Spring Training news & notes Day 1
Greetings from Sarasota, where the Oriole camp officially kicked off with pitchers and catchers reporting to the Ed Smith Stadium facility.
Here are the days notes…
*In case you missed it, the Orioles agreed to a three-year, 5.75 million deal with Suk-Min Yoon. The contract is pending a physical and Yoon isn’t expected to be here in Sarasota for about a week. You can read more about that here.
*There’s a huge continent of guys already here early, the most manager Buck Showalter said he’s seen in 30-plus years of Spring Trainings.
“We were going over it, and who have we not seen?,” Showalter said. “I put a little mark next to it, and that’s where it kind of hit me. There’s not many.”
Among the position players in attendance on Thursday were Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, David Lough, Ryan Flaherty, Henry Urrutia and a noticeably bigger Nick Markakis. Showalter said the only potential arrival issue right now is right-handed pitcher Fabio Castilla, who is having weather-related trouble (due to the storm) flying out of the Dominican Republic. It’s not the weather in the DR, but just getting the planes out there with all the groundings going on elsewhere.
Top infield prospect Jonathan Schoop, who had visa issues and was unable to attend FanFest, was also working out at Ed Smith Stadium on Thursday and he’s expected to help the big league club at some point this season. Schoop, seen as the second baseman of the future, will likely start the year at Triple-A with Flaherty the leading in-house candidate for that spot.
Showalter said Flaherty will not get any early reps at third base, instead they will take a look at Rule 5 Draft pick Michael Almanzar while Manny Machado rehabs back from knee surgery. The expectation right now is Machado will be ready for Opening Day, but if it starts to look otherwise they can adjust as needed.
*Dylan Bundy threw from 120 feet today and will do again on Friday. He’s doing 25 throws from 60 feet, 90 feet and then 120 at about 75 percent. Bundy, rehabbing back from Tommy John surgery, will increase the distance next week and hopes to throw off a mound by the end of March.
*Wei-Yin Chen is slightly behind other springs, but said he’s confident he won’t be delayed at all. The Orioles have already made out their pitching schedule for the first week of games, but pitching coach Dave Wallace is going to wait and see how Chen feels before penciling him in for an early start.
*Tommy Hunter is here and he got asked about –you guessed it– the assumption that he will now take over the closer spot. Here’s are the highlights…
[Do you go in thinking closer spot to be won?]
“I would hope so. Nobody’s really the closer so I hope he puts somebody in that role at some point in the season. You never really know. Maybe we’ll just not play the ninth inning any more, or put a position player in there. Somebody’s going to have to do it. We’ll see what happens.”
Did you prepare differently over winter?
“No, I actually felt pretty good last year. I had a pretty good fastball last year, and I’m pretty much going to do that same thing. I’m not going to change anything. I’m not going to be somebody I’m not.”
[Is the biggest thing with being a closer handling failure?]
“I failed a lot last year. Having to deal with failure, every player in baseball deals with that. Not just a pitcher, a closer…an eighth-inning guy failed…seventh-inning guy failed. EVerybody strikes out. It’s a failing man’s sport. So, for somebody to say you have to learn to deal with failure. We all have to learn to deal with failure. How he’s saying it. Being a closer, it’s a little different just having to bounce back so quick. It’s a mindset and hopefully somebody catches on quick.”
Hunter, like most of the Orioles was still hanging on to his facial hair, which he told reporters would be knocked off later in the day.
“I think I look pretty sexy with it,” he said. “I think it brings a mantra of intimidation to the stage. Really just manly. I just feel like a man. I feel less of a man without it.”
On the pending new man to the Orioles roster, Yoon, Hunter was asked if it’s more fun to play with international players.
“You get to learn a few new bad words in a different language. That’s the best part,” he said. “We taught [Wei-Yin] Chen some very good English, if you know what I mean. Just as we did Casey, the massage guy. It’s fun. Usually, the foreign guys are pretty funny in general. I think all baseball guys have a good sense of humor. Having a different culture and their kind of sense of humor coming back into it, it usually plays fun in the clubhouse. We’ll see what happens.”
*The Orioles had some interest in pitcher Chad Gaudin, who failed his physical with the Phillies, but shied away from the medicals.
*Guys who will be stretched out to start that can potentially be bullpen options are Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, T.J. McFarland, Alfredo Aceves, Kevin Gausman and Steve Johnson. Josh Stinson is seen more as a reliever-only.
*The Orioles will have at least one intrasquad game, on Feb 27. They could have one on the 25 or 26, but it hasn’t been decided yet. I don’t know yet if they are open to the public.