January 2011

Golf, the Orioles and a good cause

I blogged about this earlier in the offseason, but the team just released more info on the inaugural OriolesREACH Birdland Golf Classic, which will be held February 17 at The Founders Club in Sarasota, Fla. Here’s the release…
 
Hall of Fame Pitcher and MASN broadcaster Jim Palmer and Orioles manager Buck Showalter will headline a group of current and former O’s participating in the inaugural OriolesREACH Birdland Golf Classic at The Founders Club in Sarasota on Thursday, February 17.  They will be joined by current Orioles Brian Roberts, Matt Wieters, Jim Johnson, Jeremy Guthrie, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Koji Uehara, Jeremy Accardo, Rick VandenHurk and Craig Tatum; coaches Mark Connor, John Russell and Rick Adair and former O’s Dave Schmidt and John O’Donohue.

The Classic will benefit the Miracle League of Manasota, a new organization dedicated to providing an opportunity for everyone to play baseball, regardless of their ability. The event begins with registration and lunch at noon, with a shotgun start set for 1:00 p.m. and will feature a silent auction and the chance to play a round with current and former Orioles players and coaches.

Registration is now open for golfers and corporate partners, with multiple levels of participation available:

ALL STAR SPONSOR: (regular foursome)

? One foursome to be paired with participating Orioles celebrity

? Lunch and awards dinner at the course

? Commemorative gift and photograph of your group

 SINGLE GOLFER:

? Sign up individually and get paired with three other golfers and an Orioles celebrity (pending availability)

? Lunch and awards dinner at the course

? Commemorative gift and photograph of your group

 CONTEST HOLE SPONSOR:

? Your company logo prominently displayed on one (1) tee box sign for either Longest Drive or Closest to the Pin contests

HOLE SPONSOR:

? Your company logo prominently displayed on one (1) tee box sign

For the 14,000 school-aged children with disabilities and their adult counterparts in Sarasota and Manatee counties, the Miracle League of Manasota will build a synthetically surfaced baseball field and all the requisite amenities in Longwood Park, just off University Parkway in Sarasota. Sarasota County has committed $500,000 to the capital improvement of Longwood Park. The opening game of the Miracle League of Manasota is planned for Fall 2011. For more information, visit www.miracleleaguemanasota.org.

For more information or to register for the event, contact Tracee Crump at (941) 954-4101 or tcrump@orioles.com. The entry deadline is Thursday, February 3.

A few more tidbits…

*Kevin Gregg went through his physical on Tuesday, and –assuming he passes– I should have a story up on the site with his comments following a conference call later today or tomorrow.

Gregg’s two-year deal, $10-million deal comes with an option for 2013 that kicks in automatically if he closes a certain number of games. The fine print on the option is if he finishes 50 games in 2012 or 100 between ’11 and ’12.

*Brian Roberts is expected to be fully healthy and ready to go for Spring Training. The lone starter to return to the O’s infield, Roberts is working out in Sarasota, Fla. and reports out of there have been positive.

*ESPN released its Sunday Night Baseball schedule through July 17, and the Orioles are not on the preliminary schedule. According to the press release the April and May games are pretty much set in stone, while game selections for the remainder of the season will be made three weeks (June, July 3 and July 24) or two weeks (August and September) in advance. You can look at the whole lineup here.

*The O’s are expected to release all their Spring Training invites at once, and most of that is finalized. The big league club still needs a bargain lefty reliever for the ‘pen and some bench depth.

*This is not Orioles-related, but being a member of the mainstream media it’s interesting and refreshing. Fernando Perez, the one-time Rays outfielder who was dealt to the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal, writes a witty, well-thought response to a Cubs’-centric Deadspin-type blog about him.

Perez went to Columbia University, where he studied American studies and creative writing, and he puts it to good use here. A very interesting player to cover and always a real class act.

Spring Training info

Since I can look outside and see snow, I thought it’d be nice to think warmer thoughts. Here’s all the Spring Training info you need. Starting with the key dates for each Major League Baseball team.

*The full slate of spring games for the Orioles can be found on the schedule page here.

Grapefruit openers .jpg
Cactus workouts .jpg

Fans interested in season, four-pack or group ticket plans, or those wishing to receive additional spring training ticket information may call the Orioles spring training office at 941-954-4101.

Spring training tickets for Orioles home games at Ed Smith Stadium may be purchased in any of the following ways:
 
IN PERSON:  Individual game tickets can be purchased in person at a temporary box office in the Orioles Clubhouse Building, adjacent to Ed Smith Stadium located at 1090 N. Euclid Avenue in Sarasota.  This temporary box office will be open on January 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will then be open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., from January 24 until further notice.
 
Tickets can also be purchased at Wal-Mart locations throughout the Sarasota area as part of the Orioles’ partnership with TicketMaster.

THROUGH THE INTERNET:  Tickets can be purchased at the Orioles’ official website, http://www.orioles.com.

BY PHONE:  Individual game tickets can be purchased by phone by calling 800-745-3000.

BY FAX OR MAIL:  Individual game ticket orders can be faxed or mailed to the Orioles Box Office in Sarasota.  The fax number is 941-365-1587. The mailing address is 2700 12th Street, Sarasota, 34237. To request a ticket order form, call the Orioles at 941-954-4101.
 
TRAVEL PACKAGE: The Orioles are offering the official Spring Training Travel Package that includes hotel accommodations, rental car, game tickets, optional airfare through Southwest Airlines and other amenities.  For more information or to order travel packages, fans should visit www.orioles.com/springtravel or call 1-800-892-7687.
 
The Orioles will play their first of 16 home spring training games in 2011 at the newly renovated Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on Tuesday, March 1 against the Tampa Bay Rays. 2011 marks the second consecutive spring training for the Orioles in Sarasota, and the first in the newly renovated ballpark.
 
Ed Smith Stadium is undergoing extensive improvements which will dramatically transform the ballpark aesthetic and radically expand areas and amenities for fans. Enhancements to the fan experience include the addition of a two-story concourse with shaded views of the playing field; a new stucco faade with tile accents; refurbished stadium seats from Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore; additional private suites and party facilities; and a state-of-the-art audio/video system and video board. Improvements to the player facilities include new dugouts and bullpens; a new half field with AstroTurf; refurbished batting cages; and a practice field with the same dimensions as Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Baltimore will face nine different opponents at home during the 2011 spring campaign and will host the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers two times each at Ed Smith Stadium. The Minnesota Twins will make three trips to Sarasota and the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays will each make one visit.

The Orioles will play 16 road games during the 2011 spring season. They will make three trips to play the Twins and Pirates, two trips to face the Phillies, Rays and Red Sox and one trip to face the Astros, Tigers, Yankees and Blue Jays.

The Orioles will play their final 2011 spring training game in Sarasota on Tuesday, March 29 against the Toronto Blue Jays, prior to their regular season opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, April 1 in St. Petersburg.

Orioles pitchers and catchers will hold their first workout on Monday, February 14.  The first full-squad workout will be held on Monday, February 21.  Workouts at Ed Smith Stadium are free and open to the public up to the date games begin. Ballpark gates open at 9:00 a.m. each day.

*The full schedule of Orioles spring games can be found here.

A few odds and ends

*The Orioles should make the Kevin Gregg signing official mid-week, leaving them with a lefty reliever and a bench to shore up before Spring Training. Don’t expect them to sign another premiere DH-type unless they get a deal too good to pass up. But it’s unlikely a guys like Jim Thome and Vladmir Guerrero, who they have interest in, would settle for a part-time role in the right price range. Luke Scott figures to be the Orioles regular DH.

*Fanfest details are up in the previous entry. Again, sorry for the delay.

*I wrote a story for the site today about the revamped Orioles infield and while the new additions should make them a more competitive team, I thought president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail really summed things up with this quote:

“So far, so good,” MacPhail said of the organization’s position player upgrades. “But the most important factor is going to be the continued health and maturation of our young arms.”

While it’s nice to know that the Orioles have a few guys capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark, the success of 2011 still hinges on the likes of Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta,Chris Tillman and even Zach Britton, who I expect to be up at some point this season.

Having another stellar year from Jeremy Guthrie to head the rotation will go a long ways, especially since the later into the winter it gets, the less of a chance there is that the Orioles will get another innings-eater type starter. The feeling in the organization is they’d still like to have a veteran arm, but there isn’t much out there for their price or in trade avenues. Keep in mind the O’s have dealt away with what MacPhail calls their “best currency” in right-handed relief pitching, twice packaging a pair of young arms.

Chances are they won’t get another Kevin Millwood-type guy before camp, meaning it’s time for the young guys to either sink or swim.

(Belated) FanFest info

*I’m sorry I’m so late on the FanFest email, which was sent out last week. I kept meaning to post in on here, but the press release is also on the main site. Anyhow, here’s the info below. I’m going to be at the media forum (whatever that entails) so feel free to stop on by…

The kickoff to the 2011 baseball season will begin on Saturday,
January 29, as the Orioles host their annual FanFest event at the
Baltimore Convention Center. Presented by the Sarasota Convention &
Visitors Bureau, 2011 FanFest will feature appearances by current and
former Orioles players and coaches as part of a day-long celebration of
baseball that will also include clinics, exhibits and interactive games.
The event will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with early entry
for Orioles Season Plan Holders to begin at 10:00 a.m.

In addition to FanFest activities, individual game tickets for the
2011 season will go on sale at 10:00 a.m. on January 29. Fans may
purchase tickets at the Convention Center or the Orioles’ Box Office at
the north end of the warehouse throughout the day. Tickets will also be
available via phone at 1-888-848-BIRD, online at http://www.orioles.com and at
the Official Team Store at the York Galleria in York, PA.

The Orioles will introduce a new autograph policy for FanFest in 2011
designed to shorten wait times, avoid fan disappointment and support
youth charitable endeavors through OriolesREACH. Children ages 4-14 will
have a specially designated Kids Only player autograph station
presented by ESSKAY that is free of charge and will operate continuously
throughout the day. All other ESSKAY autograph stations at FanFest will
require the advance purchase of autograph vouchers. The vouchers will
be available at http://www.orioles.com for $15 each, with all of the proceeds
to benefit children’s charities through OriolesREACH. Vouchers will go
on sale next Saturday, January 15, at 10:00 a.m. There will be 250
vouchers available for each autograph session, guaranteeing each fan who
purchases a voucher for a particular session an autograph from each of
the 3-4 players at the station. More information on this new policy,
including a list of players signing at each paid autograph session, will
be released next week. This information will also be posted at the team
website, http://www.orioles.com.

In addition to autographs, other FanFest activities include question
and answer forums with players, front office staff and media; clinics
for children on a youth-sized baseball field; memorabilia dealers; and
the opportunity to apply for seasonal employment with the organization.

Tickets for FanFest will go on sale this Saturday, January 8 at 10:00
a.m. They are available online at http://www.orioles.com, via phone at
1-888-848-BIRD and at the Official Team Store at the York Galleria in
York, PA. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 14 and under
and those over 55. On the day of the event, FanFest tickets will be sold
at the Convention Center and the Orioles Box Office. 2011 Season Plan
Holders will receive complimentary tickets as part of their Orange
Carpet Benefits program.

Complimentary parking for FanFest is available in Lot B/C. For
updated information about the event, fans should visit http://www.orioles.com.


A little Lee

Derrek Lee just had his conference call with reporters and I’ll have a full story up on Orioles.com shortly, but here are a few quick highlights. He said that he has discussed the lineup with manager Buck Showalter, but just knows that he’ll be in the middle of the lineup somewhere.

As for his right thumb injury, which he injured diving for a ball on Opening Day, Lee had successful surgery on Nov. 5 and has been out of the cast for about two weeks now. He expects to be cleared to start swinging in the next weeks weeks and is scheduled to see the doctor again Monday. 

[on coming to Baltimore..]
“Honestly Baltimore wasn’t on my radar [earlier this winter.],” Lee said. “My agent kept bringing up Baltimore to me, kept speaking  about it, and I’d go on Sportscenter, and hear of them signing guys

I was looking over their lineup to see what Buck’s doing up there…I just really warmed up to the idea it kind of grew on me, I’m very excited.”

[On his down numbers in '10 serving as incentive]
I do [look at this season as a redemption]. I have a little chip on my shoulder, man. People say I’m old and declining so I want to prove that theory wrong, obviously.

I’ve played a while….I had a bad year. That’s behind me, I’ve had some pretty productive years and I feel like I’m kinda getting thrown by the wayside after one year. So, yeah I have a chip on my shoulder and I’m excited to prove some of these people wrong.

[on how he would describe his style of play]
“I’m a guy [teamates] know is going to show up every day to work. I try to be on the field every single game,  obviously injuries are a part of it…[but] I’m going to play hard and try to lead by example, play the game the right way. That’s the way I was brought up.”

[on how close he came to joining the Orioles back in 2003, when he reportedly flew to Baltimore]
“We were  extremely close, it didn’t work out that day,” Lee said. “I didn’t know it was over when I got back on the plane. But it was extremely close.

I guess I was mean to be an Oriole because here I am 7 years later and I’m with Baltimore.”

Showalter on Alomar

By now you’ve heard that Roberto Alomar, the 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman who was eight votes shy of the Hall of Fame a year ago, is now forever cemented in Cooperstown.

A former Orioles infielder, Alomar –along with Bert Blyleven — was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday as part of the Class of 2011.  He received 523 votes, the third highest total in history, for a 90-percent plurality and is considered to be one of the best fielding second basemen of all time.

“He had such a great imagination defensively,” said current O’s manager Buck Showalter, who spent many games watching Alomar from the visiting dugout.

“It was like he could dial up what he situation called for. [A] very cerebral guy. He made the game look easy…He was just very innovative.”

He compiled a career .312 batting average as an Oriole, hitting 50 homers with 210 RBIs in 412 regular-season games. Alomar was a critical component in a storied part of Baltimore baseball, going to the ALCS in ’96 and ’97. The Orioles have not had a winning season since.

“He was a game changer on both sides of the ball,” Showalter said.  “He could go 0-for-4 and still impact a game.”

Angelos on Alomar

Here is the statement from Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos in regards to today’s news that former O’s infielder Roberto Alomar has been elected to Cooperstown..

“We congratulate Roberto Alomar on his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
 
Although he spent just three of his 17 seasons in Baltimore, Roberto’s accomplishments during his time here were significant.  His performance during those years, which included three All-Star Game selections, two Gold Gloves and countless on-field heroics, helped the team make two playoff appearances and showcased Roberto’s Hall of Fame credentials.”

Early ballistics encouraging for Simon

While Orioles reliever Alfredo Simon remains in police
custody in Santiago, Dominican Republic, his lawyer said Tuesday that a
preliminary forensics report on the weapon in question absolves his client from
the New Year’s Eve killing in Luperon.

“The ballistics tests have been favorable,” lawyer
Carlos Olivares told CNN in a telephone interview. “We are waiting for the
formal report.”

Oliveras has appealed Monday’s decision to hold the 29-year-old Simon for a
year, telling the news service that “we know that [Simon] had nothing to
do with this victim”.  Police
involved in investigations have expressed skepticism over the initial ballistics
report and said that these cases usually take six months to fully look into.

Simon’s cousin, Michael Esteban Castillo Almonte, was killed in the
shooting, and Simon -who turned in his gun on Monday  – told police he had been firing celebratory
shots into the air and that Almonte’s death and the wounding of his 17-year-old
sibling were accidents. Oliveras has maintained that his client is innocent
since Simon fired the gun into the air and the victim was struck in the chest.

Oliveras said Simon fired the gun into the air and then left the park where
the killing occurred oblivious to what had happened.

“He understood that nothing had happened at the moment. And 45 minutes
later, when he was eating at some restaurant or discotheque, somebody tells
him, ‘Hey, you’re the one who killed so-and-so,'” Olivares said, according
to accounts by the Dominican media.

“The fact is that in this incident, many people fired guns, but the
only person who’s been summoned for this is my client.”

The wounded victim, Starlin Castillo Hernandez told the Dominican daily El
Nacional on Tuesday that it was indeed Simon who fired the fatal shot and the
one that struck his right arm.

“If it’s like he says, that he was firing into the air, then we must
all have been sleeping,” Hernandez, said with obvious sarcasm, according
to the newspaper.

The ballistics report could be made official in the next day or two, and
although it’s been estimated that the prosecution will take several months to prepare
its case against the athlete, Puerto Plata Province Assistant District Attorney
Juan Carlos Hernandez told CNN they hope to move things along “as soon as
possible”

“The Forensics Institute in Santo Domingo will collect and review
ballistics evidence,” Hernandez said.

“We will return to the crime scene to gather more evidence.”

The Orioles have not commented publicly on the matter, but director of
player development John Stockstill flew to the Dominican Republic on Monday with
the intent of meeting with Simon, sorting through the facts and determining the
proper course of action.

A native of Santiago, Simon was a key part of the O’s bullpen last season in
the wake of injuries to Koji Uehara, Michael Gonzalez and Jim Johnson. Simon’s
contract was purchased less than a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery,
and he compiled 17 saves in 2010. He went 4-2 with a 4.93 ERA and was projected
to compete for one of the final spots in the club’s bullpen this year.

*** For more background on the story, here’s the version I wrote this morning.

Gregg agrees to two-year deal

The Orioles added to the backend of their bullpen on Tuesday, agreeing to terms on a two-year deal for right-hander Kevin Gregg.

The deal is still pending a physical and was confirmed to MLB.com by a Major League source. Foxsports.com first reported on Twitter that Gregg had decided on Baltimore, who had put an offer out around last month’s Winter Meetings. The exact terms of the agreement are undisclosed although early reports have speculated that it’s in the $10 million range. The deal also includes a vesting option for 2013.
 
The 32-year-old Gregg saved 37 games in 43 chances for the Blue Jays last season and posted a 3.51 ERA in 63 outings. His agent, Dan Horowits said last month that Gregg had several interested teams and the chance to close games was very important to his client. With the Orioles resigning Koji Uehara at the Winter Meetings, manager Buck Showalter will have to decide how he wants to use the pair in the ninth inning.

Gregg has saved 121 games over the past four seasons for the Marlins, Cubs and Blue Jays and will join a back end of the bullpen that includes Jim Johnson, Michael Gonzalez and Uehara.  Former Blue Jay Jeremy Accardo and right-hander Jason Berken are also projected to be part of the O’s 2011 ‘pen.

With Gregg agreeing to terms, the Orioles would still like to add another lefty to go along with Gonzalez in the ‘pen and a veteran starter to help eat innings and take the pressure off the relievers. Toronto will obtain a draft pick for losing Gregg, a “Type B” free agent, but the Orioles will not lose one.

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