January 2012

Orioles announce exhibition game

The Orioles announced Tuesday that they will play an exhibition game against the State College of Florida at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla. on Tuesday, April 3.

There will be no admission charge to attend the 1:05 p.m. ET game, with the exception of reserved tickets near the SCF dugout which will be sold by the college with proceeds supporting Manatees athletics. Tickets can be reserved through the SCF athletic department at 941-752-5261.

For the last 12 years the school played an annual exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and is the only junior college in the nation to play a Major League team in Spring Training. The game against the Orioles will allow the State College of Florida, where O’s reliever Jim Johnson is taking online classes to complete his Liberal Arts degree, to carry on the tradition.

“The State College of Florida is extremely grateful to the Orioles for enabling us to continue our tradition of facing a major league team,” athletic director Matthew Ennis said in a press release. “The game means so much to our school and the surrounding community and our players are thrilled for the opportunity to play at Ed Smith Stadium.”

Formerly known as Manatee Community College, the State College of Florida’s baseball program has produced over 185 professional baseball players and over 350 players have gone on to four year universities. Legendary coach Tim Hill Sr., only the second baseball coach in school history, is in his 32nd and last year as head coach of the team.

Got a question?

Since my last attempt at doing an Orioles inbox got shoved to the side (a combination of other stories and lack of good questions), let’s give it another go.

If you have an Orioles question, whether it’s about a certain player, rumor, opinion, etc., send it along to brittany.ghiroli@mlb.com. Use “inbox” in the subject line and please include your name (don’t worry, we only print last initials) and hometown.

Make them fun, make them different, but please don’t make them inappropriate. I’m aiming to get a fresh batch of your questions answered for Wednesday.

Thanks!

Os sign Galarraga, Neshek & Paulino as non-roster invitees, also sign Kim

The Orioles announced that they have signed left-handed pitcher Seong-Min Kim from South Korea to a Minor League contract.

Born April 26, 1994, Kim is a 5-foot, 11-inch, 180-pound left-hander that throws a fastball, curveball, change up, and slider.  He had been pitching for the 18 and under South Korean national team.

“We are glad to sign a player that our scouts feel is one of the top amateur left-handed pitchers in South Korea,” said Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette in a press release.  “Kim has an excellent curveball and very good control.”

The Orioles also announced that they have signed right-handed pitchers Armando Galarraga and Pat Neshek, along with catcher Ronnie Paulino, to Minor League deals.  The trio will be part of 14 non-roster players to major league spring training camp, nine of whom have previous major league experience.

Pitchers invited to camp include: LHPs RYAN EDELL and DENNYS REYES and RHPs WILLIE EYRE, ARMANDO GALARRAGA, STEVE JOHNSON, JON LINK, PAT NESHEK, MIGUEL SOCOLOVICH and OSCAR VILLARREAL.

Position players invited include: CAs JOHN HESTER, RONNY PAULINO and BRIAN WARD; OF SCOTT BEERER and INF STEVE TOLLESON.

Orioles pitchers and catchers will hold their first workout in Sarasota on February 19, and the first full squad workout will take place February 24. The Orioles will open the 2012 Grapefruit League schedule on March 5 with split squad games at 1:05 p.m. against the Rays in Port Charlotte and 7:05 p.m. at home against the Pirates.

O’s minor league pitchers will hold their first workout in Sarasota on Sunday, March 4. The first minor league full squad workout will take place on Thursday, March 8.  Minor league games begin Wednesday, March 14.

Andino contract info, more on Koji

*Here’s Robert Andino’s contract info. It’s a pretty standard deal, and if you recall Andino avoided an arbitration by agreeing with the Orioles last week:

2012 salary: $1,300,000. Plus: $50,000 for All Star; $50,000 for Gold Glove; $50,000 for LCS/MVP; $50,000 for WS/MVP. SGP.

*Also, I’ve heard more recently that suggests the Orioles interest in getting back Koji Uehara isn’t as strong as has been stated.  They don’t have much to give back to Texas in return and there are several others teams with more interest in Koji at this point. Things could change, but it’s looking right now that he ends up in an uniform other than the Orioles.

Thoughts on Koji, McClellan, other rumors & Betemit details

There’s been a bunch of rumors flying around today, so I thought I’d put my two cents in on what’s going on..

*The Cardinals are actively shopping pitcher Kyle McClellan as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported, and the Orioles are among the interested teams. He’s due to make $2.5 million this year, and would presumably give a team either a very good reliever or a serviceable back-end starter. Given the open competition and uncertainty in the O’s rotation (and bullpen) it makes sense that Baltimore would be interested and McClellan could end up competing for a starting pitching job.

But, how interested are the Orioles? I was told the organization is engaged in “at least three” active trade talks and it’s unclear what the Cardinals want beyond salary relief for McClellan. Ideally, St. Louis would want to get something in return given that McClellan has put up some fairly good numbers, and the Orioles really don’t have much to give up.

*One of the other potential trades the team continues to discuss involves Texas’ Koji Uehara’s possible return to Baltimore. Those talks have been going on since Dallas’ Winter Meetings, as MLB.com first reported, and while Uehara has a limited no-trade clause he’s made it  no secret how much he loved his time in Baltimore. The problem with a potential trade with the Rangers –and really any trade of significance — becomes what the Orioles can afford to give up in return.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has acquired plenty of depth this offseason because the organization lacks any top-tier prospects in the upper levels of its farm system. They aren’t trading Adam Jones or any other young piece deemed part of the future. (ie. Matt Wieters, Zach Britton, etc.).  I’m not saying Koji would demand a significant piece, especially given that he’s a 36-year-old reliever who is coming off a disastrous second half of the season, but if you’re the Orioles you have to be careful in what you trade for. Koji has an injury history, but he did perform well –when healthy — in the backend of the O’s bullpen.

You also can’t discount the fact that Uehara, who told several people close to him last fall that he wanted to return to Baltimore, was comfortable with the Orioles. They were the team that scouted and signed him out of Japan and manager Buck Showalter had taken great care in keeping Uehara on a specific plan –things like avoiding having him warmup and not come into the game — to keep Koji healthy.

*As for other trade scenarios, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes then what surfaces. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, my money’s on Duquette making a trade before Spring Training. The Orioles’ main priority at this point in the year is to shore up the bullpen, although I don’t see them passing up an opportunity to upgrade their starting pitching if they get the chance.

I don’t see free-agent starter Edwin Jackson signing in Baltimore for several reasons. (And before I get a thousand angry emails, I’ll add this is just educated speculation.)

One, Jackson has been part of winning clubs, going to the World Series recently with Tampa Bay and St. Louis and wants to win right away. Two, while money almost always trumps winning nowadays, the right-hander would have to be severely overpaid to pick Baltimore over other rumored-suitors such as Boston and St. Louis.  And I don’t see Duquette –who has made it clear his preference is to sign free-agent arms to three-year and under deals — going above and beyond to land Jackson with more money and years. It doesn’t make sense given what else he’s done this winter –which is primarily add depth — and this organization isn’t a piece or two away where you can justify going out and overpaying to get a guy. Three, if Jackson really does have several three-year options –as FoxSports reported — and is also thinking about possibly taking a one-year deal to up his value (similar to Roy Oswalt), you can bet he’d go that avenue before signing a three year deal to play for a perennially struggling team at the hitter-friendly Camden Yards.

Do I think Jackson would be a good fit? Absolutely. It’s just unlikely at this point. Even if his market dries up in terms of three-year deals, I can’t imagine there wouldn’t be a host of clubs willing to take on the 28-year-old power arm on a one-year contract. You can never say never in baseball, so file this one under “unlikely” at this point.

*I keep getting asked about the status of pitcher Armando Galarraga. The Orioles have not signed him to a Minor League deal, although they remain fairly confident that will get done. The organization has yet to unveil its list of non-roster invitees for Spring Training, and there should be a few more additions to that list between now and camp.

*Dan Wheeler signing with Cleveland tonight takes another serviceable reliever off the board.  Former Oriole Michael Gonzalez is still available, and here are a few other interesting names on the market:  Chad Durbin, Arthur Rhodes, Jason Isringhausen, Chad Qualls, David Aardsma, Todd Coffey, Juan Cruz and Pat Neshek.

*Finally, I was thinking about this the other day and brought it up briefly at FanFest. The Orioles offseason hasn’t been exciting in terms of player acquisitions, there’s no way around that. But what has this club actually given up? Virtually nothing. Duquette sort of hedged at this a few times this winter, and it’s true. The team has made some additions in hopes of incremental improvement, and is largely banking on the young arms to rebound. The Orioles haven’t traded anyone or lost any viable piece on waivers.

Luke Scott was  non-tendered and signed with Tampa Bay for a guaranteed $6 million — one year at $5 million and a $1 million buyout if his option isn’t pick up) — and you argue he’s the one big loss from last year’s club. But if the organization is going to see what they have in Nolan Reimold, who will get a chance to win the left field job, why not sign Wilson Betemit to DH for far less money than Scott and leave the potential to acquire another veteran bat on a one-year deal?

I’m not saying I agree with all the Orioles’ moves, but you have to look at pluses and minuses and –at the very least — Duquette has done a pretty good job his first few months in acquiring depth for very little cost or drawback to an already-sparse farm system.

*Finally here’s the lowdown on Betemit’s contract:

Betemit’s contract is worth $3,221,524 and is a two-year deal with a vesting option for 2014 with several incentives that could see him earn over $6 million total. He will make a base salary of $1 million in 2012 and $1.75 in 2013 and it’s a vesting-only option in 2014 for $3.2 million.

Signing bonus – $500,000, of which all is deferred without interest. His option vests if 700 plate appearances are reached in 2012-2013 combined.

Plus in 2012-2013: $50,000 for 300 PA; $75,000 for 350 PA; $75,000 for 400PA; $100,000 for 450PA; $100,000 for 500PA; $150,000 for 550PA; $150,000 for 600PA. Betemit would get $50,000 for All Star selection,$50,000 for Gold Glove; $100,000 for LCS/MVP; $100,000 for WS/MVP; $100,000 for Silver Slugger.

Orioles announce Minor League staff

The Orioles announced their coaching staff for each of their seven Minor League affiliates on Thursday, with several new additions highlighted by Triple-A Norfolk manager Ron Johnson.

Johnson joins the organization after spending the last 12 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, including the 2010-2011 seasons as the Major League first base coach. Johnson has posted a 1,261-1,262 record in 18 seasons as a Minor League manager, and will work with pitching coach Mike Griffin – back for his fifth consecutive seasons in the organization — and hitting coach Denny Walling, who spent the past six seasons as a roving Minor League instructor. Mark Shires will be back for a 13th year as an athletic trainer in the Orioles’ system and his sixth year at Norfolk.

Gary Kendall will return for his second season as manager at Double-A Bowie and his 13th season in the organization. Deny Hocking will return for his second year as field coach  and Kennie Steenstra will serve as Bowie’s pitching coach for a third consecutive season. Aaron Scott, in his 10th season in the organization, will serve as Bowie’s athletic trainer for the second consecutive year.

Class-A Frederick will be managed by Orlando Gomez for the third consecutive year, with Gomez earning the 2011 Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award after leading the Keys to the Carolina League championship. Blane Beatty returns for his sixth season as pitching coach for the Keys and former major leaguer Jose Hernandez will serve as field coach for Frederick after serving as field coach for Delmarva in 2011 and the Gulf Coast Orioles in 2010. Pat Wesley begins his ninth full season as an athletic trainer in the Orioles’ organization and fourth with Frederick.

Ryan Minor, who enters his third year as manager, will be with Class-A Delmarva along with pitching coach Troy Mattes and field coach Einar Diaz. Athletic trainer Will Lawhorn is back for a second year in Delmarva and his fourth in the organization.

Gary Allenson, who managed Norfolk for the past five seasons, will manage short-season Aberdeen with former Triple-A hitting coach Brad Komminsk also now with the IronBirds. Former Oriole pitcher Alan Mills joins the organization as the pitching coach at Aberdeen, with Trek Schuler serving as the athletic trainer.

Ramon Sambo returns for his sixth season as a manager in the organization and his fifth season managing the Gulf Coast League Orioles. Larry Jaster, who is in his 16th year in the organization, returns as pitching coach and Milt May returns for his third season as a field coach for the Gulf Coast League club. Additionally, Elvis Morel will manage the Orioles’ entry in the Dominican Summer League and will be assisted by pitching coaches Robert Perez and Dionis Pascual and hitting coach Ramon Caraballo.

Brian Graham enters his fifth season as Coordinator of Instruction, and will work with new hires Rick Peterson (Director of Pitching Development) and Mike Boulanger (Minor League Hitting Coordinator) to ensure continuity throughout the system.

Mike Bordick will serve as a Special Assignment Instructor, while Bobby Dickerson (infield), Don Werner (catching), Butch Davis (outfield) and Eric Cormell (baserunning and speed training) will serve as roving instructors. Scott McGregor will spend his 11th year as a coach in the organization and first season as the Sarasota-based Rehabilitation Coordinator, with Cesar Devarez overseeing the rehab of position players in Sarasota

Dave Schmidt, in his 15th season in the organization, will serve as the Coordinator of Sarasota Operations for the Orioles, while Felipe Alou, Jr. returns for his fifth year as Director of the Orioles’ Dominican Academy.

Orioles Spring Trainer primer

For those interested in tickets/TV/radio times for Spring Training, read on.

*Individual tickets for all 16 of the Orioles’ spring training games at Ed Smith Stadium will go on sale this Saturday, January 28 at 10:00 a.m. ET.  Last season, the Orioles set an all-time Sarasota attendance record at Ed Smith Stadium with 115,506 fans over 16 games, including 10 sellouts.

Fans interested in season tickets, five game flex-plans or group tickets, or those wishing to receive additional spring training ticket information may call the Orioles spring training office at 941-893-6300.

Spring training tickets for Orioles home games at Ed Smith Stadium may be purchased here.

*MASN will televise six Orioles spring training games, with the O’s’ March 5 prime time Grapefruit League opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates in kicking off coverage.

MASN will broadcast five more games from Ed Smith Stadium : March 11 against the Boston Red Sox; March 18 against the New York Yankees; March 23 against the Red Sox; March 24 against the Washington Nationals; and April 1 against the Tampa Bay Rays. All afternoon games will be replayed on the same day in prime time on MASN HD.

In the broadcast booth, joining Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer and play-by-play voices Gary Thorne and Jim Hunter, will be Orioles Hall of Fame shortstop Mike Bordick, who will be making his MASN debut as a color analyst.

*The Orioles and 1090 AM WBAL Radio, the flagship station of the Orioles Radio Network, have announced that 16 Orioles spring training games will be broadcast in 2012. The schedule includes the spring opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates from Ed Smith Stadium on Monday, March 5 at 7:05 p.m., and nine additional home games. Six of the 16 broadcasts will feature 30-minute Pre-Game and Post-Game Shows.

WBAL Radio will also broadcast all 162 Orioles 2012 regular season games. Longtime Orioles Radio Network broadcasters Joe Angel and Fred Manfra will again team up to call the action.

The complete schedule of spring training games to be carried live on WBAL Radio is below.

* Monday, March 5 – Pittsburgh Pirates – 7:05 p.m.
* Tuesday, March 6 – at Boston Red Sox – 1:35 p.m.
* Thursday, March 8 – Atlanta Braves – 1:05 p.m.
* Saturday, March 10 – at Philadelphia Phillies – 1:05 p.m.
* Sunday, March 11* – Boston Red Sox – 1:05 p.m.
* Tuesday, March 13 – Tampa Bay Rays – 1:05 p.m.
* Saturday, March 17 – Boston Red Sox – 1:05 p.m.
* Sunday, March 18* – New York Yankees – 7:05 p.m.
* Tuesday, March 20 – Philadelphia Phillies – 1:05 p.m.
* Friday, March 23 – Boston Red Sox – 1:05 p.m.
* Saturday, March 24 – Washington Nationals – 1:05 p.m.
* Sunday, March 25* – at Philadelphia Phillies – 1:05 p.m.
* Wednesday, March 28* – at Toronto Blue Jays – 1:05 p.m.
* Thursday, March 29* – at New York Yankees – 7:05 p.m.
* Saturday, March 31 – at Pittsburgh Pirates – 1:05 p.m.
* Sunday, April 1* – Tampa Bay Rays – 1:05 p.m.

*- Includes Pre-Game and Post-Game Shows

Betemit official, Os attention shifts to ‘pen

Less than four weeks until Spring Training begins, the Orioles got their versatile designated hitter in Wilson Betemit, agreeing Tuesday on the terms of a a two-year contract with a 2014 vesting option with the former free-agent.

The 30-year-old Betemit is a switch-hitter who is particularly effective against right-handed pitching, — posting a career .817 OPS in that category—and comes with a history of high on-base percentage, a statistic both executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter place heavy emphasis on.

“Wilson has played for a number of teams, but he’s excelled in the American League and I just think there’s good value in his bat to help our team for more than  a year,” Duquette said of the multi-year signing, which –based on plate appearances in 2012 and ’13 – could stretch to the 2014 season. “He’ll play this year at 30 [years old], and the contract gives him incentive to perform at a high level.”

Betemit rebounded from tough 2009 season with the White Sox, spending the past two years with Kansas City and Detroit and hitting a combined .290 with a .838 OPS. He is primarily an infielder, but could play the outfield if needed and gives the O’s a flexible option at DH, an avenue that Showalter preferred after having Vladimir Guerrero fill the role last season.

While Betemit does offer bench flexibility, and another potential leadoff option if Brian Roberts (concussion) can’t stay healthy, Duquette said Tuesday his primary position will be DH.

“We like Wilson Betemit for his bat,” Duquette said. “He came up as a shortstop [with Atlanta]. His best position is batting.”

A position the Orioles feel the 30-year-old is still improving at. Originally signed by the Braves as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic on July 28, 1996, Betemit was the youngest player in the Major Leagues when he made his debut at 19 during the 2001 season.

Over a nine-year career, Betemit owns a .269 average, .336 on-base percentage and .448  slugging percentage with 63 home runs and 243 RBI in 697 games with Atlanta, the Dodgers, the Yankees, the White Sox, Kansas City and Detroit.

“We thought there was good value for him to complement our club,” Duquette said. “From the left side against right handed itching he’s very valuable. It looked to me like the last couple years, Wilson is really learning how to hit and how to leverage his power.”

Betemit’s signing turns the Orioles immediate attention on upgrading the bullpen, and although Duquette didn’t mention specifics, the team is still interested in closer Fransico Cordero and –like most clubs – figures to add several more relievers to foster bullpen competition in camp.

To clear room for Betemit on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Rick VandenHurk was designated for assignment. VandenHurk, 26, pitched to an 8.00 ERA in four games for the Orioles and was 9-13 with a 4.43 ERA in 26 starts for Triple-A Norfolk in 2011.

Betemit agrees to join Baltimore

The Orioles have agreed to terms with free agent Wilson Betemit, a one-year deal that gives the organization necessary infield/outfield depth as well as a versatile candidate at designated hitter.

The deal is not official and is still pending a physical, but the initial agreement was reached on Monday with contractual details still being hammered out. Betemit has rebounded from tough 2009 season in Chicago, spending the last two years with Kansas City and Detroit and hitting a combined.290 with a .838 OPS.  The 30-year-old Betemit is primarily an infielder, but could play the outfield if needed and gives the Orioles a flexible DH option, an avenue manager Buck Showalter prefers.

Betemit, who resides in the Dominican Republic, has a career .817 OPS against right-handed pitching and it will be interesting to see how he’s used in Baltimore. He offers another option for a leadoff hitter if second baseman Brian Roberts (concussion) is unable to play and could end up seeing a look at third base –where he spent the majority of last season – if Mark Reynolds can’t bounce back from a disappointing defensive year.  Betemit could also be used as the team’s primary DH and another bench option –along with Robert Andino – that can fill in almost anywhere.

Both Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette made clear at Saturday’s FanFest that the organization wasn’t done adding pieces, and it was a logical step –in a winter dominated by adding pitching depth — for the O’s to turn toward upgrading positionally before next month’s camp.  The Orioles are expected to continue to add arms before heading to Sarasota, Fla. with heavy interest in free agent closer Francisco Cordero.

A few notes

A few things while most of you nurse that Ravens hangover…

*The Orioles released 25-year-old outfielder Kyle Hudson, who is now a free agent. Hudson was designated for assignment when the Orioles signed lefty Wei-yin Chen.

*A few more Prince Fielder rumors today, with the Nationals reportedly coming close to offering Fielder a deal (per ESPN’s Jim Bowden on Twitter) and the Orioles still very interested (per MLB.com’s Jim Duquette’s Twitter).

Are the Orioles in on Prince? Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette didn’t do much to quiet speculation at Saturday’s Fanfest when asked where things stand.

“Are we going to get him? I don’t know,” Duquette said of Fielder, a Scott Boras client who is believed to be out of the O’s price range unless his asking price drops. “But if we don’t, we’ll look for someone just like him.”

I’ve thought all along the Orioles remained a serious longshot to get Fielder and maintain that the market would have to fall for him to choose to come to Baltimore.  But we saw last year how the Vladimir Guerrero rumor started, got laughed off and than the O’s swooped in and offered what no one else would.

So, what am I saying? You can’t ever rule anything out completely. Duquette has added pitching depth and it’s fair to say the club is allocating resources (or trying to) to upgrade positionally if possible. But they have yet to meet with Fielder  –which would mean things were serious — and there’s been no whispers of the idea of offering a deal with Spring Training just around the corner.

“We should be able to sign a few more players to supplement our roster, players we can at least take a look at in camp,” Duquette said Saturday of any moves on the horizon.  “We’ll continue to work on improving our roster. That never stops, really, but I think there’s a good opportunity to add a few more players here in the next couple of weeks.”

*According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Rays are interested in middle infielder Jeff Keppinger, who was non-tendered by the Giants this winter. I’ve always thought the Orioles would benefit from adding a guy like Keppinger as more insurance for Brian Roberts. Or you could sign him and see what you can get on the trade market for Robert Andino, who executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said has drawn considerable interest. I know the Orioles met with Keppinger’s camp in Dallas, but am not sure how much of that was due diligence versus actual interest.

Another interesting name still available as a potential flexible DH option is Wilson Betemit.

He has rebounded from a terrible season in Chicago by spending the last two years with Kansas City and Detroit, hitting a combined.290 with a .838 OPS. Betemit is primarily a corner infielder, but could play the outfield if needed. Is he a big, powerful DH? No. But he’s not a past his prime veteran (such as Johnny Damon or Manny Ramirez) , and the 30-year-old Betemit has a career .817 OPS against right-handed pitching.

*Speaking of the offseason and trade/free agent rumors, I’m working up an inbox for Orioles.com to run on Tuesday. Hit me with any Orioles’ related questions heading into camp at brittany.ghiroli@mlb.com. Please include your name/hometown. Thanks!

*The Diamondbacks claimed former Orioles backup catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from Houston today, according to ESPN’s Keith Law.

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