February 2011

Spring Training quick hits

Not a lot to report today as most of the Orioles arms got the day off from throwing bullpens. They will throw to live hitters tomorrow, although the position physicals will delay Monday’s workout. Right now, it looks to start at about noon.  Here are a few tidbits from the day…
*All position players have to report by 6 p.m. ET, but all the pitchers and catchers will be present as well as manager Buck Showalter has a team meeting and activity planned for tonight. Showalter was mum on details but he did say he prefers to address the team the night before rather than in the morning because the players are usually anxious to take the field and already have to go through physicals and several other speeches.

Pedro Florimon is the only player who has yet to report, with Nick Markakis arriving at the complex on Sunday afternoon. Right now, there’s no Visa issues that anyone is aware of, so the expectation is Florimon will be here.

*Prospect Luis Lebron’s throwing program will be modified, and the Orioles will switch him back to throwing on flat ground, rather than having him participate in the usual bullpen sessions. Showalter said it’s not a setback, but they’re concerned that he’s overthrowing and trying to do too much off the mound. Lebron had Tommy John on his right elbow in May.

*Mitch Atkins was dealing with a stomach issue and continues to be sidelined in camp. His left oblique is getting positive reports from the team’s medical staff, but so far it has not been a good camp for him.

*There was more batting order discussion today, and Showalter said he’d probably bat Derrek Lee third, ahead of cleanup man Vladimir Guerrero. Lee will be moved along slowly this spring as he progresses from offseason surgery on his right thumb, but being a veteran the team’s isn’t concerned that a shortened Spring will hamper him at all for Opening Day. He said Saturday that he’s ahead of schedule, although he’s still a few weeks away from taking live batting practice.

Vlad speaks

Vladimir Guerrero was just introduced to the media in a press conference where teammates Adam Jones and Jeremy Guthrie were also in attendance. It lasted just under 20 minutes and I’ll have a full story up on Orioles.com shortly.  Here are the highlights, translated by interpreter (and his agent) Fernando Cuza.

[on how the market played out and being in Baltimore]
I want to do the same thing for this organization that I did for Texas. I like challenges.  When I went to Texas they had never won a title for a lot of years. When I left Anaheim for Texas, it was a challenge for me to do that. I view this as an opportunity to do the same. Here’s an opportunity to do the same. I feel like I can be the missing link here, to all of a sudden take this team from where it was to have it hoping to become a contender.
[impressions of his new teammates]

I’ve only been here a couple days, so I haven’t had a chance to meet a lot of people here. But the people I have met, I’ve been feeling that. I’ve been feeling very much at home, they are like family here.

[whether he has a chip on his shoulder this year or feels he has something to prove]
No. I just want to stay healthy. I know if I stay healthy I’m going to have a good year.
[plans after this year?]
No I haven’t thought about retirement yet. My whole mindset is to have a good year, continue playing and if I stay healthy and things keep going well for me, I’m going to continue playing.

[any numerical goals?]

500 home runs is definitely something I’m after. And whatever comes after that.

Spring Training tidbits

Not much news today other than Vladimir Guerrero officially becoming an Oriole. That press conference is at 2 p.m. ET, so look for some quotes and updates later this afternoon on Orioles.com. For those who are curious, Guerrero’s locker is at the end of the row with the outfielders. He’s right next to Luke Scott with Felix Pie, who was visibly excited to Guerrero, on the other side. It’s going to be a loud corner of the clubhouse.

Here are a few other minor tidbits…

*Josh Bell arrived to camp today and said he’s about 15 pounds slimmer than when he ended last season. He hasn’t had a chance to speak to manager Buck Showalter but when told of Showalter’s high praise and mindset that Bell can make this team, he smiled and said “that’s the plan.” Bell took batting practice along with a group of position players that included Brian Roberts, J.J. Hardy, Roberto Andino, Mark Reynolds, Adam Jones and Randy Winn.

*All but five position players have now reported to camp, with Winn, Pie, Bell, Nick Green, Cesar Izturis and Nolan Reimold among those to show up on Friday. The report date for all position players is Sunday with the first official workout Monday. Nick Markakis, Derrek Lee, Ryan Adams, Luke Scott and Pedro Florimon are the five that have yet to report.

*RHP Mitch Atkins is still dealing with a left oblique strain and was sidelined from today’s activities again.

*Brad Bergesen was sent home sick from camp. He had a sore throat the other day, and as is common practice this time of year, there’s a little bug going around camp.

*Finally, people keep asking what the biggest difference to me is with Showalter running things. This being my second season on the Orioles beat I can only compare it to last year, but the biggest differences in my opinion is the overall intensity and the attention to detail. Drills are being laid out down in meticulous fashion and things are run orderly, timely and with a workman-like approach. There’s less wasted time and Showalter has been very vocal about those in camp (mainly the pitchers) getting things done right. 

Showalter and MacPhail on Vlad

This is president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail’s opening statement from this afternoon’s Vladimir Guerrero press conference..

“This is kind of a fun way to wake up in the morning when you know you’ve got this announcement pending in the afternoon. It’s rare when you get a chance to introduce someone who has had over 10 seasons of 100-plus RBIs, he’s been an MVP award winner, life-time .320 hitter, and I can’t remember in recent memory where we’ve made a signing that has generated as much enthusiasm as this one has; not just among our fan base which is obviously important but our entire organization, not the least of which is our players.

I’ve been told and seen a little bit some of the wide-eyes amusement and the wide-eyed amazement that our players have shown when Vlad has come on, and how excited they are to have him. And I would be remiss if I really did not thank ownership for this. I blew past a couple numbers that we had agreed on and this signing certainly takes us there. I think we’ll have a payroll in excess of $20 million where we were a year ago.

This is really ownership’s objective to try to capture and sustain the momentum that we showed when Buck came on board in August and we played with almost a .600 winning percentage. We’re very grateful to [principal owner] Peter [Angelos] and his family to be able to make this announcement today.”
Manager Buck Showalter, on the addition of Guerrero to the Oriole’s lineup:

“It obviously helps everybody. It kind of gives us a little more of a pass the baton situation. It stretches out the lineup. It gives us less breathing spots. Obviously, there are not many guys capable of handling the four hole, three hole, wherever you want to put him out. You want to put him at one of those two spots. Right-left, what have you.

It gives us a presence in our lineup that we’ve added to from last year. This is kind of not necessarily the finishing touch but it puts us in position where we have nine spots if everybody’s healthy, it presents a challenge. It doesn’t automatically mean that someone is going to hit better than they did in the past. But it does take the focus off of one spot all the time where someone has to.

That’s something we wanted to do in the offseason, get a little bit more of a pass the baton mentality.”

Spring Training quick hits

It was an abbreviated day at camp as a good portion of the Orioles players and coaches were headed to a charity golf tournament that was organized by Jim Johnson. Here are a few tidbits…

*RHP Mitch Atkins was sidelined today with a left oblique strain. He will probably be limited for another day or two. The Orioles bullpen is shaping up to be a tough competition, and Atkins is a long shot to make the club.

*Adrian Rosario is still dealing with a virus, although Justin Duchscherer –who was also sick yesterday — was back in camp today and threw his second bullpen.

*Vladimir Guerrero was around again today, but since the news is still not official the Orioles are presumably waiting to hear back about his physical results. Manager Buck Showalter said that it’s unlikely he uses Guerrero in in the outfield in any Spring Training games. He spoke with Rangers manager Ron Washington on Guerrero last night and said that Guerrero doesn’t want any special treatment and wants to do all the drills. The tentative press conference to make Vlad official is set for Friday afternoon.

*Robert Andino was the latest position player to report to camp and he will compete for the team’s second utility role.With Derrek Lee’s locker only a few stalls down, Andino was really anxious to get to meet the veteran. Back when Lee was was with the Florida Marlins he tossed a foul ball into the stands in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. The young guy who caught it? Andino, who was attending just his second baseball game. He still gets excited when retelling the story.

*Jake Arrieta has looked good in his early side sessions and I don’t think there’s any doubt he’s making the Opening Day roster. Showalter also singled out non-roster invitee David Riske, who has come to camp much further along than anyone anticipated.

*There’s a chance the team’s final bench spot goes to an outfielder, which would be good news for a guy like Nolan Reimold. The team could carry Jake Fox as their primary backup catcher, or have Fox and Tatum, who still has an option remaining. Reimold also still has an option. 

Orioles Minor League Spring Schedule

The Orioles have released their Minor League schedule, with the first of 16 games to start March 16. Here are the details, with game times and locations subject to change…

Wednesday, March 16 AAA/AA vs. Boston 12:30 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex
A @ Boston 12:30 p.m. Ft. Myers

Thursday, March 17 AAA/AA @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte
A Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex

Friday, March 18 AAA/AA @ Minnesota 12:00 p.m. Ft. Myers
A Minnesota 12:30 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex

Saturday, March 19 AAA/AA Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex
A @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte

Monday, March 21 AAA/AA Minnesota 12:30 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex
A @ Minnesota 12:00 p.m. Ft. Myers

Tuesday, March 22 AAA/AA @ Boston 12:30 p.m. Ft. Myers
A Boston 12:30 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex

Wednesday, March 23 AAA/AA @ Minnesota 12:00 p.m. Ft. Myers
A Minnesota 12:30 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex

Thursday, March 24 AAA/AA @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte
A Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex

Friday, March 25 AAA/AA Boston 12:30 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex
A @ Boston 12:30 p.m. Ft. Myers

Saturday, March 26 AAA/AA @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte
A Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex

Monday, March 28 AAA/AA Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex
A @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte

Tuesday, March 29 AAA/AA Minnesota 12:30 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex
A @ Minnesota 12:00 p.m. Ft. Myers

Wednesday, March 30 AAA/AA @ Boston 12:30 p.m. Ft. Myers
A Boston 12:30 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex

Thursday, March 31 AAA/AA @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte
A Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex

Friday, April 1 AAA/AA Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O’Neil Complex
A @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte

Spring Training quick hits

*As you probably read by now, Vladimir Guerrero arrived this morning and is spending most of the day going through a physical. Assuming he passes (they usually take at least 48 hours to process results) the press conference will probably be Friday.

*Pitchers Justin Duchscherer and Adrian Rosario were sent home with the same virus symptoms. It’s more of a precaution since neither of them were scheduled to throw today anyway.

*First baseman Brandon Snyder did some catching today and will continue to get some work behind that plate in order to strengthen his appeal to the big league club. With the signing of Derrek Lee to a one-year deal and the presence of Mark Reynolds, the O’s are going to take a good long look at Snyder and third baseman Josh Bell in other roles.

*For Bell that could mean making the team as a utility infielder, something that Showalter said Wednesday he is mulling over. Bell has dropped weight and gotten into great shape and will also get some work in this spring at first base.

“Obviously, you’d like, if he’s not going to get enough at-bats, [to let Bell] continue to develop,” Showalter said.  “But I don’t want to put that in his head right now. There’s a way he can make this club if I feel like the at-bats are there for him.”

*Right now, the Orioles aren’t entertaining the idea of Nolan Reimold at first base and want him to just concentrate on the outfield. 
*Speaking of Reynolds, he took batting practice on the back fields for the first time this spring and sent several balls flying out of the park. Showalter, who was over watching bullpens, commented that he didn’t see it, but he heard it. He also got a report back from hitting coach Jim Presley.

Vlad arrives in Sarasota for physical

SARASOTA, Fla. — The highly-anticipated arrival of Vladimir Guerrero finally happened
on Wednesday morning, when the veteran designated hitter reported to Orioles camp around 9 a.m. ET.

Guerrero is scheduled to go through a physical examination on Wednesday before anything is made official, and there is a tentative press conference scheduled for Friday.  He was accompanied by one of his agents, Fernando Cuza, who will likely act as an interpreter for the Dominican native, who prefers to do his interviews in Spanish.

Guerrero agreed to terms with the Orioles on a one-year deal on February 5 and his
contract will pay him $8 million dollars, although a substantial portion of it is deferred.

Guerrero, who will wear uniform No. 27, entered with bags from the Texas Rangers and
Montreal Expos, two of his previous stops.  Last season with Texas he hit .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs and he is expected to be the Orioles cleanup hitter and everyday designated hitter, moving previous DH Luke Scott to left field.

Spring Training quick hits

A few quick notes from today’s workout…

*Justin Duchscherer threw about 40 pitches today in a bullpen session and said afterwards that he mixed in all four pitches and felt good. If healthy, manager Buck Showalter said Duchscherer projects as a guy “high up” in the team’s rotation. I’d guess after Jeremy Guthrie, it would go Brian Matusz and then Duke, but you could see a scenario where they could flip those last two guys as well. Showalter has seen a lot of Duchscherer (back when he was healthy) from being in the American League West.

*I blogged yesterday about Luis Lebron being restricted in camp, but not as much as Brandon Erbe. Lebron got up on the mound today and threw a bullpen.
*Showalter spent a long time today talking with catcher Matt Wieters out on the back fields, and he commented today on Wieters’ offseason conditioning having him in good shape. Wieters sent a ball flying out of the Camden Yards simulated field, while batting left-handed, during batting practice.

*More position players showed up today to take batting practice. Among them were Brian Roberts, Joe Mahoney and Brendan Harris. Brandon Snyder’s here as well.

*Rick VandenHurk is another interesting case to watch. He’s out of options this spring and right now is fighting to make the team — either as a starter or as a reliever. Pitching coach Mark Connor has been working with him closely to straighten out some mechanical issues, and placed a rosin bag under his foot during VandenHurk’s side session. That technique was to prevent him from putting too much weight on his heel.

*This has come up a bunch but Showalter continued to reiterate that Jim Johnson and Jason Berken will be viewed as relievers.

Spring Training quick hits

Happy Valentine’s Day! If you haven’t already seen it, I’ve got a feature on O’s manager Buck Showalter up on the site. With Day 1 in the books, here are a few quick tidbits to get you going now..

*The Orioles have 29 of 30 pitches report today, with Alfredo Simon the lone exception. Including catchers there were 35 in camp, although some of the early position players went over to the Minor League Twins Lakes complex to work out in roomier conditions.

*Monday’s workout got underway at noon since there were player physicals in the morning. Brian Roberts, who also took his physical, made a brief cameo at Ed Smith Stadium.

*Manager Buck Showalter said he was happy with how smoothly things went and that there were no “red flags” in this morning’s tests. There are only two pitchers coming off injury who will be restricted in camp: Brandon Erbe (torn right labrum surgery) and Luis Lebron (who is coming off Tommy John on his right elbow).

“Our best hope is that they don’t have any setbacks and they make progress and we deliver them to Twin Lakes healthy,” Showalter said.  “I think Lebron is a little bit further ahead than Erbe, the way I understand it. I don’t think you’ll see them throw in a game here.”

*About half of the O’s pitchers threw bullpens today with the other half going on Tuesday. Lebron and Erbe aren’t up on the mound but Jason Berken is and he looked good today in his session. Berken –who has been rehabbing a season-ending right shoulder injury– is also about 30 lbs thinner than last season, although Showalter didn’t have the exact number.

“I hope he didn’t lose too much,” Showalter said. “He looks great. It’s good to see the young guys get their arms around things like that where they don’t become an issue. There’s enough challenges between the lines.

It just became a priority for him, it looks like. It shows you something. The shoulder feels good, too. It’s good to see him get up there today.”

*Jeremy Guthrie took a tumble off the mound during his bullpen, but appeared to be fine afterward. He laughed it off again later, and said it wasn’t a scary moment for him.

“My foot slipped out from underneath me,” Guthrie said of the incident. He did rave about the rest of his session, his first time throwing outdoors since last season.

“[It went] really good,” Guthrie said. [My] pitches were down in the zone, had a good feel for the changeup which was important.”

*It’s always interesting to watch the smaller things, such as the new coaches and player interaction. Pitching coach Mark Connor spent most of the bullpen session time behind the screen, and Matt Wieters followed to get a better view of the sink on Brad Bergesen’s ball.

*New first base coach Wayne Kirby immediately comes across as a outgoing, friendly guy, while I caught Connor and bullpen coach Rick Adair early this morning checking out the construction on the main field.