February 2011

A few other notes (updated)

*Derrek Lee will take batting practice for the first time this spring either Friday or Saturday. Manager Buck Showalter said Lee will be held out of Sunday’s intrasquad game and the first few Grapefruit League contests as well.

“I’m just going to trust him right now,” Showalter said of Lee. “I trust him period but with something like this, no reason to get ahead of ourselves. I know exactly what, not to an at-bat, but a pretty good idea of what he’s going to need. He knows it better than I do. He may think he needs four weeks of at-bats, and there’s always ways to get at-bats.”

*A judge will decide today regarding whether Alfredo Simon will stay in jail or be freed on bail. Even if he is released, Simon still needs to obtain his Visa and it could be a case where he’s not allowed to leave the country yet. Stay tuned for any news on that.

*The Orioles split squad game on Sunday is going to be played at the main Ed Smith Stadium field. Manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday morning that that’s the plan for now.

*Also Zach Britton and Rick VandenHurk will both get starts this spring. Britton and VandenHurk will each piggyback off the initial run-through of the Grapefruit League schedule, which I blogged yesterday. That schedule will flip so that they start a game in the second run-through.  VandenHurk will follow Jeremy Guthrie on Tuesday while Britton will follow Justin Duchscherer on Wednesday.

*There was some confusion regarding what I wrote Monday about where Vladimir Guerrero and Nick Markakis took batting practice. That bp session took place on the practice fields at Ed Smith Stadium complex, not on the main field, which is still being worked on by a construction crew. I got a few questions about that and wanted to clarify in case it wasn’t clear in my story.  

*If you missed it, I had a nice long sit-down with new third baseman Mark Reynolds, who is looking forward to playing healthy and having a fresh start in Baltimore. The full story is up here.

Roberts speaks

Brian Roberts, who confirmed he got an X-ray on his neck this morning, briefly addressed reporters at his locker. Here’s what he had to say…

“[It’s] just a stiff neck. We’ve probably all had a stiff neck at some point in our life right? I’m not overly concerned.”

Roberts said he would take today off and rest.

“We tried to get it calmed down at least so whenever it does feel fine, I’ll go out there,” Roberts said. “It’s the third day of spring training.”

When asked if he was aware that any injury to him causes immediate concern, Roberts was dismissive.
“I understand there’s about a two feet difference from where my back hurt and where my neck hurt,” Roberts said. “So I’m pretty sure they are not related.”

As for if he will resume baseball activities on Thursday, Roberts said he had no idea.

“We will just see how it feels,” he said.

Roberts absent Wednesday with a sore neck

Brian Roberts was not present when the Orioles took the field on Wednesday morning as the starting second baseman is dealing with a neck issue.

He left the complex to take a precautionary X-ray, and it’s possible his neck stiffness –which reportedly started when he woke up this morning — could be related to his back.

I should have more details on him later this afternoon.  In Roberts’ place for infield work was Cesar Izturis. The Orioles resigned Izturis and a host of middle infielders: including Nick Green, and Brendan Harris, in part to provide insurance for Roberts. Robert Andino, who is competing for a bench spot, can also play second base.  

Getting to know Mark Reynolds

I’ve got a longer piece on new Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds that will be up on Orioles.com later tonight, but I wanted to pass along a few interesting quotes. Some of these made it in my story, but when you’re writing a longer feature there’s always things you leave out as well. Enjoy.

[on people doubting his defense]
I know what I can do. And I know when I got traded [manager Buck Showalter] and [president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail] talked to me and said, ‘Hey we are looking forward to having you. We think you’ve improved light years since you first came up at third base.’ And I think I have too. People can knock me or say what they want to say about me. It doesn’t bother me, I know what I can do.

[on having to essentially learn third base at 23 in the Majors]
“I struggled with it for a while. I think once I realized that I had to work at it to stay in the big leagues to get better defensively I just took it upon myself to keep grinding it out out there. I was lucky to have managers who kept throwing me out there. The more experience I got, the better I got. Hopefully, I’ll be able to come in here and be what they expect.”

[on dealing with defensive struggles]
“There was many games where I made a costly error or threw a ball away…night in, night out you have to answer those questions, from reporters and other media, fans are on you. You are under that microscope at the big league level and I think it’s made me a better player to go through all that.”

[on leaving Arizona]
“It was tough. I signed an extension there and I thought I was going to be there at least three more years. They wanted to go in another direction. So that’s fine. I’m happy to be here with the Orioles and turn this thing around. [It’s] a fresh start. New faces, new coaches, new [spring] ballpark, new league. So, I think its going to be good. A good switch.”

[on his .198 batting average]
 “It’s embarrassing. It’s huge. I know I’m a way better hitter than that. I know I was stupid and played through some injuries that I shouldn’t have. I think I had like five hits in September or something stupid like that. But I’m stubborn and I like to play and I like to be in the lineup every day. Obviously looking back on it now I wish I had sat out a little more than I did. But it was a good learning experience.”
[on people wondering if 2010 was a sign of his decline]
“I don’t even know how to respond to that. I’m 27 years old. I don’t think I’m in decline, I just had an injury plagued bad year. I still hit 30 something home runs and drove in 80 something runs. There’s other ways to be productive I think besides your batting average. I think scoring runs, driving in runs, taking your walks.

I just think it’s stupid for people to say I’m in decline. I’m 27. If I was 37, maybe. But I still got a lot of good years left in me.”

[on his comfort level at third base]
I realize that’s where I’m supposed to be now. My whole career in the minors I was always a utility guy…I have that mentality now at third base where its my job and I know people are trying to take it from me and I got to take a step ahead.

[on his strikeouts]
You have to take the good with the bad. It’s obviously something I want to cut down on and improve on. I think working with Brady [Anderson] a lot this offseason kind of changed my timing and my bat path a little bit. I think its helped and hopefully I can be a more consistent hitter.

[on struggling as a young player]
“It’s mental. It is. It’s tough. You just got to remember, you are in the big leagues for a reason. You are one of the best baseball players in the world. You are here to do a job. The wouldn’t keep throwing out there if they didn’t think so.”

[on if his best years are ahead]
“I think that ’09 was where I was just starting to realize my potential. Last year I still put up pretty decent numbers. I look at that as I still hit some home runs and drove in that many runs and I could barely swing a bat.”

[on his personality]
“I’m more just kind of laid back. [I like to] do my work get it done, go out and play. I’m not going to be the voice in the clubhouse. I’m just kind of relaxed, kind of quiet.”

[on not confusing his quietness with lack of emotion]
“I definitely care. My comments will reflect that I care after the games. As far as being the guy on Twitter or being the guy with the Facebook page or being the guy that always wants to be on SportsCenter, I could care less. I just want to do my job and let the spotlight be on somebody else.”

Spring Training quick hits

A few notes from today’s workout…

*Given the winds the team moved the batting practice to a different field. Several cars windshields were hit and the strong gusts of wind were causing even lightly hit balls to sail over the fence.

*The O’s have penciled in an intrasquad game for Sunday at 1 p.m. on either the main field or the practice field that has Camden Yards’ dimensions.

*Luis Lebron threw off flat ground today and continues to progress back from Tommy John surgery. He won’t appear in a Spring Training game.

*Manager Buck Showalter has been impressed by Rule 5 pick Adrian Rosario.
“I can see why Milwaukee liked him and why we would take a chance with him this spring,” Showalter said of Rosario, a right-handed power pitcher.  “He’s got a good arm, good delivery, good body. I’ve been really surprised at his English. His English is good, pretty good.”

*Showalter will be using Jason Berken as a reliever and the hope is he’s a guy that will be able to go multiple innings. Jim Johnson and Michael Gonzalez are also guys that the Orioles would like to be able to get more than three outs at a time since it would greatly increase Showalter’s options.

*Craig Tatum’s arm was a little sore and Showalter said he’d probably give the catchers a day off from throwing on Wednesday.

Orioles Grapefruit League starters

Here’s the Orioles’ pitching schedule for the first week. Each of these guys will go two or three innings. Presumably the team will operate on a five-day schedule after that.

MONDAY- Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman
TUESDAY- Jeremy Guthrie
WEDNESDAY- Justin Duchscherer
THURSDAY- Brian Matusz and Adrian Rosario
FRIDAY- Jake Arrieta and Ryan Drese

Spring Training quick hits

*The team’s first full squad workout went off without a hitch today and manager Buck Showalter’s inspirational movie event drew raves in the clubhouse. The film featured snippets from movies like Any Given Sunday and Miracle, and Derrek Lee said he got goosebumps and felt ready to fight Mike Tyson afterward. I’ll have more clubhouse reax on the team activity up on Orioles.com later on.

*About half of the team’s pitchers threw with hitters in the box (not swinging just tracking) while the other half will throw tomorrow. The plan is for live batting practice to begin on Wednesday.

*Vladimir Guerrero and Nick Markakis were among those who took some BP hacks for the first time at Ed Smith Stadium, with Guerrero’s launching a ball over the deepest part of the field, in center. 

*Brad Bergesen will start the team’s first Spring Training game (at the Pirates on Monday) with Chris Tillman to follow. They will each go two or three innings depending on pitch count.

More Spring quotes

A few quotes from today’s first full-squad workout…

[on his familiarity with Baltimore baseball]
“I’m learning quick. I’ve always known the history and tradition here. A great tradition. I’ve always heard about how great the fans are. I’m growing to know this team. Buck had a great message last night. I think we’re headed in the right direction.

[On Sunday’s night team movie]
It was awesome. I was ready to fight [Mike] Tyson last night. We didn’t know what to expect. I was thinking, ‘Wow, that’s weird, [a] 6 o’clock meeting. ‘ [Buck] had a great message, put the movie clips on, it was pretty good.

I was fired up. I had goose bumps last night. I think we’re going to have to show that movie before Opening Day, too, and maybe after the All-Star break.

[on having the whole team in camp]
The first day is always exciting. This is the time to cross the t’s and dot the I’s, get the little stuff done. It’s not always the most fun part. It’s tedious but it’s needed throughout the season., These next seven to eight day,s we’ll really bear down and get the fundamentals down before we start playing games next week.

[on Sunday’s team activity]
It’s something that I’ve never seen, and I’m sure these guys have never seen unless you’ve been with Showalter before.

[was the message well received?]
Of course it was well received. You got veterans talking about it, along with the younger guys. We’ve got the message.

[on the different atmosphere in the clubhouse]

You walk into the clubhouse you can feel the vibe yourself right? I’ve never honestly walked into a clubhouse and felt that way until I walk[ed] in here. There’s a sense of pride. Everybody knows what’s at stake. We want to go out and stop getting our [butts] kicked and starting kicking people’s [butts]. Point blank.

[on the direction of the Orioles organization]
“For the past two years or so, it’s been going in the right direction, we just haven’t got there yet. We have our young guys up here [now], and we have what we have. They’re here. It’s just a matter of filling in the pieces here and there. We got it this year and we’re looking forward to, I don’t want to say do big things but to go out there and do what we are capable of doing. And hopefully that leads to big things.

[on the vibe around the team]
It’s definitely a different clubhouse from years in the past. Things are going smoothly right now, guys are just getting to know each other, so it’s headed in the right direction.

Pictures from Spring Training

Here are a few pictures from Monday’s first full squad workout…

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Doing some warmups

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Joe Mahoney, Tyler Henson and Josh Bell look on as Jeremy Guthrie throws off the mound with Adam Donachie at the plate.

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Some of the position players, including Luke Scott, Vladimir Guerrero, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, take their swings in batting practice. Hitting coach Jim Presley and Brady Anderson are also in this picture, looking on.

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Odds and Ends

*A quick reminder that if you were planning on watching today’s first full-squad workout it starts at noon. The team has physicals and meetings this morning, although they will try to take the field earlier if possible.

*The O’s first game is next Monday, although manager Buck Showalter is hoping to play an intrasquad game on Sunday on the practice field that mimics Camden Yards’ dimensions. The Orioles main field is still on schedule to be ready for the first home game March 1.

Here’s a photo of the main stadium courtesy of the team’s Twitter feed.

*Showalter rented out a movie theatre last night to show the team an inspirational movie, which I’m told went over very well. Several players remarked that they were ready to play a game right then and there. I don’t have any details as to what exactly the movie was, but it was a self-made one. I should have quotes later this afternoon when the clubhouse is open to the media.

*Also, I wrote last night about some new developments expected in Alfredo Simon’s case in the next 7-10 days. I’ll keep you posted as best as I can.