February 2010

Tejada's baaaack

At least he’s expected to be. With the Orioles holding team physicals and meetings, the press is not allowed in the locker room until the afternoon, but I will be blogging and Twittering from practice, which is scheduled to start around noon.

Today is the first full squad workout for the Orioles, and it be will interesting to see the return of Miguel Tejada  and the former shortstop taking reps at third base.

Manager Dave Trembley didn’t seem concerned that Tejada –who will be tasked with learning a new position — wasn’t among the growing group of position players who  participated in optional workouts.

“[Tuesday's] the first day,” Trembley said on Monday.  “He’ll be here. He knows everybody. He knows
us. We know him.”

An All-Star shortstop, Tejada will work with Orioles infield coach Juan Samuel to get extra work at the hot corner in addition to the team’s workout.

Like I blogged yesterday current shortstop Cesar Izturis gave Tejada the thumbs up at the position, and said he wasn’t worried about Tejada making the shift.

“Everybody knows he can play,” Izturis said of Tejada. “It’s a new position, but I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. If I can help out, I will, but he knows how to play the game.”

—–

Got a question or comment on the team? Email me and I could use it in my debut inbox column, which should be up later this week.

Roberts slowed by herniated disc

This will be up on the site later, but for the sake of speed, here’s the dish on Brian Roberts…

SARASOTA — Brian Roberts has a small herniated disc in his lower back, an injury suffered about a month ago that will slow the second baseman’s activity in Spring Training.

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.  ESPN.com’s Buster Olney issued a report on his blog on Thursday about Roberts’ supposed kidney stones, a report that manager Dave Trembley later refuted.

On Monday, Roberts talked to reporters for the first time since the injury and said he has spent the last few weeks slowly progressing in his workouts. While he hasn’t done any hitting, Roberts has been able to do some dry swings and some running.

“It’s already definitely a lot better than it was three weeks ago,” he said. “[Tuesday I'll] probably start some swings in the cage softly. Our main goal is obviously [Opening Day] April 6. So, [we will] just progress that way.”

Roberts, who saw spine specialists in Baltimore and Arizona said the injury won’t require offseason surgery, calling the injury a “little setback” to start the season.

Trembley told reporters on Thursday that he didn’t believe Roberts would be stalled entering Spring Training, but that could change given the extent of Roberts’ injury.

One of the Orioles most consistent players, Roberts hit .283 with 16 homers and 56 doubles last year, breaking Lance Berkman’s record for the most doubles by a switch-hitter in a season.

***
To clarify, Roberts was at the complex today, but didn’t participate in the team’s optional position players workout. He was there to film a commercial for MASN. He was working out in the gym prior to talking with the media and got his physical all set. It will be interesting to see what he does for Tuesday’s workout….

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Tillman still sidelined, Position Players Eve

Gonzalez.jpg

Orioles fans, there’s your new closer. Lefty Mike Gonzalez throws a session in the bullpen with Jim Johnson (below pic) right next to him.

Jim Johnson.jpg 

Chris Tillman did not throw his scheduled side today, and is still
dealing with the same back stiffness that sidelined him yesterday.

Although he said he probably could have gone through the whole workout, Tillman said it would have been “dumb” on his part, to push things so early in the spring.

“I’ve still got a lot of time to get in
shape and I came into camp with my arm in good shape.”

Manager
Dave Trembley also noted that Tillman threw a lot of bullpen sessions
before showing up to camp, and wasn’t worried about the right-hander
falling behind.

“I think he learned a lesson not to sleep on a
couch,” Trembley said, in reference to what Tillman believes caused his
back to act up.
 
****
With Tuesday marking the Orioles first
full squad workout, the clubhouse continued to fill up on Monday.
Joining the team in Sarasota this morning was a clean shaved Luke Scott,
who said the clippers got stuck a few times while trying to remove the
lumberjack beard he had going in the offseason.

Scott has made
it no secret that he would like to play the field this season and not be
limited to just DH duties. But the addition of Garrett Atkins at first
base, and the crowded outfield of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Nolan
Reimold and Felix Pie will limit that.

“I mean personally,
everyone wants to have a really good idea of where they are going to fit
in; what they are going to do,” Scott said. “But sometimes things don’t
work out that way. But it’s also part of being a professional. Part of
being a professional is just doing the best with what they ask you to
do.”

*Reimold said his left Achilles tendon was sore after
testing it yesterday, but didn’t seem overly concerned. He was walking
around fine, but running on grass and testing it on the field
undoubtedly is more impact than the treadmill running he had been doing
in the offseason.

*Cesar Izturis also showed up in Sarasota and
the shortstop was confident his lockermate, the still absent Miguel
Tejada, could handle the transition to third base just fine.

“Everybody
knows he can play,” Izturis said of Tejada. “It’s a new position, but I
don’t think that’s going to be a problem. If I can help out, I will,
but he knows how to play the game.”

Izturis didn’t join the
optional position player workout because he wanted to get settled in
with his family to his temporary Spring Training living, and manager
Dave Trembley didn’t seem overly concerned that players like Izturis,
Tejada and Brian Roberts have yet to report. Roberts was also at Ed
Smith Stadium on Monday afternoon to get his physical, and hopefully the media will get an update on his health later today. He is supposed to
be shooting a commercial for MASN later in the afternoon.

****
Trembley
also made it a point to single out the bullpen session of Brandon Erbe,
and was amazed at the right-hander’s location for his 35-pitch session.

“He
didn’t throw two that were above the knees,” Trembley said. “Everything
was down. He’s
really cleaned up his delivery a lot. He had some mechanical things
with his delivery before.”

Erbe was the Orioles second-round pick
in the ’05 Draft.

“He deserves a lot of credit,”Trembley said.
“He’s worked hard. That was a solid, solid bullpen.”

****

The
Orioles manager also had high praise for Bergesen, as Trembley
continued to state his confidence that the right-hander will be up on
the mound very soon. Bergesen is schedule to throw another flat ground
session on Tuesday.

Got a Wieters feature up on the site and as always, email me with your questions and comments.

Atkins gets ready for shift

Andy and Dave.jpg

(Meeting of the minds: Andy MacPhail and Dave Trembley)

Trembley smiling.jpg

New Oriole Garrett Atkins was one of the growing number of position players out on the field for Sunday’s workout. Nolan Reimold and Luke Scott (with a lumberjack beard) were some of the other notable new attendees, which definitely put a smile on Dave Trembley’s face. The O’s manager was in a great mood today, raving about the players who had come in early and taking a few minutes to stand on a hill and watch several practices at the same time. It’s safe to say Trembley’s digging the new Spring Training digs.

I’ve got a story going up on the site later about Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen, but here’s the highlights. Tillman was having back tightness so they shut him down today, but he should be fine and ready to pitch a side on Monday. Bergesen is getting better and expects to do 2-3 flat ground sessions before getting up on the hill. By his own estimates, that should be by the end of next weekend. Trembley noted he’s “very, very close.”

In case you missed it yesterday, I caught up with Adam Jones, who is extremely excited to start the season. Jones took some swings with Nolan Reimold, who made his first appearance down in Sarasota on Sunday, looking like someone in need of sun.  He laughed when I told him Trembley asked if he could be any paler. But, he does live just north of Pittsburgh, so give the guy a break.

Reimold spent the winter testing his left Achilles tendon by running on the treadmill, and got to work it out on the field for the first time today. This is what he said prior to the practice. 

“After a lot of running, it still gets a little sore,” he said, “but it’s already better than it was last year. I’m sure I’ll be ready [for Opening Day].”

And Atkins was busy working on getting himself ready and acclimated to a full-time role at first base. The former Rockie said he will try to remember how Golden Glover Todd Helton prepared, and go from there.

“[It's] just a matter of getting out there and getting the reps in, this is my first Spring Training where I’m basically first the entire time,” Atkins said. “So I image in 40 days or whatever I’ll be able to get pretty comfortable over there.”

As for the other side of his game, Atkins said he hit more this offseason than in previous years and was looking forward to taking that into Spring Training.  Sure enough, following his media session, Atkins hooked up with hitting coach Terry Crowley for a session in the batting cage.

Brian Roberts is in Sarasota and Trembley expects the second baseman will likely report tomorrow. His agent, Mark Pieper, stopped by Sunday’s practice. 

*Trembley and his staff will hold an inter-squad game on March 1 at Ed Smith Stadium, with the Orioles coaches expected to hold a drafts of sorts sometime in the next week. Following the game, the Orioles will host a clinic for the Boys & Girls club, as part of their ongoing efforts to be active in the Sarasota community.

—–

Also, I’m hoping to get enough queries to turn out my
first Orioles inbox soon, so get those questions coming via email, with your name and
location. And as always, follow me on Twitter for quicker updates and more pictures! 

–Brittany
 

  

Cashman calls Orioles a "sleeping giant"

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman appeared on the Scott Garceau show on MASN and 105.7 FM, the Fan this week, and had some interesting things to say. Bear in mind this is on the Orioles flagship station, but still, some good stuff. An excerpt of the story is below.

“Andy [MacPhail] is doing exactly what Andy does best. He is as sharp as they come. Patience is the biggest key. He made such an astute trade with Seattle and now he has a collection of talent. Getting Adam Jones to play with Markakis was remarkable. Now he has one of the bright young outfields.”

He goes on to compare the Orioles to Tampa Bay before they hit it big in ’08.

“Andy is doing the same thing. Everybody kind of sees the collection of talent. Players with big tools and high ceiling. When you are athletic and have those kinds of tools, when it all comes together, it comes fast.

“The Orioles are a team that has closed the gap, without a doubt. And Andy is showing the patience. I think their fan base will be very, very pleased. All the sudden, before they know it, they’ll have that foundation in place. They just haven’t seen it pop yet at the Major League level.”

“The Oriole way is coming back real quick. I went to high school and college in the DC area, so I know how important the Orioles are to that area. It’s a sleeping giant that will emerge again, I promise you.”

Markakis: O's team best so far.

trembley with fans.jpg

A cleanly shaven Nick Markakis arrived to today’s workout, and was extremely impressive during positional players batting practice. Taking swings with Adam Jones and Felix Pie, Markakis routinely sent ball after ball flying out of the practice field.

Turns out, it was the first time he’s taken batting practice since the season ended.

“He was swinging effortlessly and hitting them into the trees out there,” marveled manager Dave Trembley. “And you wonder how the heck did he do that the first day? Special talent.”

When he was asked whether this was the best Orioles team on paper that he’s been a part of in his five seasons, Markakis agreed.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “The way our young guys have developed last year, you can’t ask for any more than what they did.”

As for his preference to bat second or third in the lineup:

“I don’t really see much difference between the two and three hole besides more opportunity to drive runners in,” Markakis said. “When I’m in the two hole I’m going to have B-Rob [Brian Roberts] hitting in front of me, you know? I got one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, so it doesn’t matter to me regardless.”

Markakis has a .328 lifetime average in the No. 2 hole (586 at-bats), but throughout his career he has predominantly been a No. 3 hitter, averaging .286 over 1354 at-bats.

Trembley wouldn’t divulge his exact lineup plans, and to be honest, I’m not sure if he has one just yet. He will certainly use Spring Training to tinker with the lineup.

“We’re going to have somebody that’s going to hit in front of him and we’re going to hit behind him,” Trembley said of Markakis. “And I think it’s going to make Nick a lot more relaxed. I think he’s going to have a big year.”

Trembley elaborated on yesterday’s comments concerning Kam Mickolio, noting that he’s 12 lbs lighter and saying “he couldn’t run like that last year in Spring Training.”

“I think for what he could bring to us, I would be very, very, very surprised if he doesn’t do what we think he can do,” Trembley said. “I think he can be a guy, but he’s got to show it. We got to see it in the games…I just see a guy with a mindset this spring where I think he knows what’s on the table for him.”

It sounds like Mickolio has a spot in the bullpen so long as he performs well during the Spring Training games. With Mike Gonzalez as the closer, Jim Johnson as setup man, Mark Hendrickson to handle middle relief, and Koji Uehara to serve a myriad of roles, Mickolio seems to be close to a lock for one of the remaining bullpen spots.

Also, if Will Ohman can keep throwing like he did today, he could fill the Orioles’ need for a lefty specialist. During Ohman’s bullpen today, pitching coach Rick Kranitz had to approach him a few times to slow him down.

“He’s going to be a max effort guy and he wants to do very well and make a very good impression, so we are going to have to pull the reins in on him somewhat,” Trembley said. But if he can throw the slider and match up against left-handed hitters and get outs he will be very valuable for us.”
 

If you're a numbers person

Quick note on this morning’s workout, it’s cloudy and overcast, but I will do my best to get more pictures up via Twitter. But by forewarned, there’s some pretty tedious pitchers fielding practice and bunt plays on the agenda for today.

Baseball Prospectus has been putting up their predictions for each division, which mostly relies on the use of PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm). It’s basically a sabermetric system for forecasting  Major League Baseball player performance. BP combines each player’s performance with projected playing-time forecasts to project the standings.

You can find the whole story here, but here’s the bit that concerns the O’s…


Baltimore Orioles

Projected record: 79-83 (4th in the AL East)
 

Why They Might Win: In any other division, the Orioles would probably be a contender. Although this probably isn’t the year they put it all together, they are tantalizingly close to a return to respectability. They are projected to score 781 runs–fifth in the AL, but fourth in the East. The outfield of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold might be the best in the division. Starters Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman could have breakouts in their first full major-league seasons.

Why They Might Not Win: Their starting pitching is not yet where it needs to be. Kevin Millwood isn’t as good as his ERA made him seem last year, so PECOTA projects Brad Bergesen to be the Orioles’ starter with the lowest ERA at 4.40. This is not a formula for success.

Player Who Could Surprise: Jones started last year strong (.303/.357/.481 before the All-Star break), but cooled in the second half. PECOTA thinks he can do it all season this year, pegging him for .294/.350/.501. Even more noteworthy is his high “Breakout” score, which suggests a good probability that his production will improve by at least 20 percent over his established level of performance.

Player Who Could Disappoint: Millwood, despite a superficially strong ERA last season, has lost the ability to strike out batters at a high rate. PECOTA sees the writing on the wall and projects him for a pedestrian 4.71 ERA and just 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

So what do you think?

—–

Also, I’m hoping to get enough queries to turn out my first Orioles inbox soon, so get those questions coming via email, with your name and location.

–Brittany

Day 2: Millwood's presence, several pitchers impressive

With physicals out of the way, the Orioles got out and on the field on time today. As usual, Millwood was one of the first ones out and ready to go. I spoke with him yesterday for the first time and he struck me as a little quiet, but a nice guy. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said he’s been really impressed by the veteran’s work habits, a fact that really sets the tone for the young guys who are in their first few camps.

“The results aren’t always words as they are his actions,” Kranitz said about Millwood. “He’s always the first one doing something. Always. Whether it be the first one in the clubhouse or the first one doing drills. Let the young guys see that and follow.”

As I mentioned in my feature story that will be up on the site later, Millwood’s locker is in between Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman, with Brad Bergesen on the other side of Tillman. That’s not an accident, as Dave Trembley and Kranitz have made it pretty clear what’s expected of Millwood. And Millwood, who did the same sort of thing last year in Texas, has accepted that role, he’s been chatting with Bergesen and the younger guys and he threw his first bullpen to Wieters yesterday.

Millwood on his initial impressions of the clubhouse.

“A lot younger than me. But, a lot of good guys and seems like there’s a lot of talent here. So it’s pretty exciting to be a part of maybe helping mold these guys a little bit and help them all on their way.”

Trembley said Millwood’s presence will help take the pressure off the younger pitchers and allow them to “be themselves.”

“They don’t have to try to be something other than what they are,” Trembley said. “I think that’s the biggest tendency that happens with players at the big league level. They think more is better and they put their foot to the pedal.”

*Trembley had rave reviews for some of the guys who threw today, including Kam Mickolio, who he believes will eventually be a back of the bullpen guy. But not this year obviously, with Mike Gonzalez occupying the closer spot. When I talked to Trembley on Tuesday, he had mentioned Mickolio as one of the guys he was really excited to see. When I told Kam that he seemed pretty pleased.

“It means a lot when another coach, especially the head coach or the manager says they are excited to see you throw,” he said. “It’s always a good feeling they got a close eye on you.”

Mickolio has been down in Sarasota throwing for over two weeks, and said on Tuesday he had thrown about 10 bulllpens. So today’s session would make 11.

*Koji Uehara was another guy who impressed, with Kranitz raving about the late movement on the right-hander’s ball.

“I was real pleased,” said Kranitz. “It was night and day from today to when he threw in Boston back in September.”

*Other notables mentioned in today’s workout were Jake Arrieta and Alfredo Simon, who is less than a year removed from Tommy John’s surgery.

“[It's] to his credit,” Trembley said of Simon. “He must have worked real hard to get to where he’s at.”

*Adam Jones, Felix Pie, Justin Turner and Blake Davis were a few of the position players who have been working out and taking batting practice before the full squad workouts start Feb. 23. 

—Jones wanted everyone to know if you are following him on Twitter, make sure to say what’s up. But don’t make me jealous and give me a follow too.

Nick Markakis.jpg 
  
If you’re curious, the above photo is a back shot of Nick Markakis, who was barely recognizable with a full length beard and the noted, umm, interesting attire. He brought his son to watch some of the workout.
 

 

Spreading the Sarasota Love

Dave Trembley talked today about his –and the whole organizaton’s — desire to be active in the Sarasota community. Looks like they don’t waste any time.

The Orioles and their community outreach program, OriolesREACH, have planned a full schedule of appearances and activities in Sarasota in the coming weeks. Orioles players and the Oriole Bird will make visits to charitable organizations in the area and host a clinic and a game at Ed Smith Stadium. The club will also host hundreds of underprivileged children for games at Ed Smith Stadium as part of a commitment to connect the Orioles with their new spring training home.

 
Here’s a look at some of the stuff coming up:

*February 26 – An Orioles player and the Oriole Bird will appear at the Ripken Baseball Opening Day festivities, starting at approximately 6:00 p.m.

*March 1 – The Orioles will host children from area Boys and Girls Clubs for their intrasquad scrimmage at Ed Smith Stadium. Donations will be accepted at ballpark entry gates, with proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club. After the scrimmage, Boys and Girls Club members will participate in an on-field clinic conducted by Orioles players and staff. Players will provide instruction in hitting, pitching and fielding for the youth.

*March 6 – Orioles players will partner with Easter Seals Southwest Florida and participate in arts and crafts projects with several local children with disabilities as part of Project Rainbow Children’s Respite Care.

 
*March 10 – Orioles players will visit with sick children in the Sarasota Memorial Hospital pediatric unit at 1:00 p.m.

*March 13 – The Sarasota Challenger League will play a game on the main field at Ed Smith Stadium. Orioles players will participate and serve as helpers for the game.

 
**OriolesREACH will host 100 disadvantaged children at each of several home games this spring as part of their Gameday Experience Program. Participants will receive a ticket to that day’s game, an Orioles hat and concessions vouchers. 

Os Announce their Minor League ST schedules

For those of you planning on catching some of the Orioles prospects at Minor League camp, I’ve got the Spring Training game schedule below.

For the most part, the Triple-A and Double-A clubs will play their home games at the Ed
Smith Complex (2700 12th Street), while the class A clubs will play
their home games at the Buck O’Neil Complex at Twin Lakes Park (6700
Clark Road).

March 17         AAA/AA        Tampa Bay   1:00   Ed Smith Complex

                        A                      @Tampa Bay    1:00    Port Charlotte

March 18         AAA/AA           @Tampa Bay    1:00    Port Charlotte

                        A                 Tampa Bay   1:00   Buck O’Neil Complex

March 19         AAA/AA        Boston                   12:30          Ed Smith Complex

                        A                      @Boston          12:30  Fort Myers

March 20         AAA/AA           @Minnesota    12:00  Fort Myers

                        A                 Minnesota    12:30 Buck O’Neil Complex

March 21         All clubs          Workout          TBA      Ed Smith and O’Neil Complexes

March 22         AAA/AA           @Tampa Bay    1:00    Port Charlotte

                        A                 Tampa Bay   1:00   Buck O’Neil Complex

March 23         AAA/AA        Tampa Bay   1:00   Ed Smith Complex

                        A                      @Tampa Bay    1:00    Port Charlotte

March 24         AAA/AA           @Boston          12:30  Fort Myers

                        A                 Boston                   12:30 Buck O’Neil Complex               

March 25         AAA/AA        Minnesota    12:30 Ed Smith Stadium

                        A                      @Minnesota    12:00  Fort Myers

March 26         AAA/AA           @Tampa Bay    1:00    Port Charlotte

                        A                 Tampa Bay   1:00   Buck O’Neil Complex

March 27         AAA/AA        Tampa Bay   1:00   Ed Smith Complex

                        A                      @Tampa Bay    1:00    Port Charlotte

March 28         All clubs          Workout          TBA      Ed Smith and O’Neil Complexes

March 29         AAA/AA        Boston                   12:30 Ed Smith Complex

                        A                      @Boston          12:30 Fort Myers

March 30         AAA/AA           @Minnesota    12:00  Fort Myers

                        A                 Minnesota    12:30 Buck O’Neil Complex

March 31         AAA/AA           @Tampa Bay    1:00    Port Charlotte

                        A                 Tampa Bay   12:00 Buck O’Neill Complex

April 1             AAA/AA        Tampa Bay   12:00 Ed Smith Complex

                        A                      @Tampa Bay    1:00    Port Charlotte

April 2          &n
bsp;  AAA/AA           @Minnesota    12:00  Fort Myers

                        A                 Minnesota    12:30 Buck O’Neil Complex

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