January 2013

Jurrjens ready to ‘prove some people wrong’

Jair

The Orioles have reached a one-year agreement with free agent pitcher Jair Jurrjens and the 26-year-old right-hander told MLB.com Friday that he is healthy and motivated to win a spot in the club’s starting rotation this spring.

“That was one of my main goals, was to try to get a team to give me a chance again,” said Jurrjens, who has thrown seven bullpens this winter while working out in Tampa, Fla. “I know a lot of people are scared with the past history of my knee, but I’m ready to prove some people wrong and show that I’m ready to go again.”

The Orioles are not commenting on the agreement, first reported late Thursday night, and Jurrjens’ signing –still pending a physical–isn’t expected to be made official before Monday.

But the addition — a low-risk, high-reward signing — is right on par with the philosophy of executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who stated at the news conference announcing his and manager Buck Showalter’s contract extensions that he was still actively looking to add pitching. An All-Star in 2011, Jurrjens went 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA last year and was non-tendered by the Braves this winter, effectively becoming a free agent.

Jurrjens spent a good portion of last season in the Minor Leagues and he said Friday that weakness in his right quadriceps limited his power in that leg, causing a velocity dip and an end-of-April demotion.

To read the rest of the story on Jurrjens, click here.

Jurrjens, Saunders, player development changes etc. (updated)

*I’ll have a full story up Orioles.com shortly on the agreement with right-hander Jair Jurrjens and where he fits in, but the 26-year-old –who is expected to be in Major League Spring Training– is an interesting addition to an already-crowded rotation picture.

Jurrjens –a low risk, but possible high-reward signing—is right on par with the philosophy of executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who stated at the press conference announcing his (and manager Buck Showalter’s) contract extensions that he was still actively looking to add pitching. An All-Star in 2011, Jurrjens went 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA last year and he was non-tendered by the Braves this winter, effectively becoming a free agent. The club isn’t commenting on the signing and it’s not expected to be officially announced before Monday.

So, how much of a chance does Jurrjens have at cracking the Orioles rotation? Miguel Gonzalez wasn’t even signed until March last year and he’s considered a favorite to remain in the rotation after an impressive rookie campaign. There’s a lot of competition, particularly for the fifth spot –with Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Gonzalez and Chris Tillman strong candidates to be in the rotation– but it’s certainly not out of the question.

Steve Johnson deserves to get a chance given how well he performed in his rookie season and it’s unknown how the trio of once highly-touted up-and-coming arms –Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta – will bounce back from disappointing starting campaigns. Duquette has said Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland will get a look as a starter and Tommy Hunter –who could also be in the bullpen- will also be stretched out to start this spring. Top pitching prospects Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy will be in camp but, while it’s entirely plausible they end up in Baltimore during the season, they aren’t expected to crack the Opening Day rotation.

*The club has continually remained in contact with free agent lefty Joe Saunders and while Jurrjens’ agreement doesn’t necessarily close the book on adding the veteran Saunders, it reduces the need to add another pitcher and could limit what the Orioles –who have limited payroll flexibility—can offer.

*A reminder that Spring Training tickets go on sale tomorrow morning. You can find all the related info to that here.

*Congratulations to Showalter, who received the American League Manager of the Year award at the 74th annual awards dinner of the Boston Chapter, Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWA), which was last night.

*The Orioles announced several changes within their player development department on Friday afternoon, adding Kent Qualls and promoting current employees Brian Graham and John Stockstill. Qualls has been named Director of Minor League Operations, where he will oversee the business operations of player development. Graham has been promoted from coordinator of Minor League instruction to director of player development. Stockstill, as director of player personnel, will now also oversee international and domestic professional scouting.

*And a non-baseball item, but a pretty deserving cause. Back on My Feet, which is a national nonprofit organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness get back to independent living and employment, has rolled out a new website and is trying to spread the word. The Baltimore BoMF chapter is one of the strongest in the country and let’s continue to prove that by clicking on the new site and giving the organization a little social media love.

Spring Training tickets go on sale Saturday

Individual tickets for all 18 of the Orioles’ spring training games at Ed Smith Stadium will go on sale this Saturday, January 26 at 10:00 a.m. It is recommended that fans purchase tickets online –at www.orioles.com/spring– or by phone.

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.

Individual game tickets can be purchased by phone by calling 877-222-2802. Season, group tickets, suites and other specialty areas are available by calling 941-893-6300.

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 http://www.orioles.com/springtravel  or call 1-800-892-7687.

The Orioles will play their first of 18 home spring training games in 2013 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on Saturday, February 23 at 1:05 p.m. against the Minnesota Twins. 2013 marks the fourth consecutive spring training for the Orioles in Sarasota, and the third in the renovated ballpark.

Orioles Hot Stove Show to broadcast from Dempsey’s on Saturday

The Orioles’ weekly Hot Stove Show on WBAL Radio will broadcast live from Dempsey’s Brew Pub & Restaurant at the Warehouse at Oriole Park this Saturday, January 26, from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. Fans are invited to Dempsey’s to listen to the show and meet that day’s guests: outfielder LJ Hoes and Oriole Hall of Fame shortstop and MASN broadcaster Mike Bordick.

The show is hosted by fellow MASN broadcaster Jim Hunter, and –in addition to autograph and photo opportunities– Orioles giveaways and promotional items will also be available.

Free parking is available in the North Warehouse Lot, located in front of the Sports Legends Museum.

More on Weaver’s life and legacy

Happy Football Sunday, everyone. Before the games kick off, I wanted to organize all the coverage from yesterday into one blog. There was a lot going on at FanFest and Orioles.com has a wide range of coverage on Earl Weaver’s passing, including reactions around baseball and analysis on his life and legacy.

***

The No. 4 banner hung to the right of the main stage at the Baltimore Convention Center, a solemn salute front and center to a man whose passing struck a chord in the heart of the city, the Orioles organization and the collective baseball world.

“I had a No. 4 in the dugout every day,” manager Buck Showalter reflected on Saturday afternoon, just hours after learning of Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver’s passing late Friday night of a heart attack. “Before every game, I had a little thing where I would just kind of look at it, sometimes I’d rub it if we needed an extra out or a big hit. He didn’t let us down too much. … I got a four-run [inning] out of it one night.”

Weaver came to Orioles Spring Training last year and spoke with the players and coaches, riding around in a golf cart with Showalter, talking baseball and reminding the O’s skipper of baseball’s simplicity.

“I’ll never forget we went to a drill and he said, ‘Oh, we were doing this 40 years ago. You guys just got more fungos and more coaches, maybe a different machine. But we are all trying to accomplish the same thing,'” Showalter said. “He gave me time, and that’s the most precious thing.

For more on Showalter’s thoughts and reactions from Orioles players on Weaver’s place in the city click here.

***

Let’s begin with the day Earl Weaver’s pitching coach, Ray Miller, went to grab a copy of the lineup card. As Miller glanced at the names, Weaver spoke up.

“Benny Ayala,” Weaver said.

Miller looked at the card and checked the lineup Weaver had written down. No Benny Ayala. Had there been a mistake?

“You don’t have him in the lineup, Earl,” Miller said.

Weaver smiled.

“Benny Ayala,” he repeated.

That night, Weaver summoned Ayala from the bench late in the game and watched him hit a game-winning home run. Yes, he called it three hours before the first pitch was thrown. Weaver had played the game in his head, had gone through the potential late-game match-ups and was hoping for one in particular.

When a certain reliever — the one Weaver had been hoping to see — walked to the mound, he had Ayala ready. And that was how one of Weaver’s 1,480 victories came to be.

To read the rest of MLB.com’s columnist Richard Justice’s thoughts on Weaver, click here.

***

With the news of Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver’s death spreading quickly through the baseball community Saturday morning, people all across the sport shared memories of the legendary skipper and offered their condolences.

Weaver, who spent his entire 17-year managerial career with the Orioles, passed away in the early morning hours Saturday after suffering a heart attack on an Orioles fantasy cruise. He was 82.

“Earl Weaver stands alone as the greatest manager in the history of the Orioles organization and one of the greatest in the history of baseball,” Orioles chairman of the board and CEO Peter G. Angelos said in a statement released by the team.

“This is a sad day for everyone who knew him and for all Orioles fans. Earl made his passion for the Orioles known both on and off the field. On behalf of the Orioles, I extend my condolences to his wife, Marianna, and to his family.”

By Saturday afternoon, a number of current and former Major Leaguers, as well as fellow Hall of Famers, front office personnel and Major League executives had joined Angelos in mourning, through a combination of social media and official statements.

To read the rest of the reaction around baseball on the loss of Weaver click here.

***

Earl Weaver, the Orioles’ Hall of Fame manager who died on Saturday, was notorious for his run-ins with umpires.

“He was tough with umpires, but he was a very good manager,” one of his umpire adversaries, Steve Palermo, said. “A little pun intended — you had to give the devil his due. He was a very good manager. But you were always on red alert with him because you never knew what he was going to do next. He was very unconventional.”

Palermo, now a supervisor of Major League umpires, remembered a late-season game between the Orioles and Yankees in a pennant race.

“He was in rare form and we threw him out in about the seventh inning. He threw something out of the dugout, came out and was kicking dirt and he got thrown out,” Palermo recalled.

“He left for an inning and I think the Yankees hit a two-run homer to go ahead in the eighth inning and Weaver comes flying out of the dugout again. And he’s already been thrown out. … I told him to get out of here. And he kicked dirt all the way from third base to second base. And he was standing there on second base.”

To read the rest of MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel’s story, click here.

***

With the passing of Earl Weaver on Saturday at age 82, baseball lost another of the greatest managers ever to set foot on the dugout steps, his death following those of Sparky Anderson and Dick Williams in recent years.

Those members of the Hall of Fame left quite a legacy, each in his own way, but there remain many managerial greats among us — a cadre of special former skippers, some actively involved in baseball, others enjoying retirement.

Two of them are in the Hall of Fame as managers, and still others as players. A few are on the cusp of being considered for that highest honor very soon as among those eligible on the 2014 ballot. And that’s just part of the club.

In tribute to Weaver, here are some of the living managerial luminaries among those mourning his passing:

For the rest of this story, click here.

***

George Brett, who spent his entire career with the Royals, never got to play for his fellow Hall of Famer, manager Earl Weaver, but he imagined it would’ve been fun and interesting.

“He was the type of guy you wished you would have played for. If he liked you, it was so much fun, but he’d always keep you on your toes,” Brett said. “Just like [Jim] Palmer, supposedly to this day, hates him but loves him. That love-hate relationship you have with your managers. But he got the most out of his players, I’ll tell you that.”

News of Weaver’s death came as the Royals FanFest was getting underway Saturday, and naturally stories were told that reflected on the Orioles manager’s colorful career. His outbursts punctuated with salty language were legendary.

To read the rest of the Royals reactions click here.

***

The colorful and occasionally outrageous man who believed three-run home runs, reliable up-the-middle defense and effective starting pitching were the essential ingredients of successful baseball has died. Earl Weaver, the Earl of Baltimore, passed away early Saturday morning while on an Orioles fantasy cruise in the Caribbean. Death, apparently caused by a heart attack, came at age 82 for the most successful manager in the history of the Orioles, a man who never played in the big leagues but directed several of the elite teams of the past 45 years.

Weaver was a little man — 5-foot-7 in spikes — with a big big league resumé that earned him a place in the Hall of Fame in 1996. His Orioles teams — he managed for no other club — produced a .583 winning percentage and 1,480 victories, the 22nd highest total in history, in 17 seasons. They won four American League pennants and the 1970 World Series in a sequence of 11 seasons that began in 1969. His teams won six AL East championships, 219 games from 1969-70 and at least 100 games five times.

“Earl Weaver was a brilliant baseball man, a true tactician in the dugout and one of the key figures in the rich history of the Baltimore Orioles, the club he led to four American League pennants and the 1970 World Series championship,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement released by MLB. “Having known Earl throughout my entire career in the game, I have many fond memories of the Orioles and the Brewers squaring off as American League East rivals. Earl’s managerial style proved visionary, as many people in the game adopted his strategy and techniques years later.

“Earl was well known for being one of the game’s most colorful characters with a memorable wit, but he was also amongst its most loyal. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to his wife, Marianna, their family and all Orioles fans.”

To read the rest of MLB.com Marty Noble’s story on Weaver, click here.

***

You can also click here to go to the Orioles video homepage for more reactions from around baseball on Weaver.

 

Remembering Earl

My internet card has been iffy here in the basement at the Baltimore Convention Center but it appears to be up and running. While FanFest is typically a happy time, there has been a different vibe this year with the news that Earl Weaver passed away last night.

There’s full coverage up on Orioles.com, but here are some reactions from around the organization…

Orioles manager Buck Showalter

“This year meant so much to him and the Orioles meant so much to him. There’s a lot of emotion in the building today. Some of it is with Earl. A lot of it is. You see a lot of people talking about him, sharing a lot of emotions that everybody has. But, I’m just so thankful for the time I had with him. It’s something that you look from afar and you hope that it’s as good as you think it is. Getting a chance to spend some time with him, spring training especially last year, we had him down speaking and basically having a classroom with our coaches and managers in the minor leagues and everything. Riding around in a cart and talking about baseball, listening to him. I’ll never forget we went to a drill and he said, “Oh, we were doing this forty years ago, you guys just got more fungos and more coaches .maybe a different machine. But we are all trying to accomplish the same thing.’ He gave me time. And that’s the most precious thing.

I think everybody is still trying to come to terms with their thoughts and their feelings. He meant so much to so many people. There’s a reason why they called him, ‘The Earl of Baltimore’, there was such a connection with the way he went about his business.

“I had a No. 4 in the dugout every day. Before every game I had a little thing where I would just kind of look at it, sometimes I’d rub it if we needed an extra out or a big hit. He didn’t let us down too much. ..I got a four-run out of it one night.”

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette

“I have to be grateful that Earl was with us for the legends series and we got a chance to spend time with him, like every single statue unveiling,” Duquette said. “He was terrific and his simplicity and the clarity of his leadership and his passion for baseball, he’s unmatched. And he’s a treasure for the Orioles and we’re so grateful that we had the opportunity to work with him this year.

“Earl was just a classic. He didn’t let you wait too long to let you know where you stood with him. What a great, great baseball man and a legend in Baltimore. He leaves a terrific legacy of winning baseball with the Orioles and we’re so thankful to have him with the Orioles and grateful for his contributions. Sad to go, but he has a legacy which will live on.”

[on what he learned from Weaver] “That baseball isn’t complicated; it’s a simple game. You pitch, you have good defense at every position, you catch it and you hit the ball over the fence. I mean, it’s pretty simple. And a couple of the tenets we follow, [are] great Weaver tenets. Put all your resources into today’s game and worry about tomorrow’s game tomorrow – that was a hallmark of this past year’s team and will be part of the Orioles tradition. And of course, his passion, his unfailing passion to do everything he could to win a ballgame. That to me, is what Earl Weaver was all about.”

Center fielder Adam Jones

“I heard this morning, that’s very sad. But I started to look at thing sin a bigger picture. The man lived 82 years. Think about what he’s seen, think about besides the championships, think about all the things he’s seen in his life. You come to appreciate, the man lived to be 82 years old.
The man lived a great life. So I think it should be a celebration.  Eighty-two years is a long feat. I hope I can live that long.”

[on his interaction with Weaver this spring] “Not much, but he said he loves the way I play. He said it reminded him of the way they played back in the day. And I said I really appreciate that because that’s how I play the game. I’m always going to play hard-nosed, I know the middle infielders don’t like it, but they are not on my team so I can care less.”

Second baseman Brian Roberts [who found out right when he was asked in the media scrum]

“Shocked, obviously. Holy cow. We watched that movie last night at the event and you see Earl up there for his statue unveiling and, I love Buck, but he’s still the manager you think of when you think of the Orioles. And his fire, his intensity, his passion for the game, his passion for this city, his passion for doing things the Oriole Way and doing it the right way, I think it’s something that everything in this city can relate to. He will certainly sorely be missed by this organization and this city.”

Gonzalez declines to pitch in WBC

Orioles pitcher Miguel Gonzalez said Thursday he declined an invitation to pitch for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

“Obviously this is more important than me going down there,” said Gonzalez, who is coming off an impressive rookie campaign that started with him signing as a Minor League free agent in March. “This is my first big league Spring Training. I’ll be focused on doing my stuff here first.

“It was a tough decision, but you always have to think about what’s going to happen in the long run. So I think it’s more important for me to be with the team.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Extension quotes

Here are some quotes from ownership representative Louis Angelos (representing his father, managing partner Peter Angelos), executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter at this morning’s press conference announcing their contract extensions through 2018.

ANGELOS

[on the decision to extend both Duquette and Showalter] “The way that they worked together it was clear at any early point, soon after dan came on, their ability to work together and the dynamic with Mr. [Peter] Angelos, it was a perfect team. The dialogue was positive, the exchanges were lively. But the commitment by all three guys is exceptional…it’s that ability to work together. We want to keep that team together and that’s what we’ve done.
[on the message to fans and city this sends] “When you have people like Dan and Buck with their track records, it became immediately apparent that these are the kinds of professionals you want to keep in your organization. Buck loves it here, he’s been embraced by the fans since Day 1. For good reason. We love him, he’s a character and he’s a joy to be around, he’s a great guy. And his baseball knowledge is second to none. And the same applies to Dan.”
[how discussions went down] “It wasn’t even a thought, and I think as people started to recognize the last several weeks –really before Christmas—that this was coming together, slowly but surely. It wasn’t about the terms of the extension, that always needs to be discussed, but it was about, ‘What are we going to do with the team?’. Those conversations ended up being with both Buck and Dan, how are we going to improve the team?

And when you begin discussions like this for such an extended period of time, I think it’s just a testament to their working relationship, because there was never really much concern. You can start with a standard three-year deal, but then it becomes, let’s go further than that. Let’s make this about building a sustained, winning, competitive team. And we got two guys who are really, I think, an unmatched team. When you look at the depth of the experience they have with the length and the list of their baseball accomplishments.”

“When we spoke to him initially we just sort of knew that Dan was the guy. He just had the knowledge and understanding of value that’s right in line with what Buck’s trying to do. And Buck’s contribution, a great example of that is Darren O’Day. I mean there’s other examples but that’s probably the best example. They started to come together rapidly last season and you saw power arms in the bullpen, you saw veterans mixed in with our younger guys. You see [Wei-Yin] Chen come in and [Jason] Hammel and suddenly, as Dan has said, you got nine guys competing for five rotation spots. There was a consensus that you don’t want to make the trade for [RA] Dickey for example, because you aren’t going to let go of [Dylan] Bundy or [Kevin] Gausman, or other players that were asked for. The ease of dialogue and the good relationship, you want to keep that in place. And it’s been that way really since Day 1.”

[on his response to the organization not doing anything this winter] “You don’t want to trade the future or sacrifice that future for what’s in the immediate. I think Orioles fans know the game really well and they want sustained winning and they want to see guys come up through the system. You can get away from that and get distracted by a tantalizing free agent or a trade possibility in Dickey’s case for example. And that was a tough, that was a long and considered internal dialogue that went on. But, Dan has his vision and it’s right in sync with Buck’s vision.

And when you extend both of them to 2018, it’s not about the immediate, it’s not a two-year extension or a three-year extension where you got the “we got to win now”, it promotes doing the right things to win over a 10-year period or a 20-year period. Let’s have sustained competitive teams with players that are brought from within, so you draft and develop and you supplement from the outside. The notion that it hasn’t been an eventful offseason in many ways you can interpret is good. We are not going to sacrifice draft picks that’s kind of right from those guys. And I know Mr. Angelos has said, ‘you guys want to do it, let’s go for it. what do you want to do?’ And you can play all sides of that. But the response consistently has been, again with respect to Dickey–tough call– but we are going to stay with the program. We are going to keep bringing our guys up. and I think it’s going to pay dividends over the long term.”

SHOWALTER

[on if he's glad the extension talk is over] “I’m ready to go down to that locker room. It’s been so lonely down there. Walking down there in November and December. To have the players filtering in, we’ve got 25 guys. Heck I can see now, they’re down there throwing. Its that time. You start getting that far away look in your eyes. I didn’t have a sleepless night last night. I didn’t sleep much last night, but [I was] thinking about the team and the things we have to get ahead of and on top of. But to answer your question, I’m hoping that’s the last focus on this, which was never an issue. Peter just wanted to get ahead of it and initiated it. I’m very honored and humbled by it.”

[on turning the page to 2013] “I think first of all, I want them, the players to reap the benefits of that,whether it’s the energy in Sarasota, the energy of our ballpark early on. I know how you maintain it. As important as last year was for the process this year is just as important. I’m the biggest fan of people who are consistently competitive. You don’t know how hard that is. … It’s going to be a challenge. There’s going to be some pitfalls and we’re going to take them as they come. You deal with them everyday. We’ve had a couple already. Camp is going great. Last year I think it really helped us get off to a good start with our pitching. We’ve got a lot of physical stuff going on with the doctors on Friday. I’m ready. As soon as I get this wedding stuff out of the way I’m heading to Sarasota.”

[on his vision matching Duquette's] “I think we both have a real respect for what each other’s good at and what the other may not be. I haven’t found any with Dan yet, but I know my strengths at weaknesses. There are things I can’t do or that I don’t want to do. I know where my comfort zone is. …We’ve spent a lot of time talking. I know that if he doesn’t pick up on the first or second ring, something important is going on. Heknows the same way there. There’s a lot of faith in it and there’s a real purity to it. I think there’s some real sincerity to why. You reach the stage in your life that I have, Why do you do it? I’m content that if Peter [Angelos] had gone in a different direction and said this year we’d like for you to go scout Timonium. Fine. People who are constantly talking about renegotiating…the word that drives me crazy is decommit…..How does a 18 year old kid decommit? Never once or ever was I going to decommit from the Orioles.”

[on his relationship with Duquette] “When you look back to when we started the GM process, I was very fortunate to be a part of it. The five of six people we interviewed, there were certain connection with his MO and his track record and where he was in his life and what would make him want to bring the energy and engagement that it required. I know how I’m wired and I know how things work. The one common denominator of every successful sport organization at the professional level is the manager and general manager have to be very close. If not, it doesn’t function. It may for a year, but it will not function properly from a morale standpoint from all the heads of different departments who have to be able to do their job properly.

[on the team's pitching depth] We have some people who are out of options, each year passes, but we have the chance to have a maneuverable pitching staff again. But we’re not going to penalize someone who can help use win mover games than another guy because the other guys is out of options and this guy has options. It doesn’t matter. If this guys the best that’s where we’re going. We’re not going to lose a game in April just because of some organizational, roster issues. We’ll get around it. You all will have to stay up on it because there will be some moving parts, but the think I look at on my board every day is the names that have the zeros next to them, which means out of options. A guy like Tillman, we’d like to find out ourselves about him rather than have someone else find out about him. There’s going to be some tough calls, but it’s going to be for the right reasons. It’s competivie with good people. That hasn’t always been the case. It used to be last man standing.

DUQUETTE

[on the extension] “I’m really grateful for the opportunity from the Angelos family and also the opportunity to serve the fans of Baltimore. I have been out of it for a while. I truly missed it and I appreciate being back. Every day, I try to give my best for the team and fans. Being away from it really accentuated the opportunity and to make the most of it.”

[on being out of baseball and getting right back in it] “I think that I had some great training from Harry Dalton and we have some excellent baseball people here in Baltimore, particularly Buck and our scouting staff. They’re pros. They know what they’re doing and they know what it takes to have a good, winning team in the big leagues.”

[on if it bothers him when fans say they haven't done enough this offseason] “We have more work to do. We have more challenges to overcome, to reach the goal that we want. But again, I like this ballclub, I like the depth of the pitching, I like the core players, I like the leadership on the field and I think we have a very competitive team. And we’ll have some other opportunities. My experience with young players is, you can be surprised by how quickly they come to the big leagues and the contribution they make to the team, so I wouldn’t lose sight of some of the good young players we have within our organization who could come up and have an impact on the team. Look at last year. Chris Tillman established himself as a top starter and I don’t know if anybody this time of the year predicted htat. We hadn’t even signed Miguel Gonzalez to our organization until March 7. That was the actual date that we signed him. Because we had some good pitching people in the organization who helped those people develop their skills, they came up and made a significant contribution to the team. Steve Johnson was signed last year, a  local kid. Signed a free agent contract with us, came to camp as a non-roster, and I can’t say he was on people’s radar, but when it came to August and September, he was there to make a contribution to the team. I think we have some good pros that know what they’re doing and I think you’ll see some more players who will come up through our minor league system this year that will contibute to our team.”

[on the expectations now to field a winning team] “I think the good thing is our fans are engaged, theyr’e reengaged to the Orioles and they identify with our great players like Adam Jones. It’s cool being an Orioles fan again and I’ll take that any day of the week. Now we have to go out and find some more good young players.”

“I think we’ve been continuing to build our ballclub. I do like the age of a lot of our players. They’re 26, 27, and I think they’ll continue to improve because they have excellent work habits. And I would say that we’re going to continue to add to strengthen our team every opportunity we get when it makes economic sense. I’m going to say it again, I’d much rather have the pitching depth at this time of the year and young ballplayers that can get better. I think we have a few young ballplayers that can improve and our fans are going to want to come out and see.”

[on if the team will add an impact hitter] “We may not be able to address it by the trade market right now, but if you take a look at our lineup on paper today, it’s pretty strong. If we have good setup hitters at the top of the lineup and the middle of our order continues to improve and mature, and a player like Manny Machado continues to mature, you might have your core group of players right here. And as they continue to improve, we’ll see it.”

Roberts, Gonzalez, Hendrickson & offseason rumblings

There was a lot going on today with the Orioles having a press conference this morning to officially announce the contract extensions through 2018 for executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. (More on that is here.)

There was also some offseason talk related to the O’s lack of activity and a lot of players were in town working out at the organization’s mini-camp which takes place a few days leading up to Saturday’s FanFest. I’ll have full coverage and quotes up shortly on Orioles.com, but here are some of the non-contract highlights that came out of today…

*Duquette said the organization has been presented with an “umpteenth” amount of trade potentials, but they’ve decided in every instance to hang on to their young pitching. That doesn’t figure to change in the next few weeks, meaning the team –as it’s presently constructed — is pretty much what will go to Spring Training next month.

The Orioles would still like to sign a veteran starter, such as free agent Joe Saunders, and Duquette reminded reporters that last year’s team was built throughout the year not just in the winter and the club will continue to look for ways to do that this season.

Ownership representative Louis Angelos specifically mentioned RA Dickey, saying that the former Mets pitcher –who was traded to Toronto– was a really tough call, but the organization wanted to stay the course its on now and hang on to their young players.

*Second baseman Brian Roberts has been working out, although Showalter said he wouldn’t be completely honest if he said that Roberts has had no health setbacks this winter.  There remains cautious optimism that he can stay healthy and help the club, but –as I’ve written before– there are contingency plans in place.

*Miguel Gonzalez said he has decided he will probably not pitch in the World Baseball Classic, a tough call but one that he hopes will pay off in his first big league camp. Gonzalez was rumored to be on the provisional roster for Team Mexico (those rosters will be announced at 4 p.m. today) and said the Orioles didn’t sway his opinion, but told him it was up to him.

Gonzalez has been working out with special assistant Brady Anderson and is in noticeably better shape. He said he’s only gained five pounds or so, but looks stronger in what he called his first offseason of having a true workout regimen.

*Left-handed pitcher Mark Hendrickson is taking part in the mini camp and has been working on developing a sidearm delivery. Hendrickson, who did not pitch last year, said he never retired –he just didn’t get a job– and the hope is he will be down in camp with the Orioles, or another team, next month.

Orioles extend Duquette and Showalter

Update: The full story with some player reaction is up here on Orioles.com.

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The Orioles on Wednesday extended the contracts of executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter through the 2018 season.

Duquette, 54, has spent more than two decades in Major League Baseball, including 11 years as general manager of the Expos, Red Sox and Orioles. Players Duquette acquired prior to last season’s American League Wild Card-winning season include Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen and Nate McLouth.

Showalter, 56, was named the 17th manager in club history on Aug. 2, 2010, and led the Orioles to the AL Division Series last season, one that saw a 24-win improvement. He also was named The Sporting News AL Manager of the Year.

 

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