Spring training news and notes Day 7

Not a whole lot of news out of camp today….

*The Orioles will play just one intrasquad game, manager Buck Showalter said today, and it will be on Sunday at Ed Smith Stadium. As expected, catcher Matt Wieters will be behind the plate but not throw down to second base. The O’s hope to have Wieters’ legs in shape enough that when he is cleared to throw full throttle –on March 17–he can catch between 5-7 innings.

*Everth Cabrera got reps in at second base today and will move to third on Friday. Steve Pearce will be with the outfield group on Friday. Chris Davis could also get some time in the outfield and at third base this spring, Showalter said.

*The plan remains for Wieters, Davis and Manny Machado to get a lot of extra at-bats this spring.

*Showalter said he received a text from Nick Markakis clarifying the outfielder’s quotes in USA Today. Apparently, Markakis explained the context of what he said compared to how it came across in the actual story.

*Ubaldo Jimenez will start the first spring game on Tuesday and the O’s have the first week of pitching mapped out. The way the schedule falls, Jimenez could pitch a lot of games on the road this spring.

Jimenez to pitch spring opener

SARASOTA— Ubaldo Jimenez will start the Orioles first Grapefruit League on Tuesday in Lakeland, Fla. against the Detroit Tigers, manager Buck Showalter announced on Thursday.

“Last year was tough,” said Jimenez who went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in first year of a four-year, $50 million contract with Baltimore. “This is the beginning of 2015 and I’m excited to be part of the first game.”

The way the Orioles schedule lines up, Showalter said that Jimenez could be on the “gray pants schedule” that means he would pitch a lot of road games. The right-hander pitched just once away from Sarasota last spring, but said that doesn’t matter much to him.

“It’s part of the game,” Jimenez said. “This year if that’s how it has to go down ill take it. It’s baseball you have to get ready for everything.”

Jimenez, who has used a more simplified delivery this season, will be watched closely as getting him back on track would be huge for the Orioles. The team also has six starters vying for five spots in the rotation, making it one of the more interesting storylines in camp.

Jones on Markakis: “I know the truth”

It didn’t long this morning when Adam Jones walked in for a media scrum to follow and ask for his reaction to former teammate Nick Markakis’ comments in yesterday’s USA Today. None of this is new from what happened this winter –it was widely reported here and in other places that Baltimore didn’t want to go more than three years because of concerns for his neck on the MRI– but it is interesting that Markakis is still harboring some resentment over it.

“Don’t believe a word they say,” Markakis told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “It was all because of my neck. They can say what they want to make them look good. It’s all B.S.”

Markakis maybe didn’t follow along this winter, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said several times this winter that the Orioles had some health concerns with a long-term deal for Markakis. Saying he was still dealing with neck issues could have worsened Markakis’ standing in other negotiations and publicly delving further into his MRI results could have been a potential HIPAA violation.

Jones, who was not happy with the news this winter, didn’t fault Markakis for how things went down.

“I know what’s going on,” Jones said Thursday morning. “I know the truth. It’s a move he made for himself. I never fault him for it.”

As for Markakis –who signed a four-yea deal with Atlanta– wanting the Orioles to be more public about the reason they balked at anything longer than a three-year deal, Jones agreed with his friend and former teammate.

“I don’t know what he played with, he never disclosed anything to anybody,” Jones said of Markakis, who took great pride of playing every game. “Check all 750 players something hurts, something is not normal. If that’s the real reason he’s not here I hope someone can man up and say it instead of beating around the bush.”

But Duquette did say it already, including at FanFest.

“It always comes out later,” Jones said. “That’s just how this game is.”

Probably the most surprising part about Wednesday’s article was that the quiet Markakis said anything at all.

“I’m glad he said something because he never says anything,” Jones said of the uncharacteristic outburst. “I’m glad he said something, he should say stuff. He has a lot on his mind, very articulate man, very smart man. He doesn’t say much, but when he does people listen. He’s got peoples attention. That’s why you are all in front of me now.”

Cabrera introduced

SARASOTA, Fla.— New Oriole Everth Cabrera has reached a plea agreement stemming from a resisting arrest charge in September and will be eligible to play in 2015 while on probation. Cabrera, who will wear No. 1, paid a fine and will have to do community service, according to executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.

Resolving the issue —which originally had a court date set for April— was vital to adding Cabrera, according to both Duquette and manager Buck Showalter.

“It was a prerequisite,” Showalter said of finalizing the one-year, $2.4 million contract on Wednesday. “That’s why it took as long as it did [after word leaked of an agreement]. It wasn’t going to happen until it did and we felt comfortable with it.”

Cabrera, who was also suspended in 2013’s Biogenesis scandal, is hoping for a fresh start in Baltimore.

“We always learn from, [and I did from] making the mistakes I did,” he said. “I’m fresh. My mind is fresh and I’m ready to move [on]. I’m ready to play baseball and happy to be here.”

The Orioles have a recent history of taking on players with some baggage, including Nelson Cruz last season. Cruz was also implicated and suspended in Biogenesis and flourished on a one-year deal with the O’s.

“You can say the same thing about Delmon [Young]. Almost more so than Nelson,” Showalter said of bring in a player with previous indiscretions into the clubhouse. “That part of it I feel real confident. Already seen a couple things today, you see guys running from field to field…I don’t have a lot to compare it with.

You talk about a clean slate and  open mind that’s what’s going on right now with him.”

Cabrera could see time in the outfield this spring, but not initially. The 28-year-old, who could make another $600,000 in incentives, said it doesn’t matter to him where he plays.

“I’m open to everything,”said Cabrera, who has 99 stolen bases over the past three seasons. “I have a little experience before playing centerfield, right field. I want the opportunity and I want to play.”

Another key component in the Orioles decision was Cabrera’s offseason attention to getting his legs back. Duquette said Cabrera spent the past eight weeks at St. Thomas University working to resolve some of the soft tissue injuries” that resulted in hamstring issues and limited him last season.

“He’s young, he’s hungry, he’s made the All Star team in 2013,” Duquette said of Cabrera. “He can play a premium skilled defensive position. He’s a switch hitter. He’s an outstanding baserunner and a premium base stealer. So, he’s got a lot of assets that could help the ball club and I’m sure we will find some spots to help us win some ballgames.”

Added Showalter: “I’m not going to walk around behind [Cabrera] or browbeat him. I’m going to see if he takes the opportunity he’s given here and run with it.”

Spring training news and notes Day 6

Today was the first full-squad workout and there’s not much newsy to report from that. The players worked on relays and coverage while some of the pitchers threw in the covered batting cages to hitters tracking pitches. The media isn’t allowed in there to see those, so I can’t report on how anyone looked. But manager Buck Showalter said everyone scheduled threw with no physical issues.

*New Oriole Everth Cabrera has reached a plea agreement stemming from a resisting arrest charge in September and is on probation. Cabrera, who will wear No. 1, paid a fine and will have to do community service. Resolving the issue, which originally had a court date set for April, was vital to adding Cabrera, according to both executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter.

“It was a prerequisite,” Showalter said. “That’s why it took as long as it did [to finalize the contract]. It wasn’t going to happen until it did and we felt comfortable with it.”

Cabrera could see time in the outfield this spring, but not initially. The 28-year-old said it doesn’t matter to him where he plays.

“I’m open to everything,” Cabrera said. “I have a little experience before playing centerfield, right field. I want the opportunity and I want to play.”

*Chris Davis held court this morning about his therapeutic use exemption, his 25-game suspension and his mindset this spring and you can read that story here.

Davis: “It almost feels like I have something to prove again”

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis held court in the clubhouse a few minutes ago and I’ll have a full story up on Orioles.com shortly. Here are some of the highlights…

On being back at camp…

“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a number of months now, for obvious reasons. I”m just excited to get out there and get back to what I know. And put all this stuff behind me.” 

On if he has a chip on his shoulder…

“I think I kind of keep a chip on my shoulder. My mindset is so much different this year. After you have a big year you come in and you kind of question, ‘Do I need to change anything? Do I do everything the same? How do I out-do myself?’ And I think a lot of times you end up working against yourself and that’s kind of what happened last year. Obviously with the injury early on I pushed a little too hard to get back and didn’t give myself enough time to heal. But with everything that’s gone on and the time I’ve had off, it just lit a fire underneath me and I definitely have a different mindset coming into this season. I almost feel more confident this year than I did last year, which is kind of ridiculous to say. It’s just a weird thing, I don’t know how to describe it. 

Just coming off the suspension, the injury, everything last year. I was confident after 2013, but it was kind of ‘where do we go from here? do i keep everything exactly the same? do i need to change it up?’ Coming into this season it almost feels like I have something to prove again. And that’s a good spot for me to be in.”

On the last time he was at Sarasota League, during instructional league

“Last time I was here I was on timeout, so to speak. Even when I came back and saw the guys, I couldn’t really participate and that’s a miserable feeling. I know a lot of that was self-inflicted and to be honest with you I deserved every bit of it. But being back here and being back in the mix and knowing these guys are going to count on me and being able to actually make an impact, it means a lot to me.”
On his batting average last season…

“I always feel like if I’m swinging the bat well, I’m going to carry a good average and the home runs are going to be there, the RBIs are going to be there. I think the thing that really killed me was early on obviously the oblique but I was carrying a decent batting average and I actually had a good number of RBIs, but my home runs were down. It was cold. There were some balls you hit that didn’t leave and you kind of start second-guessing yourself. The worst thing I could have done was go out there and try to hit home runs and I did that, and you saw the effects of that on my average. There was no doubt that was extremely disappointing. I know I’m way better than a .196 hitter and hopefully go back out there and prove it this year.”

On what he’s learned the past two years..

“I think having the game taken away from me, you learn how fragile it is and how important it is and really what a blessing it is coming here and doing what we do every day. I think I had kind of taken that for granted last year and obviously got away from the things that made me successful. It was a pretty quick reminder of how fragile it is and how privileged we are to be here every day and I won’t forget that.”

On getting a TUE for a different drug…
“Yeah, the name of the drug is Vyvanse. It’s basically a more sophisticated version of Adderall and it’s kind of the new thing the way it’s introduced to the body. I’m not really going to get into specifics because I don’t want to quote medical terms that I have no idea (about) and just show my ignorance.  I like the way it works and I think it’s something that’s helped me away from baseball and hopefully it will continue to help me.” 

On if he thinks addressing team again is necessary…
“I don’t. Obviously not being able to come to the field last year, I did certain things to voice how I felt and apologize, but I think the biggest thing for me is to move forward. I think the quicker we put this thing behind us and focus on what we need to accomplish this year, the better we’re going to be.” 

Os make Cabrera deal official

SARASOTA–The Orioles officially announced the signing of infielder Everth Cabrera to a one-year, $2.4 million deal on Wednesday, clearing a roster spot on the 40-man by designating Alex Hassan for assignment.

Cabrera is expected to meet with the media on Wednesday afternoon. Part of Cabrera’s deal includes a Minor League option, but he will be given every opportunity to make the O’s team out of camp and contribute significantly. The plan is for Baltimore to use Cabrera, who has predominantly played shortstop over his career, in the outfield some this spring to present a utility option for them. He will also get a majority of his reps at second base.

Cabrera, who lead the National League with 44 steals in 2012, has 99 stolen bases over the past three seasons and presents a different option —and perhaps a leadoff guy— for an Orioles club without Nick Markakis. Cabrera batted .232/.272/.300 with three home runs and 20 RBI in 90 games with the Padres in 2014. In 481 career games, he has hit .248/.319/.333 with 12 home runs, 128 RBI, and 136 stolen bases.

But the 28-year-old doesn’t come without some baggage. In addition to being implicated in the Biogenesis scandal, and subsequently suspended, Cabrera is facing a misdemeanor charge for resisting arrest during a Sept. 3 incident.On that day, Cabrera was arrested on the suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana and was also cited for possession. If convicted, he could face up to a year in jail. Cabrera has pleaded not guilty; the trial is set for mid-April.
Still, the Orioles haven’t shied away from taking on controversial players in the past few years, adding both Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young last year, and Showalter seemed fairly confident that Cabrera would fit in with the rest of the clubhouse.
“The risk factor is very much on our side,” Showalter said Tuesday. “We wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.”
Cabrera, who can earn up to an additional $600,000 in incentives, has also had some hamstring issues and Showalter said the team was impressed with the work he’s put in to make sure his legs are healthy and he stays on teh field. Cabrera’s arrival, which comes a week after news broke of the agreement, will make for some intrigue in camp as he competes with Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop for time in the infield.

Buck on movie night, Cabrera etc…

SARASOTA, Fla.— In advance of the Orioles first full squad workout on Wednesday the team will have their annual movie night on Tuesday, a tradition under manager Buck Showalter.

“It’s interesting to go back and look through the message you are trying to get across each year,” Showalter said of the team-created short film. “You can’t get too predictable. Got to throw a little hitch in the giddyup.”

One of the primary reasons for the night out, besides some team bonding, is to eliminate a lot of the morning meetings that typically take place at the start of Spring Training. Showalter said he tries to put himself in the players shoes and he remembers how hard it was to sit through lectures and meetings on Day 1 of camp, because all anyone wants to do is finally get back on the field.

“[Tuesday night’s activity is]  a way to eliminate all of that in a better setting, better seating, air conditioning. And a chance for me to hopefully have my last meeting of the year,” Showalter said. “We were very close to it last year. I don’t gather them too much. We do a lot of things individually in small groups. Also, you are not surprised by anything [for the first workout]. You eliminate a lot of the surprises.”

****

The deal for Everth Cabrera is not official yet, though it is expected to be on Wednesday. Cabrera spent Tuesday traveling to Sarasota and, while manager Buck Showalter never used his name, he still talked about the move to acquire the infielder.

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“The risk factor is very much on our side,” Showalter said, referring to Cabrera’s past off-the-field issues. “We wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.”

Also important to Baltimore in the one-year deal is that Cabrera has a Minor League option, meaning he can be sent to Triple-A without being exposed to waivers.

***
Showalter caught his first look at Dariel Alvarez and Travis Snider taking some swings during informal batting practice on Tuesday. Alvarez is the organization’s  top position player prospect, while Snider is a new guy acquired in a trade from Pittsburgh. There’s always evaluating to be done, even this early.

Asked if he still gets excited for the first actual spring workout, Showalter said it’s actually gotten worse over the years.

“I don’t have anxiety about it,” he said. “I just have anticipation.”

***

The oldest pitcher in camp, Mark Hendrickson, is back with the Orioles in big-league camp after a year in independent ball and presenting himself as a left-handed relief option with a sidearm delivery.

“He’s done everything that you can do to get one more shot. And at the end of it, if it doesn’t work out, if he’s wiling we are going to get a heck of a pitching coach,” Showalter said of the 40-year-old Hendrickson. “He’s really good around our guys. He’s really made a contribution here. He’s fun to watch. He’s not going into it like this is my last swan song and getting nostalgic about it. He’s trying to make the club.”

Spring Trainings new and notes Day 5

Today is the official report date for the position players, though most of the Orioles have been here for a few days or more. The last two guys to report, Delmon Young and Michael Almanzar, were in the clubhouse this morning. There won’t be any bullpen sessions today and tonight is the annual team bonding experience, with manager Buck Showalter typically renting out a theatre and showing an inspirational movie to the club.

*Manny Machado is among those who were in camp already and you can tell he’s just ready to get this thing going. Coming off his second consecutive season-ending knee surgery, Machado is a full-go in camp this time around and there isn’t anything baseball-wise he isn’t allowed to do.

“I see it like my first Spring Training again,” Machado said to the media scrum that gathered around his locker. “I’m that excited.”

While the big news the last time Machado had knee surgery was about changing how he ran, the All-Star said now the focus is on keeping things the same and getting back to doing what he loves.

” I’m just going out there, being myself,” Machado said. “Playing how I’ve always played. Just trying to get that feel for it again.”

Machado, limited to 82 games last year, figures to get a lot of playing time this spring. That’s perfectly fine with him.

“I’ll take as many [at-bats] as I can get,” Machado said of Showalter’s plan to get him and catcher Matt Wieters a lot of at-bats. “I haven’t played in a long time. As much as I can get, I’ll take it. I’m pumped for spring. I’m pumped to play some games. I want to get out there and play as much as I can. If I need to go on extra road trip games, I’ll go. If I have to stay back, I’ll stay back. No matter what, I’m just excited to play.”

Last spring, Machado had hoped to be ready for Opening Day, but had a setback while running and missed the first month of the season. This time around, Machado hasn’t had any setbacks and he also had the procedure earlier, which should help make the start of a season much more of a possibility.

“I think everything has been going smooth, knock on wood,” Machado said. “Everything’s been going good. I’ve just got to keep my strength up. I’ve got two brand new knees now, so it’s just time to go out there and play and keep do what I’ve been doing, stay on it.”

*Should Machado need a day off in-season, Steve Pearce could potentially be an option. Pearce brought every glove necessary to camp this year and joked that catcher Matt Wieters’ locker is only a few down should he need to present himself as a backup backstop.

After a career year last year, Pearce figures to get consistent playing time. But he could move around the field, playing in the corner outfield spots, first base and as a designated hitter option.

“It definitely will be fun,” Pearce said of being used in a versatile role. “You never know what you’re going to get. If I’m in the lineup, I’ll play anywhere.”

Pearce acknowledged there’s a rumor that Showalter wants him to get some reps at third and he will be ready should that be the case. As Showalter referenced on Monday, Pearce’s performance last year proved he can do more than be an occasional bench guy and he’ll have an expanded role for the Orioles this season. In 2014, Pearce hit a career-high 21 home runs and played in 102 games with a .293/.373/.556 line.

“Just a chance to show what I could do last year and getting the opportunity and seizing it,” Pearce said of what he was proud of last year. “It’s been a long road for me on that part but I’m just glad that I got the chance.”

“It took a while [for the 2014 season]  to sink in. For me, last year was so fun for what we accomplished as a team. Not just my individual stats. How we surprised people like nobody said we’d do. When I look back on it that was probably the best for me.”

*No sign of Everth Cabrera, but he’s not expected to be made available to the media until the deal is official and announced. He was expected to be in Sarasota today, in advance of Wednesday’s first full-squad workout.

*Steve Johnson’s X-rays on his middle finger came back negative so he will try to throw a little today and hopefully a bullpen tomorrow. Since there’s no serious damage, it’s just a matter of what he can tolerate right now.

Cabrera expected in Sarasota Tuesday

The Orioles are nearly done with the deal with infielder Everth Cabrera and he’s expected be in Sarasota on Tuesday for the position player report date. The O’s should finalize the deal in the next day or two for the $2.4 million deal, which also includes another $600,000 in incentives, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Orioles EVP Dan Duquette said last week that the deal would take a little longer to get done as the club worked through some of the off the field issues with the former National League All-Star.

Besides being a player implicated — and suspended — in the Biogenesis scandal, the 28-year-old is facing a pending misdemeanor charge for resisting arrest during a Sept. 3 incident.

On that day, Cabrera was arrested on the suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana and was also cited for possession of the drug. If convicted, he could face up to a year in jail. Cabrera has pleaded not guilty and the trial is set for mid-April.

Cabrera owns a career .248/.319/.333 line in six Major League seasons, and he will likely move around the diamond this spring as the Orioles try to see if he can be a fit in the utility spot. He also could be a leadoff option for the O’s, who have been looking to fill the spot since the departure of Nick Markakis.

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