three-pointer shot in the dark a few years ago, has selected outfielder Randy Winn. No one doubts the veteran’s character or ability to be a back-up outfielder, but that field is pretty crowded right now.
That leaves me. My initial (and substantial) gut instinct is infielder Robert Andino, who was placed on waivers at the end of last spring but remained in the organization. Cesar Izturis is the projected utility infielder, leaving Andino, Jake Fox, Brendan Harris and Nick Green likely battling for one other bench spot. Andino’s ability to play third base helps and Showalter likes the kid after his play last September.
That’s exactly why Zrebiec has discounted my pick, calling me unprintable names for my lack of risk and creativity. So, I’ll give you a sleeper/deep REM pick: Right-handed reliever Mitch Atkins.
Atkins is only 25, pitched five games in the big leagues last year and -- perhaps most important -- is a former Chicago Cub, which gets you to the front of the Orioles’ roster line.
By the way, I get extra credit if Andino and Atkins both make the club.
We’re taking ideas from you as well.
The club remains in active discussions with its two remaining arbitration-eligible players, Luke Scott and Jeremy Guthrie as they draw near their respective hearing dates. I don’t sense that an agreement is imminent in either case, but the two sides are certainly working hard in an effort to avoid a hearing. If they can’t, the hearing for Scott, who asked for $6.85 million and was offered $5.7, is scheduled for Feb. 14 in Phoenix. Barring an agreement, Guthrie’s hearing will be heard two days later on Feb. 16, also in Phoenix. The Orioles No.1 starter filed for $6.5 million while the Orioles offered $5 million. Just my opinion here, but it certainly would be a positive end to a busy offseason if the Orioles were able to get these deals done before Monday’s first workout for pitchers and catchers. Guthrie is the likely Opening Day starter, while Scott will hit in the middle of the lineup and play left field every day. Having both of them in camp, happy and distraction free, would be extremely beneficial.
One guy who team officials will certainly monitor over the next two months in Sarasota is outfielder Felix Pie. The signing of Vladimir Guerrero is expected to push Scott to left field and Pie to a bench role. I’m sure the Orioles will have no issues with Pie being a little ticked off about losing his starting job. Why would any team want a young player who is content with being a reserve? However, being angry shouldn't translate into constantly sulking. When he lost his starting job to Nolan Reimold in 2009, Pie didn’t handle it well. The demotion affected his attitude, work ethic and demeanor, and prompted a major tongue lashing from Luke Scott, one of his closest friends on the team. I’ve heard that Pie acted the same way in Chicago when he was struggling or wasn’t getting at-bats. But Pie has a lot at stake here with how he handles the current situation. The 26-year-old has made some significant strides the past two seasons with his attitude, work ethic and maturity. Misunderstood by many of his teammates in his first season with the club, Pie now has a ton of support within the Orioles’ clubhouse. Even if he isn’t starting on Opening Day, he still will likely get chances to make an impact on a nightly basis, as a late-game defensive replacement, pinch runner and pinch hitter. Orioles manager Buck Showalter knows the energy Pie brings and will certainly get him some opportunities early. But Pie also has to show that he’s mature enough to handle the situation, and determined enough to do the little things that will help the Orioles win games.
The Orioles won’t have too many position battles this spring so barring a significant rash of injuries, I don’t really expect any major surprises for the Opening Day roster. However, one guy certainly worth keeping an eye on -- and rooting for if you’re a fan of comeback stories -- is non-roster spring invitee Ryan Drese. The 34-year-old starter had his best season with the Texas Rangers under manager Buck Showalter in 2004, going 14-10 with a 4.20 ERA and logging 207 2/3 innings. It’s been a steady fall since. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since making two starts for the Washington Nationals in 2006. He pitched in independent ball in 2008 and 2009. He’s had two different Tommy John surgeries, including one which was botched. And he spent this offseason, pitching in the Mexican winter league, where he went 5-3 with a 3.12 ERA and went six or more innings in five of his final seven starts. Drese, a close friend of fellow non-roster invitee David Riske, threw two bullpens this offseason for pitching coach Mark Connor before the Orioles offered him a minor league contract. He’s the longest of long shots to make the club, but it would be a pretty neat story if he had a good spring.
(To read Dan Connolly's full story, click here.)
After a four-season run on 105.7 The Fan, the Orioles have decided to return their radio rights to WBAL-AM 1090, the Hearst-owned station that has had a partnership with the club for much of the past six decades.
The financial arrangements of the three-year deal haven’t been disclosed. Orioles representative Alan Rifkin is scheduled to appear on WBAL tonight to announce the agreement, and the team issued a statement acknowledging the partnership.
The decision, which comes after several months of the organization's shopping its radio rights, is somewhat surprising, considering the rocky parting between the Orioles and WBAL after the 2006 season.
WBAL had served as the club’s flagship station for 19 consecutive years when the club moved to the CBS-owned 105.7 for the start of the 2007 season, the first time in nearly 40 years the Orioles weren’t heard on the AM dial.
At the time, team officials cited the exposure the organization could get on CBS’ wide range of stations as one of the determining factors in the move. The club liked that 105.7’s sister stations, which include WJZ-ESPN 1300 AM, Mix 106.5 FM and WLIF 101.9 FM, crossed different demographics.
The prevailing thought was that the Orioles would remain with 105.7 despite their four-year deal expiring after the 2010 season. The two sides did engage in several rounds of negotiations, but they were unable to hammer out a deal.
That led to the Orioles’ return to WBAL, the team’s radio home for 41 of its 57 seasons in Baltimore. WBAL partnered with the Orioles from 1957 to 1978 and again from 1988 to 2006.
The station is now the flagship of both the Orioles and the Ravens, which could create conflict during September, when the baseball season is winding down and the NFL season is starting up. WBAL does have a sister station in 98 Rock (97.9 FM).
The change is not expected to affect the on-air talent. Joe Angel and Fred Manfra, the radio voices of the Orioles, are employed by the club and are expected to return for the 2011 season. Angel and Manfra have teamed in the booth for the past eight seasons.
Here is the Orioles' news release:
The Orioles today announced that they have signed a multi-year deal with 1090 AM WBAL Radio to become the club’s radio flagship station. The partnership with WBAL Radio marks the 42nd year since Baltimore returned to the major leagues 57 years ago that the station has originated Orioles broadcasts. Orioles games were most recently heard on WBAL Radio in 2006. The station first broadcast O’s games in 1957, the club’s fourth season.
“We are excited to reestablish our relationship with WBAL Radio,” said Orioles Director of Communications Greg Bader. “Both the Orioles and WBAL Radio have a long and proud tradition in this region and we are pleased to once again call them our flagship as we look forward to an exciting 2011 season.”
WBAL Radio will broadcast all 162 Orioles 2011 regular season games, as well as a selection of spring training contests. Joe Angel and Fred Manfra will return to call the action on the Orioles Radio Network.
So Vladimir Guerrero will be an Oriole, pending a disastrous physical, and Pittsburgh Steelers fans won’t be chanting that awful “Stairway to Seven” mantra this year.
Not a bad weekend in Baltimore.
(Really, “Stairway to Seven?” I respect the Steelers’ organization and the fans are tremendously passionate and “One for the Thumb” was genius. But you’ve got to do better than “Stairway to Seven,” Steelers fans. That would have been clever in, say, 1974. Maybe.)
Anyway, it was a pretty good weekend at the bar, too. People kept pouring in, we kept pouring spirits and cash kept getting tossed my way as if I were an aging but fearsome DH.
Then there’s that little matter of my Super Bowl prediction: 31-27 Green Bay Packers. Yeah, I almost nailed it. It ended up 31-25. Sorry, I’m not perfect, just really close.
For my Prediction Friday regulars, you probably remember I started off the football season ice cold with my prognostications. But I rallied when it counted. (OK, it never counts; it’s a fake bar with fake prizes. Still …)
Many of you came close to the final Super Bowl outcome as well. We’ll give Dinger the free tab for the week for his 30-23 Packers call. That was a good way to end Prediction Fridays.
Now, we officially are switching to baseball.
The Guerrero signing seems to be a big one around here. It’s for only one year, and Guerrero, who turns 36 on Wednesday, is no longer in his prime. Its significance is more about the fact that the Orioles showed a willingness to overpay for a star instead of waiting for the price to be right.
Eight million dollars seems too high for this version of Guerrero, but the point is he makes the Orioles’ improving offense much better. And the signing shows that the club and its owner, Peter Angelos, will be aggressive. That, more than anything, must please most Orioles fans.
Here’s what I was wondering: Where does this signing rank in comparison to the Orioles’ other big splashes during the past 13 years of losing.
In my opinion, there were two others that are similar: the December 1998 signing of Albert Belle (five years, $65 million) back when the Orioles had the highest payroll in baseball and the December 2003 signing of Miguel Tejada (six years, $72 million, still a franchise record for a free agent).
Belle’s signing showed the Orioles were playing hardball after a down year. In retrospect, because of a deteriorating hip that limited the surly slugger to two seasons, it’ll go down as one of the worst moves in club history. At the time, though, the news rocked Baltimore.
Then there was the Tejada move. It was the first full offseason for the two-headed GM monster of Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan and was the centerpiece of a spending spree that also included buying Javy Lopez, Rafael Palmeiro and Sidney Ponson. Tejada was just 27 -- we thought, anyway -- and one season removed from being AL MVP. The consensus among baseball at the time is that clubs were hiding their wallets and the Orioles got a steal in Tejada.
Again, Orioles fans were giddy. (Although, they would have been even giddier if the Orioles had gotten Guerrero that offseason as well, but he chose the Angels instead.)
The acquisitions of Belle and Tejada were probably more meaningful given the total amount spent and duration of the contracts. But the buzz around Guerrero this weekend, in my opinion, rivals that of the excitement surrounding those two back in the day.
But I’m not a fan. So maybe I am wrong. That’s why I have come to you. I want to know how the Guerrero move compares to how you felt when the Orioles signed Belle and Tejada.
Does it pale in comparison? Are you even more excited? Why or why not?
Daily Think Special: How does the acquisition of Guerrero compare to the excitement surrounding the signings of Belle and Tejada?
The Orioles have added another big league veteran to their bullpen competition by signing reliever David Riske to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.
The 34-year-old right-hander was 0-0 with a 5.01 ERA in 23 games with the Milwaukee Brewers last season before being released in August. He had elbow ligament-reconstruction (Tommy John) surgery in June 2009, after pitching just one inning that season. Riske rehabilitated for the first part of 2010 in the minors, compiling a 5.54 ERA in 11 total games at Triple-A Nashville and Single-A Brevard County.
Riske has pitched for five big league teams in 11 seasons, going 20-20 with a 3.67 ERA in 462 games, all in relief. His best season was 2003, when he had a 2.28 ERA and eight saves in 68 games for the Cleveland Indians.
A 56th-round draft pick of the Indians' in 1996, Riske is a former teammate and close friend of Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie.
-- Dan Connolly
I had acknowledged Saturday, a day after the Orioles and Vladimir Guerrero agreed to terms on a one-year, $8 million deal pending a physical, that I couldn’t explain why, all of a sudden, the Orioles’ raised their offer from between $3 million and $5 million to $8 million when no other suitor for the free-agent slugger had publicly emerged.
I still don’t have all the answers, but I certainly feel a little more confident giving an explanation after talking to some people familiar with the process.
The Orioles’ top decision-makers, mainly owner Peter Angelos and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, wanted Guerrero. Guerrero wanted to get paid what he felt that he was worth, and wasn’t wavering.
The Orioles, who had already exceeded their targeted 2011 payroll, simply didn’t feel like they could accommodate Guerrero’s desired $8 million over this year. So the Orioles figured out a way to make it work. They deferred $3 million of the $8 million , meaning they’ll owe Guerrero $5 million this season. As for the remaining $3 million, it will be paid out in two installments down the road. And by down the road, I’m not talking about 2012-2013. The arrangement satisfied Guerrero, who will ultimately get his $8 million, and his agent Fern Cuza.
This practice is not unprecedented. The St. Louis Cardinals will pay outfielder Matt Holliday $2 million annually deferred from 2020 to 2029 in annual installments of $1.4 million or $1.6 million, depending on whether his option for 2017 vests or is exercised, according to the extremely useful website Cot’s Baseball contracts.
If you are fan of this move -- and most people appear to be, judging by the various reactions we’ve gotten -- credit Angelos and MacPhail for compromising and figuring out a way to get it done, which is what my colleague, Kevin Cowherd, wrote today. They obviously looked around at the rest of the DH market and weren’t terribly excited about giving Guerrero $8 million.
However, while no suitors had emerged publicly, there was always the fear from team officials that some teams would jump into the bidding the longer Guerrero stayed unemployed. And that fear was only heightened when reports started surfacing Friday that the Texas Rangers, the team Guerrero drove in 115 runs for in 2010, were in talks to trade designated hitter Michael Young. This is my opinion more than anything, but it doesn’t seem coincidental to me that the Guerrero deal with the Orioles was compromised on the same day reports became public that a Young trade could be imminent.
One more thing about Guerrero: His physical, which would make the deal official, has not been scheduled. It has been complicated by the fact that team officials and team doctors are heading to the team’s spring training complex this week in Sarasota, Fla., where pitchers and catchers report Sunday. At this point, the best guess is Guerrero takes his physical next week in Sarasota, and meets the media down there.
There has been so much Vladimir Guerrero talk over the last few days, I figured I’d mix it up a little this morning. This stuff is a little old (hey, we’ve been busy) but I think this still works. It’s especially fitting since pitchers and catchers work out in Sarasota in exactly one week.
I had a chance to have a one-on-one interview with new Orioles pitching coach Mark Connor at FanFest. He was one day removed from meeting most of his new pitchers (sans Justin Duchscherer). The club had a gathering the night before FanFest and Connor was sitting with his old friend and new Orioles bullpen coach Rick Adair, when a group of the Orioles pitchers came over to chat.
Connor has reviewed film on all of them and talked to most of them on the phone, but he hadn’t met them face-to-face. He said how happy he was that, at a social event, they wanted to talk pitching with him and Adair.
“They all came over; it was great,” he said, “They all seemed excited and want to get started. We’ll see how it goes.”
Connor, 61, and I chatted for a while, and I put him on the spot, asking him which one of the young guns was he most interested in watching pitch this month.
“I would have to say Britton, Zach Britton,” Connor said. “I am impressed with his stuff, and I talked quite a bit with him about adjusting certain things. But there is nobody you look at and say, ‘Are they serious about this guy?’ They all are legit.”
Here are more quotes from Connor on various pitching matters.
On the starters as a group: “What I see on film excites me. Starting with Guthrie, he is still a young guy, even though he is the veteran on this club. He is still a young man. When I was in the other dugout watching him pitch, I always wished that I had him. And then I look at Matusz, Arrieta, Tillman, Bergesen, there is some talent here. It is just a question of being consistent with it, and staying healthy. I think the sky is the limit.”
More on the young pitchers: “Matusz’s whole approach on the mound, if you watch his mound presence and the way he went about things, for a young kid it was impressive. … The ball jumps out of Tillman’s hand, from what I saw on film. … Arrieta has great stuff. I was talking to him a little bit about trusting it and not trying to make it more than it is or needs to be.”
On his approach: “Coming into a new situation, and not really knowing the kids, you watch them, but you don’t really analyze what’s going on mechanically or anything else. We are going to have to watch here a little bit. To just see. We have seen some things on film that kind of ring a bell in your head and you go, ‘This is something that needs to be addressed.’ But I think, initially, in fairness to them, we have to watch them throw, see what is going on, and if there are things that we need to attack, we will attack them.”
On his reputation as a laid-back pitching coach: “I have heard that, that I am kind of laid back, but I can get after some guys when I need to.”
On why he took the grueling job instead of remaining as a special assistant in player development with the Texas Rangers: “I had a great job with Texas. I loved the organization. The people there were great, they took care of me. … That was the job I had really talked about for a couple years to finish my career. But when the opportunity came to come here, I had a few sleepless nights, talking to my wife, talking to my family. But I just decided … it’s a young club, and we’ve always loved Baltimore. We always loved coming here, the stadium, the Inner Harbor, the whole bit. And we decided, let’s do it one more time, keep us young, hopefully, and hopefully we can get this team to the playoffs.”
On his relationship with Orioles manager Buck Showalter: “I owe a lot to Buck Showalter. Buck and I have been together, really, since he was a player and I was a coach in the early '80s. And then I was in the big leagues as a pitching coach when he arrived as a coach,, and then he became the manager in New York. Everywhere he has been as a manager, I have been with him. I knew when he got this job there was a good chance that he’d get in touch and see what I was thinking about.”
On his relationship with Adair, also a former pitching coach: “Rick and I go back a long way, too. … We vacation together down in South Carolina, and when all of this was going on, we talked about it quite a bit. I just have such a great respect for Rick and his knowledge and his personality. This guy is, I think, one of the best pitching coaches around, and I didn’t think we would keep him. I thought someone was going to grab him. … I think we’ve got a great tandem between the two of us and we are going to have some fun doing it.”
And on his thoughts about the 2011 Orioles: “Obviously, I think we have improved ourselves offensively and defensively, but honestly, it always goes back to pitching. … We’ve got the makings here, I think, of a championship rotation with the six or seven young kids that are here. But it’s still got to be proved on the field.”
So I took Friday night and all day Saturday off for my son’s 12th birthday.
Anything go on while I was gone?
Seriously, I received a text message from Jeff Z on Friday evening that Vladimir Guerrero had agreed to terms with the Orioles. At the time, I was shepherding tweens around an arcade after a game of laser tag. Great timing, huh? We had been waiting for weeks for progress to be made on Guerrero and it happens, as always, at the worst possible time.
Next time someone asks me what I do in the winter because baseball is on hiatus, I think I am going to shoot them with a laser.
I detailed a couple of weeks ago in this space what I thought about potentially signing Guerrero -- in two words, do it -- so I’ll avoid a similar monologue. Instead, let’s talk about what this does to the left field position.
Guerrero will be the Orioles’ designated hitter; he has played just 20 games in the past two seasons in the field. Given that, Luke Scott, the Orioles’ primary DH last year, will move back to left, where he has played 222 games in his six-season career.
That means Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold, who were considered the starting left-field platoon, will be moved to the bench and, possibly in Reimold’s case, to Triple-A. A trade involving one -- more likely Pie -- is always possible.
I’ve heard that the Guerrero signing means the Orioles are sacrificing defense for more offense. But I am not fully buying that. I think they are sacrificing defensive range for offense.
Pie is a natural center fielder, is much faster than Scott and has a better arm. But he also had some trouble last year with taking the proper routes to balls, probably because the angles off the bat are different in left from in center.
Frankly, Pie, Reimold and Corey Patterson all had trouble in left field at times last year. Scott, on the other hand, rarely makes mistakes out there. Probably because left field has been Scott’s primary position during his career and his reads in left come more naturally.
I looked at several defensive statistics, including zone rating, but it’s difficult to glean too much given the varying difference in sample sizes for Orioles left fielders. (Errors alone, of course, aren’t a particularly good barometer for defensive ability, but Scott has made just three in 391 career chances in left.)
The eyeball test, however, tells me that Scott has made fewer embarrassing plays in left in the past three years than the other guys I mentioned. And from watching him there over the years, it seems he catches everything hit to him, but doesn’t get to as many balls as Pie.
I asked center fielder Adam Jones about playing with different left fielders, and he reinforced my assertions.
“With Pie over there, he is a center fielder by trade so I let him go out there and run as much as he wants,” Jones said. “With Luke, I mean he’s not the best outfielder, but if he touches it, he is going to catch it. So he’s fine.”
Jones said it doesn’t matter to him who plays left field -- though if he had his choice, he would select someone who is talkative. Stoic right fielder Nick Markakis just shrugs his shoulders and doesn’t say much, according to Jones, and that bores the center fielder.
“It doesn’t matter to me who is out in the outfield as long as they talk back. Markakis don’t ever talk back,” Jones said, laughing. “With Luke and Pie, they make it fun over there.”
We all know Luke can talk. And he can catch fly balls. He’s not the most graceful, but he’s adequate and won't make many mistakes. And that should be good enough with Jones and Markakis also in the outfield.
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There was obviously an awful lot of time spent the past two weeks discussing the Orioles’ pursuit of free agent designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero. Now that the pursuit has ended with the club and the slugger agreeing to a one-year, $8 million pact last night, I think it is worth taking a look at several questions about the signing.
Why, all of a sudden, did the Orioles raise their offer from between $3 and $5 million to $8 million when no other suitor for Guerrero had publicly emerged?
This is probably the million dollar question – or should I say $4 million one? - and unfortunately, it’s hard to answer, especially since officials involved in the negotiations won’t comment until Guerrero passes his physical, making the deal official. This we do know: the Orioles had offered between $3 and $5 million and as late as a couple of days ago, they had no plans to up the ante because they feared that they were bidding against themselves. Obviously, they had a change of heart to present Guerrero with the contract that they did. Was it because they learned that there was, indeed, another team out there willing to pay Guerrero that kind of money? Was it a case of Guerrero’s agents telling the club that it was going to take the Orioles no less than $8 million to land the player who was prepared to either sit out to see what develops or go to a contending team for less money? Or was it a matter of owner Peter Angelos listening to his restless and frustrated fan base, who have been calling for Guerrero for weeks, and deciding that the club had to get this guy no matter the price? I suspect we’ll know more about this in the coming days, but what transpired yesterday represented a strong reversal from what the club had been saying all along about their plans in the Guerrero negotiations. It also goes against just about all of Andy MacPhail’s tendencies since he took over as president of baseball operations.
How does the Guerrero acquisition affect the roster?
Luke Scott, the Orioles’ DH and best hitter last season, will become the team’s starting left fielder, leaving Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold in competition for the fourth outfield role. Pie is the favorite because he had a better year than Reimold in 2010, he’s better defensively – and the fourth outfielder will probably be used a lot as a late-game defensive replacement for Scott – and he also is out of options. The club can send Reimold down to Triple-A Norfolk without losing him, so that would be the path of least resistance. It’s unlikely that there is room for both on the big league roster. As things stand, the Orioles’ four-man bench will include Pie/or Reimold, utility infielder Cesar Izturis and a backup catcher (either Craig Tatum or Jake Fox). That final bench spot will depend on whether manager Buck Showalter decides that he needs an extra outfielder or infielder. The candidates for that final spot include Fox, Randy Winn, Robert Andino, Nick Green and Brendan Harris.
Does this signing make a trade more likely?
While I’ve been given no indication that the Orioles are involved in any serious trade talks, they certainly are in position to move either Pie or Reimold. As of now, I expect the Orioles to hold onto them both at least through a good part of spring training. Pie and center fielder Adam Jones have had some injuries over the past couple of years. Scott’s defense in left is also a question mark and Guerrero isn’t getting any younger. The more outfield depth the better. However, if another team loses an outfielder in spring training or isn’t happy with how its current group is performing, the Orioles would certainly listen on Pie and Reimold. Team officials would still love to add a proven veteran to the middle of their rotation and that piece just isn’t available via free agency. Neither Pie or Reimold would be enough to get that type of starter, but perhaps if the Orioles included a young pitcher or two, another team would bite. I’m not saying this will happen so please don’t misunderstand, but a situation where Scott starts in left, Reimold starts in Triple-A, Pie gets traded and Winn makes the club as a fourth outfielder wouldn’t stun me.
How will the lineup look?
The meticulous planner that he is, Showalter almost certainly has had this figured out for weeks, though don’t expect him to let us in on his plans just yet. My prediction is this: 1. Brian Roberts; 2. Nick Markakis; 3. Derrek Lee; 4. Vladimir Guerrero; 5. Luke Scott; 6. Mark Reynolds; 7. Adam Jones; 8. Matt Wieters; and 9. J.J. Hardy. However, I could see switching Jones and Reynolds, at least until Reynolds gets comfortable with his new team and in a new league. I also wouldn’t dismiss batting Jones second, and then moving Markakis to third in front of Guerrero, Lee, Luke, Reynolds, Wieters and Hardy. Either way, if Roberts stays healthy – and he said again last night that he feels great and his workouts have been going real well - this lineup is drastically improved.
What will the Orioles’ Opening Day payroll be?
I cannot provide an exact number, but I should at least, get you in the neighborhood. The Orioles still haven’t settled with their two remaining arbitration players, Jeremy Guthrie and Luke Scott. A “significant” portion of Guerrero’s contract is deferred, according to Ken Rosenthal at www.foxsports.com. And Justin Duchscherer’s contract could be worth $700,000 or $4.5 million depending on his ability to stay healthy, make the Opening Day roster and achieve incentives. However, before the Duchscherer and Guerrero signings, the Orioles’ payroll for 2011 was at about $82 million, representing a $10 million or so increase from last season’s payroll. When you add Guerrero and Duchscherer into the mix, that leaves the payroll in the low $90s.
As per club policy, team officials aren't commenting on a free-agent signing -- in this case, Vladimir Guerrero -- until the player takes and passes his physical. However, Orioles players had plenty to say following the news that the club had agreed to terms with Guerrero on a one-year, $8 million deal.
Here is a sampling:
Nick Markakis: "You look at our lineup, I don’t know that you are going to find a team with as much depth as us. ... He used to kill us with Anaheim. Anytime you go against him, you know what he’s capable of doing. It’s nice to have him on our side now. He’s going to help us out tremendously.”
Adam Jones: "If you look at [the lineup], that’s pretty sick. Like I told you guys at FanFest, now, you have your cleanup guy. [Aubrey] Huff was a No. 4 guy, but when he left, it was a bunch of different guys. Now, you got your four hitter and you build your lineup around him.
More Jones: "It’s pretty cool to see not just moves made, but strong moves. I like all the moves. We have made some moves now that are about going forward and winning. I’m just excited. We’ve gotten some impact players."
Brian Roberts: "This is probably the most excited I’ve been in nine years, that’s for sure. We’re all excited. A guy like that just changes the whole complexion of the lineup. You are talking about a Hall of Fame guy coming off a monster year. To add that kind of hitter to the middle of the order, I’m pumped. I can’t wait.”
More Roberts: "If people would put a list together of their top five or 10 favorite guys to watch hit, he would probably be in the top five of everybody’s list. You never know what he’s going to do, what pitch he is going to hit, how far he is going to hit it. His hand-eye coordination is just off the charts. When you look at his numbers, they are just ridiculous."
Luke Scott: "Vladimir is what I call a freak in a good way. He’s a freak of nature. The reason I say that is he’s the best bad-ball hitter I’ve ever seen. He hits pitches out of the ballpark hard that most major league hitters have a hard time fouling off. He hits balls, and I look at the pitch location and I think to myself, ‘How does he do that?’ He’s just impressive. He leaves me dumbfounded sometimes. He’s just a very special talent, and I’m glad to have his bat in the lineup.”
More Scott: "I’m a hard worker. I’m going to go out and work hard to be the best defensive left fielder I can. I can make the plays I need to make, cover the ground I need to cover. I have a good enough arm. I play solid defense. There’s never a question as far as my defense is concerned."
In a move that will certainly please their long-suffering fan base and at least, on paper, give them one of the better lineups in the American League, the Orioles today have reached agreement on a one-year, $8 million deal with Vladimir Guerrero, according to sources.
The deal for the veteran slugger, who has 436 career home runs, is pending a physical. If Guerrero passes it, the Orioles will install him as their everyday designated hitter and move last year’s DH, Luke Scott, the club’s leading returning home run hitter, to left field. Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold are expected to compete for the fourth outfielder’s role.
Espndeportes.com first reported that the two sides had agreed to a deal.
Guerrero, who will be 36 on Wednesday, batted .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs for the AL-champion Texas Rangers in 2010.
The Orioles had expressed interest in Guerrero earlier this offseason as a contingency plan had they been unable to sign a first baseman and needed to play Scott at that position, thus opening the DH spot. However, they signed veteran Derrek Lee to play first and essentially cut off negotiations with Guerrero’s representatives -- Fern Cuza and Diego Bentz -- at that point.
They resumed talks just a couple of days after the Tampa Bay Rays agreed to terms with Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez on Jan. 21, eliminating what was believed to be Guerrero’s top suitor. The Los Angeles Angels, whom Guerrero starred for from 2004 to 2009, also were essentially eliminated from the picture when they acquired outfielder Vernon Wells, a move that shifted Bobby Abreu to DH.
The Rangers also discussed a potential return for Guerrero, but they didn’t have enough at-bats available after signing third baseman Adrian Beltre, moving Michael Young to a utility/DH role and acquiring first baseman-catcher Mike Napoli.
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail had said on multiple occasions that the club was likely done with any significant spending as its 2011 payroll -- now about $92 million -- had already exceeded what they hoped it would be.
However, Guerrero, who was initially seeking a two-year deal worth between $18 million and $20 million, proved too good to pass up.
The nine-time All-Star is a career .320 hitter and has driven in 100 runs or in 10 seasons. A notorious free swinger who likes the ball anywhere and everywhere but rarely strikes out (he fanned just 60 times in 593 at-bats last year), Guerrero has also bashed 27 or more home runs in 11 of the past 13 seasons.
His bad knees make him exclusively a designated hitter, and there’s some concern that his numbers tailed off so significantly in 2010. Guerrero hit .319 with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs in 83 games before the All-Star break. In the second half, he batted .278 with nine homers and 40 RBIs in 69 contests. He also struggled during the Rangers’ run to the World Series, batting .220 (13-for-59) with no homers, six RBIs and 16 strikeouts.
Still, Guerrero, who is rarely cheated, remains a big-time presence in the batter’s box, and he’ll likely hit cleanup for the Orioles, adding even more depth to a lineup that also includes Lee, third baseman Mark Reynolds and shortstop J.J. Hardy.
Reynolds, acquired in a December trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, batted just .198 last year, but he still put up 32 homers and 85 RBIs and has averaged 35 homers and 95 RBIs over the past three seasons. Lee, a free-agent signing, is also coming off a poor season (.260, 19 homers, 80 RBIs), but he’s just one year removed from recording a .306 average, 35 homers and 111 RBIs for the Chicago Cubs.
Hardy, acquired in a December trade with the Minnesota Twins, hit .268 with six homers and 38 RBIs in 101 games in 2010. However, he’s considered a significance offensive upgrade over former Orioles shortstop Cesar Izturis, who was re-signed to fill a utility role.
Right-hander Justin Duchscherer has passed his physical, finalizing his one-year, major league contract with the Orioles.
Duchscherer, 33, chose the Orioles over the Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners, partially because he wanted to be close to his son in southern New Jersey and also because the Orioles will allow him to compete for a spot in their rotation and won't be using him as a reliever, a role he held for much of his eight seasons in the majors.
He will make $700,000 in a base contract that will increase to $1.1 million when he is put on the 25-man roster (that will be prorated if it is later than Opening Day). He has incentives based on games started that will continue to build and eventually would bring his salary to $4.5 million if he makes 30 starts in 2011. He also has a standard awards bonus package which includes an additional $100,000 if he is named Comeback Player of the Year.
Known as a control artist who can throw several pitches for strikes, Duchscherer is attempting to come back from hip surgery after making just five starts in 2010. He also missed all of 2009 after an elbow injury and a subsequent bout with clinical depression.
When Duchscherer is healthy, however, he can be extremely effective. A two-time All-Star for the Oakland Athletics, he is 33-25 with a 3.13 ERA and nearly a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 224 big league games. As a starter, he is 14-11 with a 3.01 ERA in 32 games, all with Oakland.
Duchscherer was supposed to hold an open workout for teams Tuesday, but after having an Orioles scout watch him throw about 50 pitches during a private side session in Phoenix on Friday, the club decided to sign him.
OK, welcome to the very last Prediction Friday for a long time.
I mean it, no more stretching the theme for an easy entry. At least until Opening Day. Or March Madness.
I’m asking for two overall predictions today.
The first: Give me your Super Bowl winner, score and hero of the game.
I’m taking the Green Bay Packers to win 31-27 – I just can’t bring myself to award that team-which-shall-not-be-named another ring. The hero is Aaron Rodgers, who rushes for a touchdown with 30 seconds left to give the Packers a come-from-behind victory.
Now, since we are sniffing pitchers and catchers reporting to Florida – I don’t mean that literally – we have to throw a baseball prediction out there, too.
It has come to my attention that Connolly’s patrons don’t care about anything else but whether Vladimir Guerrero will sign with the Orioles. In November, no one even mentioned Guerrero. Now I can’t go to the grocery store without being questioned by someone – and not about why I am mishandling the avocados.
As a self-proclaimed Orioles Insider, I can definitively answer the Guerrero question with a very stern “maybe.” I keep ending up on the fence here. I believe the Orioles are the best fit for him, the only aggressive suitor and have a solid offer on the table. I just can’t help but think, though, that someone else is going to make an 11th hour offer that Guerrero is going to take.
Really, I’m not sure. We know the sides have talked recently. But we don't know how close they are. So I want your call on Vlady. Not whether you want him, but whether you think it will happen. Are you feeling confident? Or have you seen this movie -- with Spanish subtitles -- before?
Daily Think Special: Prediction Friday: The Super Bowl
Bonus Think Special: Will Vladimir Guerrero sign with the Orioles? Why or why not?
Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Toronto Blue Jays slugger (and former Oriole) Jose Bautista will have their jerseys retired by Chipola College in a ceremony on Saturday.
They’ll also be honored at a dinner Friday night at the school in Marianna, Fla.
Showalter spent a year playing for the junior college in 1976 before attending Mississippi State University, where he was an All-American.
Bautista, the reigning American League home run champion, played for Chipola before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000.
The last time the two were together on Sept. 26, Showalter was ejected from the Orioles-Blue Jays game when Bautista was hit by a pitch from Oriole reliever Alfredo Simon after both sides had been warned.
The Orioles have announced their big-league spring training roster.
It includes everyone on the 40-man roster and 16 additional invites. We’ve told you most of the non-roster invitees previously, but there were three we hadn’t mentioned: 36-year-old outfielder Randy Winn, 34-year-old right-hander Ryan Drese and righty prospect Wynn Pelzer, whom the Orioles acquired last July from San Diego for Miguel Tejada.
Winn has played 13 seasons in the big leagues, and was an all-star in 2002. Drese most recently pitched for the Washington Nationals. He most recently made nine starts in the Mexican Winter League.
Pitchers and catchers report Feb.14 and then have their initial workout that day. The first workout for hitters is Feb. 21 (many of the guys come in earlier than that). The mandatory reporting date for all players is Feb. 26.
You can throw Justin Duchscherer’s name into the mix below as the final member of the 40-man roster, assuming his physical went well and his contract is soon announced.
The 40-man roster guys are as follows:
Pitchers (20): Jeremy Accardo, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken, Zach Britton, Brandon Erbe, Michael Gonzalez, Kevin Gregg, Jeremy Guthrie, Jim Johnson, Luis Lebron, Brian Matusz, Troy Patton, Adrian Rosario, Alfredo Simon, Chorye Spoone, Chris Tillman, Koji Uehara, Rick VandenHurk and Pedro Viola.
Catchers (3): Jake Fox, Craig Tatum and Matt Wieters.
Infielders (10): Robert Andino, Josh Bell, Pedro Florimon, J.J. Hardy, Cesar Izturis, Derrek Lee, Joseph Mahoney, Mark Reynolds, Brian Roberts and Brandon Snyder.
Outfielders (6): Matt Angle, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Felix Pie, Nolan Reimold and Luke Scott.
And here are all of the non-roster invitees. The Orioles still could add to this list in the next week:
Pitchers (8): Mitch Atkins, Ryan Drese, Armando Gabino, Mark Hendrickson, Wynn Pelzer, Clay Rapada, Raul Rivero and Josh Rupe.
Catchers (3): Adam Donachie, Michel Hernandez and Caleb Joseph
Infielders (4): Ryan Adams, Nick Green, Brendan Harris and Tyler Henson.
Outfielders (1): Randy Winn
Orioles and Mid-Atlantic Sports Network broadcaster Gary Thorne has been elected as president of the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.), and named the host of the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Thorne has been calling Orioles games since 2007, and has been providing play-by-play coverage for MLB for 27 years. He also has covered the NHL, the Olympics and NCAA basketball, football and hockey during his 47-year broadcasting career.
In his new position with B.A.T., Thorne replaces former National League Rookie if the Year Ted Sizemore, whose term has expired. According to the organization's web site, the primary objective of the Baseball Assistance Team is to "aid those members of the "baseball family" most in need. B.A.T. strives to provide a means of support to people who are unable to help themselves."
George Grande had served as the host of the Hall of Fame festivities in past years.
We are fresh off 2011 FanFest, when several respected media types were asked during one forum how the Orioles would do this season?
Nearly everyone in the panel offered up a win total in the 80s. Everyone, that is, except for the scraggly, pessimistic, spit-on-your-parade duo at the Baltimore Sun.
Scrooges, they are (Jeff Z and I both said 75 wins, which is a significant jump from 66 in 2010).
Anyway, I was throwing out some magazines today and came across a Baseball America from March of last year. In it, it had team predictions from fangraphs.com based on statistical projections (runs above average) for each roster.
The conclusion was that the 2010 Orioles would have a neutral offense, slightly below average defense and pitching that was second-to-worst in the AL. So it wasn’t that far off.
However, those predictions also were formulated into win totals. And what did it have for the 2010 Orioles, the ones that had to soar in the final two months just to avoid infamy?
78 wins. And fourth place, above the Toronto Blue Jays. Didn’t happen of course.
For some perspective, the fangraphs.com projections did a solid job in the American League – predicting the Texas Rangers would win the West, the Minnesota Twins would win the Central and the wild card would come from the East. Those projections had the New York Yankees winning the division and the Boston Red Sox getting the Wild Card. Instead the Yankees were the Wild Card and the Tampa Bay Rays won the East.
In the NL, the predictions were a mess. BA/Fangraphs had the Atlanta Braves as being better than most expected – but the 2010 Wild Card Braves were predicted to win the division and the Philadelphia Phillies weren’t even slated for the playoffs (wow).
The Cardinals were chosen as the Central winner – and not the Reds -- and the West was supposed to be won by the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, one of which would have earned the Wild Card. The eventual World Champion San Francisco Giants were picked as fourth in that division, seven games worse than the Diamondbacks, who finished 2010 with a record of 65-97 that was actually below the Orioles.
I guess the point is that predictions are just that – even when they use fancy statistical research to make their conclusions. And that optimism is always welcomed in February and March.
Longtime Orioles scout Jim Howard has been named as one of four 2011 inductees for the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame.
He will be honored before a Hudson Valley Renegades game in New York on July 2.
Howard has been recognized in the past as the club's Scout of the Year, but now he will be immortalized with a bronze plaque.
He has scouted countless players for the Orioles in the past -- and also has worked as the club's advance scout -- but he's probably best known for pushing for the drafting of a left-hander out of a Connecticut junior college named Erik Bedard.
As we've said before, scouts often go unnoticed -- the offensive lineman of baseball. Howard, for one, is definitely one of the good guys in the game.
The other three scouts to be inducted this summer are Colorado Rockies' Jack Gillis, the Cincinnati Reds' Terry Reynolds and the Kansas City Royals' Mike Toomey, a Gaithersburg resident and former George Washington University baseball coach.
Go to mobile.baltimoresun.com to get news on your mobile device. Text BASEBALL to 70701 for Orioles alerts.
The assumption is that if Justin Duchscherer is healthy he’ll be in the Orioles rotation.
His first Orioles’ test literally comes Wednesday when he has his physical in Baltimore. He made it to town late Tuesday night, battling some terrible flying weather to get here.
The 33-year-old has shown he can be an extremely effective starter (3.01 ERA in 32 big-league starts) when he can remain on the field.
For this exercise, let’s assume he does. Pencil him into the rotation with Jeremy Guthrie, likely the Opening Day starter, and lefty Brian Matusz. My guess is Brad Bergesen is in the rotation as well, which means Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman will fight for the fifth spot.
From where I sit in early February, I think Arrieta wins that battle and the 22-year-old Tillman goes back to Triple-A to work on his consistency and join Zach Britton for a nice 1-2 punch for the Tides.
So many things can change between now and then. I get that. But let’s make the call now and see how it plays out. Give me your starting rotation for 2011. Enumerate them if you like. And tell me why you came to your conclusion if you want.
Daily Think Special: Who will make up the Orioles’ five-man rotation to start 2011?
According to Baseball America, via mlbtraderumors.com, the Orioles have signed a few more pitchers for minor-league depth.
They are right-handers Chris Jakubauskas and Mark Worrell and lefty James Houser.
Like Nick Bierbrodt, whose signing was announced last week, none of the above trio has been invited to big league camp at this point. That could change as the Orioles re-evaluate the number of arms they need before pitchers and catchers report Feb. 14.
Jakubauskas, 32, pitched in 35 games with the Mariners in 2009 and one game with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010. He is 6-8 with a 5.48 ERA in his big league career.
Worrell, 27, pitched four games in relief for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008.
Houser, 26, made his debut June 24, 2010, pitching 1 1/3 innings and allowing three runs for the Florida Marlins in his lone big league appearance. He was a second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays' in 2003.
Go to mobile.baltimoresun.com to get news on your mobile device. Text BASEBALL to 70701 for Orioles alerts.
The Orioles aren’t commenting on the Alfredo Simon situation.
They haven’t at all since the Orioles’ 29-year-old reliever was named as the primary suspect in the New Year’s Day shooting death of his cousin and jailed in the Dominican Republic.
But with news today that his attempt to get bail was rejected by a Dominican judge, it has become an almost certainty that Simon won’t be in Sarasota on Feb. 14, when pitchers and catchers are supposed to report.
That is a voluntary date, however. The mandatory date for all players to report to spring training is Feb. 26.
Although the Orioles aren’t publicly commenting, one can make the jump that they will keep Simon on their 40-man roster until then. Once he doesn’t report by the mandatory date, they can move him to the sport’s restricted list, which is for players unable to perform baseball duties for reasons other than injury.
That will free up a spot on the club’s 40-man roster. Simon could remain on the restricted list until he is ready to re-join the team, whenever that may be, according to a Major League Baseball spokesman. While on the restricted list, the player does not get paid and does not accrue service time, the spokesman said.
Andy MacPhail, the club’s president of baseball operations, usually does things by the letter of the baseball law. So the guess is that’s how he will proceed on this matter. I doubt you’ll see the Orioles making any move involving Simon before Feb. 26.
Phil Isaac, one of Simon’s United States-based agents, said his client’s playing career is not a primary concern at this time.
“Our focus right now is on the young man who is battling for his life. We don’t want to comment on baseball,” Isaac said. “At this point, our focus is on the case at hand.”
Go to mobile.baltimoresun.com to get news on your mobile device. Text BASEBALL to 70701 for Orioles alerts.
The Associated Press in the Dominican Republic is reporting that a bail request made by Orioles’ right-hander Alfredo Simon has been denied and he remains in a prison in his home country.
Last month, a judge ruled that Simon could be held in custody for a year without charges being filed. His representation has appealed that and will appeal the bail decision as well, the AP reported.
Simon is the primary suspect in the shooting death of his cousin in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day during a celebration in a resort town not far from where Simon grew up. Simon, 29, has claimed he fired a gun in the air but did not shoot his cousin or a 17-year-old boy who was wounded. He has not been charged with a crime, according to his representation, but in the Dominican can be held as the investigation continues.
Ballistics tests on the gun Simon allegedly had that night have not been released -- weeks after the results were anticipated.
Simon remains on the Orioles’ 40-man roster but likely will be moved to the restricted list, assuming he cannot get to Florida before the mandatory reporting date Feb. 26.
With it officially February and all of us battling the winter’s 39th “significant weather event,” we thought it might be time to look ahead to spring training.
Or at least revisit who will be there. Anyone who is on the 40-man roster gets an invitation. So will the following 13 players:
Pitchers (6): Mitch Atkins, Armando Gabino, Mark Hendrickson, Clay Rapada, Raul Rivero and Josh Rupe.
Catchers (3): Adam Donachie, Michel Hernandez and Caleb Joseph.
Infielders: (4): Ryan Adams, Nick Green, Brendan Harris and Tyler Henson.
The Orioles will probably have no more than 60 at big league camp, so that leaves about five to seven more spots that we don’t know about yet. Some could be filled internally with minor leaguers already in the system, and others could be taken by minor league free agents that haven’t been publicized yet as signing with the club. The Orioles usually do that in one official group announcement.
Outfielder Jeff Fiorentino, who recently signed a minor league deal, didn’t get an invitation, and pitcher Nick Bierbrodt might not, either.
Remember, though, just because a player doesn’t get a big league invitation doesn’t mean he won’t appear in a spring training game for the Orioles. With minor leaguers only a clubhouse door away in Sarasota, Fla., -- unlike hours away when the headquarters were in Fort Lauderdale -- various players may be pulled up to help the Orioles for a game or two, at home or away.
Last year, for instance, prospect Xavier Avery got some at-bats in a split-squad game in Fort Myers and Steve Johnson pitched in Port Charlotte after he came back from the San Francisco Giants’ camp.
I’m sure the Orioles will do that again. It’s another advantage of having everyone together. And manager Buck Showalter loves watching and interacting with upcoming players.