January 2012

Reynolds getting another shot at third

Assuming the Orioles, doesn’t make any impact corner infielder additions in the next month, Mark Reynolds will head into 2012’s Spring Training as the team’s starting third baseman.

While there was thought to keeping Reynolds at first base, given his improved defensive play at that position, manager Buck Showalter said earlier this week that he believes the club is strongest with Reynolds at third base and Chris Davis at first.

“You are going to see Mark start out at third base in the spring; that’s where we would like for him to play,” Showalter said of Reynolds, who was charged with 26 errors in 253 chances at third base. “We think Mark is a lot better than he’s shown statistically. I think he’s going to come in [to camp] lighter and little more nimble.”

Reynolds told MLB.com last month that he was focused on cardio-based workouts in hopes of shedding weight and adding more mobility to his defensive game. The 28-year-old slugger admitted he went to heavy on weight lifting last year and thinks that bulking up too much may have contributed to some of his issues at third.

Reynolds’ 31 errors led the American League last season, and it tied him for third most in a single season in Orioles history. Of the 31 errors, 26 were at third base, making it hard to argue when Reynolds calls his performance in 114 games at third base embarrassing.

“Hopefully, they can look at my track record and give me [another] a shot over there,” Reynolds, who had 18 errors in 142 games as Arizona’s third baseman in 2010, said last month. “I know I’m better than that.”

He now figures to get a chance to prove it, with Davis –who can also play third– assuming first base duties. The 25-year-old Davis, acquired in a midseason trade with Texas, didn’t commit an error in 32 games at first base last season, and was charged with eight in 26 games at third.

“ We know Chris can play a plus first base and we think Mark is a lot better than he showed last year,” Showalter said. “There are still some things we are looking at [this offseason], but right now I think that’s the plan.”

Roberts to miss FanFest?

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts has been unable to stay on the field the last two seasons in dealing with a back injury and, most recently, a concussion that has sidelined him since May. While information on Roberts’ recovery is sparse at best, Wednesday night’s report from the Baltimore Sun that Roberts is “highly doubtful” to attend the team’s FanFest on Jan. 21 brings the organization’s internal concerns about the infielder to the forefront of discussion.

Roberts, who started to experience concussion symptoms this season following a headfirst slide against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, has said several times that part of his treatment involves avoiding high-stress situations and –given Wednesday’s news — the team’s day-long activities FanFest falls into that category

If Roberts doesn’t attend FanFest, it’s not good news, but it’s also not surprising. While on the disabled list last season, Roberts wasn’t present in the clubhouse or around the team much last season, another factor which he chalked up to his need to rest and recover in a more relaxed, controlled environment. Roberts’ rehab program has been overseen by Dr. Michael Collins, a concussion specialist who also works with Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby.

Both Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter have said several times this winter that the team is cautiously optimistic Roberts can stay healthy in 2012 and the team isn’t in a position to acquire another starting second baseman. A key cog in Baltimore’s lineup, Roberts’ absence gave utility infielder Robert Andino a starting position in 2011, and while Andino put together a career year, the Orioles roster would be much stronger if Roberts stays healthy and Andino  can be used as a dependable utility man. The Orioles also signed free agent Matt Antonelli, who can play second and third base, earlier this offseason as added insurance for Roberts.

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Also, in case you missed it here’s the story from the Rays’ website on Luke Scott signing with the Tampa Bay Rays. Scott agreed to a one-year deal with an option for 2013 and remains as confident as ever that he can return 100 percent coming off labrum surgery. Personally, I’ll miss seeing Luke every day and his constant optimism. He had his quirks, but he was one of those players who always had time to answer to your questions, even if it meant having to repeat himself for the fifth time. His good attitude and willingness to speak his mind even when it got him in trouble was –besides being every reporter’s dream — incredibly refreshing. He will be missed.

Orioles to hold medical orientation

The Orioles will hold an orientation for approximately a dozen players in the days leading up to the organization’s annual FanFest.

“It’s more of a medical camp as much as anything if you look at the guys coming in,” said manager Buck Showalter, who will be on hand along with pitching coach Rick Adair and bullpen coach Bill Castro to oversee things.  “It’s something we’ve wanted to do. We don’t want to get surprised by anything physically in February.”

The orientation will be a mini-camp of sorts with some light throwing and the team’s medical and training on hand to make sure the players are on track in their respective offseason regimens. Among those scheduled to attend the event at Camden Yards –which will begin either Tuesday, Jan. 17 or that Wednesday – include infielders Ryan Adams, Ryan Flaherty and Chris Davis, with catcher Matt Wieters scheduled to come that Friday. Pitchers Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Alfredo Simon and prospect Oliver Drake are also expected with reliever Pedro Stropp and top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy possible attendees.

Arrieta is coming off right elbow surgery that ended his 2011 season early and Adams, Davis, Hunter, Britton and Matusz all dealt with various injury issues last season. Showalter said the orientation is designed to make sure each player is “where they need to be” at this point in the offseason.

“It’s a program for some of our younger ball players that will get them used to the facility and the city,” added executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.

The 2012 Orioles FanFest, presented by the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau, will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center on Saturday, Jan. 21. The event, which starts at 11 p.m. ET,  is a day-long celebration of Orioles Baseball featuring current and former player appearances, interactive Q&A sessions, youth clinics, memorabilia exhibits and interactive games. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.orioles.com.

A quick update (updated)

Happy 2012!  It’s been a slow winter in terms of offseason moves, but I’m still sticking with my prediction that the Orioles have a meaningful trade or two in them before the spring starts. Since it’s Hot Stove season, anything is possible –or at least rumored to be– right?

I want to let readers of this blog, and those who follow me on Twitter, to know I’ll be stepping away from the Orioles beat for a week to use up some vacation time before Spring Training starts next month. What this means for you, besides less tweeting, and obviously no blog posts, really isn’t much. Any Orioles news, transactions or other press releases will still be up on the website, and all Hot Stove rumors will be on MLB.com’s blog.

It’s always tricky to pick time to take off with this job, since news can –and does — happen at literally all hours. Last year, I badly needed a few days to recharge after my first Winter Meetings, but this year I kept on going, waiting for some more offseason moves since the Orioles were so quiet in Dallas.  Fortunately this winter, even with the GM search, I never really felt like I had hit a wall. But with Spring Training literally around the corner, now seemed as good a time as any  to turn my cell phone and laptop off and take a little breather. And revel in Michigan State’s last-minute bowl victory, of course.

Yes, I’m aware of the rumors that outfielder Coco Crisp could possibly be signing in Baltimore, which CBS’ Jon Heyman tweeted as an unconfirmed possibility on Monday night. Heyman backed off that statement Tuesday morning, saying the Orioles aren’t in on Crisp. Another Hot Stove rumor that won’t come true.

If I’ve learned anything in two years on the beat, it’s that it’s never a “good time” to take a break. But, I’m extremely fortunate to have a great backup in Bill Ladson, the Nationals beat writer for MLB.com, so I know the O’s beat will be in good hands until next Tuesday.

In the meantime, I’ll have a feature story up this week I’ve been working on, and you can always email your Orioles questions to brittany.ghiroli@mlb.com for possible inclusion in the next O’s inbox.  And if you haven’t already, check out MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo’s organizational review of the O’s here.

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