February 2010

Miggi: Bring on the games

Manager Dave Trembley said today that he wants to keep the soon-to-be regular fixture of Miguel Tejada and Cesar Izturis together as often as possible this spring.

“The more times I can play them together in the spring, I think the better,” Trembley said.

Tejada, who has been taking extra early work with infield coach Juan Samuel told me  earlier this week that he is progressively feeling more comfortable at third base, and is eager to try things at game speed.

“I’m comfortable, now I can’t wait for the games to start,” Tejada said. “In practice now I’m fine, I don’t have a problem, I feel comfortable and I’m excited to be there. I’m waiting for the games to get started because it’s different.”

Tejada acknowledged that fielding the bunt will still be hard for him in the beginning, but there are other areas of the hot corner he feels he has pretty under control.

“It’s not difficult to see the ball coming, no matter how hard it’s coming, [and] going to the side is the same as shortstop,” Tejada said. “I think going forward for the bunt is the big [one], [and] something I’m going to start working on.”

Trembley said his plan for Tejada this spring is similar to that of the rest of the regular position players: balancing playing time with rest.

“[I]try to stay away as best I can from playing guys in back-to-back
games early,” Trembley said. “After that, start playing guys more innings and
working into playing back-to-back games. So, at the end of camp, guys
have played three in a row and are up to nine innings.”

Trembley said he wants to start Izturis and Tejada in the same Spring Training games so the pair can get familiar with each other. He also plans on keeping them back at the Orioles training complex together during certain road trips, so the pair can continue to work alongside each other.

On Sunday, Trembley said he wasn’t sure exactly how many starts he would give Tejada at third base this spring.

“I know he’s going to have to get game time at third, but I think you’re
going to have to balance it with being practical and realize that he’s a
veteran player and an older guy,” Trembley said. “These games don’t count. You want him
ready for the season.”

Catching up with Koji

Koji Uehara was pleased with his performance in today’s live batting practice session, saying through interpretor Jiwon Bang that he was able to command the ball better than his last outing.

Although manager Dave Trembley has previously raved about Uehara’s conditioning, Koji said it was “tough to tell” whether he was in better shape this spring than at the same time last year.

“One thing I can tell you is that the way I’m approaching it from last season, as a starter and as a bullpen guy, is different,” he said. “The number of pitches, stuff like that.”

A former closer in Japan, the Orioles will use Koji in a relief role this season, as their projected starting rotation includes Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman.

“Koji loooked good again,” Trembley said. “[His ball was] down, threw some good splits.”

Roberts takes first swings of spring

Brian Roberts took swings during the Orioles live batting practice on Sunday for the first time since being diagnosed with a small herniated disc in his lower back.The Orioles leadoff hitter, Roberts progressively swung with more authority as he rotated through the team’s five stations, taking some good hacks in particular off infield coach Juan Samuel.

“I always do BP fairly easy, I’ve tried to increase the intensity a little bit as I went, kind of every round,” Roberts said. “But most importantly [you] just try to get your body moving in that direction at a little higher rate than off the tee or flips or whatever.”

Roberts took cuts from both sides of the plate, and was encouraged with the results from Sunday’s workout.

“Anytime you are coming off of any type of injury that psychological part is as much as the
physical part,” he said.

“It got better. The physical confidence as well as the psychological part…the more you [take swings], the more confidence you get and the more effort you are able to put in.”

The 32-year-old Roberts began experiencing nagging back spasms during his offseason workouts at the Athletes’ Performance Institute in Arizona, and was originally misdiagnosed with kidney stones before doctors found the herniated disc a week later.

Roberts said on Tuesday that he had hoped to be able to swing a bat against live pitching within the next week.  Prior to Sunday’s workout, the Orioles second baseman had been a
regular fixture at fielding practice and in the cages, and was only limited in swinging the bat during BP.

“That’s the last phase, start hitting live,” manager Dave Trembley said of Roberts’ program. “So, it was good to get that started [on Sunday].”

With the Orioles set to play an intrasquad game on Monday and open Grapefruit League play against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, the timetable for Roberts’ return is still undecided.

 “I don’t know [when Roberts will get in games],” Trembley said “I will wait until I see what [head athletic trainer Richard Bancells] tells me, what [Roberts] tells me. I can’t put a time frame on it.”

For now Roberts said the plan is to slowly increase his work load and intensity, and try to
limit the stopping and starting action that often results from waiting around in between turns at the plate.

“I don’t think I’m going to start hacking off pitchers throwing 95 [miles per hour] yet ,” Roberts said. “But we will increase with the batting practice and the intensity and maybe a few more swings as well.”

Shields, Guthrie to face off

Jeremy Guthrie 
is tabbed to start Wednesday’s game
against the Rays and said he was informed of the decision about a week ago.

Tampa Bay will send RHP James Shields to the mound on March 3 (with starter Matt Garza also expected to throw) and Jeff Niemann will get the start on the 4th.

Trembley said last week that the team will use a mix of younger guys and veterans and try to stick with each pitchers’ individual schedule.

of the guys you will see pitch on the 1st will probably be ready to
pitch on the 6th,” Trembley said. “And there is some consideration early
here in camp that we may not want some of the guys to pitch against
division opponents if we can possibly avoid it.”

The Orioles have an intrasquad game on Monday– I
blogged the pitching lineups
for both teams yesterday– that will go seven innings and feature 14 different hurlers.

Monday's Intrasquad lineup

The pitching lineups for Monday’s intrasquad game will be as follows:

Orange team: Chris Tillman, Mike Hinckley, Wilfrido Perez, Ross Wolf, Choyre Spoone, Josh Perrault and Brandon Erbe

Black team: Jake Arrieta, Jim Johnson, Luis Lebron, Troy Patton, Armando Gabino, Frank Mata

The game is slated to start at 12:30 on the main field at Ed Smith Stadium and will be free and open to the public. The team is asking for small donations to the Boys & Girls club, and will be putting on a free clinic for the local B&G chapter following the game.

Manager Dave Trembley said yesterday the team’s regular position players will probably play three innings.     

Updated: Bergesen Throws off the Mound

It’s downpouring and windy, but luckily I was the only reporter with the foresight to bring an umbrella.  The reporters watched from a small awning as Brad Bergesen threw to Matt Wieters amid backup catcher Chad Moeller announcing, “Ladies and gentleman, Brad Bergesen.”

Bergesen looked comfortable in his first mound session since injuring his shoulder. He tossed a normal length session under the watchful eye of pitching coach Rick Kranitz.

“It was like he didn’t miss a beat,” Kranitz said.”If you told me he hadn’t thrown in five months, I would have said, ‘You’re a liar.’ He was good.”

Bergersen threw 28 pitches, mostly fastballs, although Kranitz said he was pushing to throw more. The 24-year-old Bergesen estimated he was throwing at about 75 percent and was pleasantly surprised with his location and sink.

“I was a little surprised about it, didn’t know what to expect,” Bergesen said of his first mound toss since the fateful commercial in December. “I was just getting up there and getting the cobwebs out of there, but I was able to get the ball down and throw my two seamer.”

Added Wieters: “He had his sink back already, he was able to locate the fastball which is the biggest thing coming back [and] getting back on the mound.”

Manager Dave Trembley said Bergesen’s session made a “gray day sunny” for him, and for now the plan is for Bergesen to throw two more side sessions before a live batting practice.

“I think we all just wanted to get through this phase,” Trembley said, following Saturday’s session.  “I was confident he was going to be OK, but the questions weren’t going to be answered fully until he got up on the mound.”

Given Bergesen’s impressive first go-around, Wieters said he “definitely” thought the right-hander would be ready for the beginning of the season.

“He’s going to get his work in for sure,” Wieters said.”Bergy’s a guy who has his command and he will be ready to go Day 1 [of the season].”

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Erbe Extras & Bergy's first mound session

I got a bunch of emails about my story on Brandon Erbe’s new delivery, so I thought I’d put up some pictures and notes that didn’t make it in. It’s raining and dreary here (on picture day), and the media won’t be allowed in the locker room for at least the next hour.

The Orioles will hit in the indoor cages and everyone who was expected to throw, such as Brad Bergesen, who was slated to throw for the first time off a mound, is still a go. I will have a story up on how that goes on the site later. 



Both of these pics are from Erbe’s bullpen session yesterday. Here’s what he had to say about his goals for the upcoming season…

“I wouldn’t say it’s a specific level. Obviously being in the Minor Leagues, you always want to get to the next step. For the Minor Leagues, for me, I want to get to Triple-A and than past there,obviously.

You want to make steps, I’m hoping to do that this year. But  I’m try to build off the consistency I was able to have last year. I was a lot more consistent with my outings and the starts and the results .”

Erbe has been pretty happy with his first few bullpens this spring, and talked at length about the importance of keeping his control.

“The control was my downfall, control and consistency,” he said. “They kind of go hand in hand. That’s why I’m taking a lot of effort right now to keep the ball down, I was up in the zone so much I gave up a lot of home runs [in the past.] and stuff like that. So, just keep the ball down and be more consistent from start to start. If I can do those things, I should be more successful. I’m just trying to keep those two things together.”

A Tillman Note (that's not about his back)

Chris Tillman arrived at Sarasota early this year and according to Dave Trembley has added about eight pounds of muscle. When asked about what Tillman has to do differently this year to be successful, Trembley said it’s all about setting the tone at the beginning of each start.

“He has to establish better rhythm and be more aggressive,” Trembley said. “The first couple innings is when he seemed to be feeling for the strike zone and then he kind of got better. I think that goes with being a little more mature.”

To elaborate a little bit on the being more aggressive bit, Trembley  said specifically he would like to see Tillman use his fastball often and keep it down in the zone.

Tillman tossed his first live batting practice on Friday and is scheduled to toss in Monday’s intrasquad game.

Some Tidbits to tide you over

The team had a nutrition meeting this morning so clubhouse access was limited. Chris Tillman is supposed to be throwing live batting practice for the first time this spring, so I will keep you updated on that and other news via Twitter.

In the meantime, here a few tidbits from press releases we’ve gotten in the last few days…

*The Orioles are once again inviting all baseball fans to celebrate their birthdays at Camden Yards and attend a game for free in 2010.  The “Come Free for your Birthday” promotion, this year presented by Carvel, debuted last season as part of the Birdland Stimulus Package and was wildly successful, with over 45,000 fans participating and receiving a free ticket voucher for their birthday.

All fans who register their day of birth at orioles.com/birthdays will receive a voucher good for one complimentary ticket to any non-prime game in their birthday month. Fans with birthdays from January through March will receive a voucher to an April game, and fans with birthdays in October to December may attend a game in September.

*The Orioles have announced they will conduct interviews on Saturday, March 6 to find ballgirls and ballboys for the 2010 season.Outgoing and athletic men and women ages 18 and older who are interested in serving as ballboys and ballgirls for the Orioles during the upcoming season are invited to interview for a position at Camden Yards beginning at noon on March 6.

Candidates should be personable, customer-service oriented and available to work the entire 2010 season.Those interested should dress in business casual attire and a resumé is recommended. Candidates should use the Bud Light Warehouse Bar entrance to Camden Yards, located on the eastern side of the Warehouse. Complimentary parking will be available in the North Warehouse Lot.

*On Monday, March 1, the Baltimore Orioles and OriolesREACH will partner with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County to host a fundraiser as well as a baseball clinic for 100 pre-selected children from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County.

The Orioles will play an intrasquad game at 12:30 p.m. at Ed Smith Stadium, and the game is open to the public at no charge.  Donations to the Boys and Girls Club will be accepted at the gates and throughout the game, and the Orioles will hold a silent auction during the afternoon to raise money for this cause as well.

Following the intrasquad game, Orioles coaches and players, including 2009 American League All-Star Adam Jones, will serve as instructors for the hour-long clinic that will take place on the Ed Smith Stadium main field.

Bergesen to throw off mound Saturday

Seems Brad Bergesen’s persistence paid off. The right-hander who manager Dave Trembley said yesterday has been “wrestling” with him to get back on the hill, will do just that on Saturday.

Bergesen has been slowed this spring as the 24-year-old continues to work his way back from a strained right shoulder capsule suffered while filming a commercial in early December. He tossed flat ground sessions on Tuesday and Thursday and has been making strides with each outing.

On Wednesday, Trembley preached patience and said he was leaning toward giving Bergesen another flat ground session Saturday.

“He really has done remarkably well [in his progression],” Trembley said. “He’s going to be fine. We have lots of time to get him
right back in to where he should be and to get his pitches up, etc.”

Now, the plan is for Bergesen to test his progression on the mound on Saturday. There’s no word on how long his bullpen session will be.  In talking to Bergesen this past week and a half, I know he’s been anxious to get back up there. If his shoulder is healthy, I would imagine pitching coach Rick Kranitz will watch Bergesen’s mechanics and make sure he is repeating his delivery, which is similar to what he wanted to see out of Chris Tillman’s session yesterday.

Before a line drive to the shin on July 30 ended his season, Bergesen was a pleasant surprise for the Orioles last year, going 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 19 starts. He is projected to be in a rotation that includes Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz and Tillman.