The Nelson Cruz press conference took place at 9:30 a.m. this morning and you can watch that on Orioles.com here.
I’ll have a full story up on Cruz shortly, but here is the full transcript of the presser, which was attended by a slew of new teammates and hitting coach Jim Presley. Nick Markakis, Tommy Hunter, Darren O’Day, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters joined the crowds to support Cruz, who mentioned that the O’s are now “a family” and will play as one.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette opened with this statement…
I’m glad we could make this the habit, this is the third time we’ve done this this week. i want to welcome our players here, we appreciate your attendance at the conference. The orioles today are announcing a one-year deal with Nelson Cruz. Nelson is a power hitter, he does very well against both left and right-handed pitching. He’s also been a clutch performer in the playoffs, where he’s hit over 14 home runs in 34 games and distinguished himself in 2011 as the MVP of the ALCS. He has an excellent arm on defense and is a proven solid dependable performer in the American League. He presents a good presence in the middle of the lineup which will extend our lineup and make our team more formidable. I want to thank [agent] Adam Katz for his role in helping to bring this agreement together and i want to congratulate Nelson on behalf of the Orioles and wish him a lot of luck.
So is the team done acquiring free agents?
“We’ve been steadily putting our team together. We signed a couple of pitchers which we said we were going to do and we said we were looking for a bat in the middle of our lineup and Nelson can fill that role. We’re always looking, but I don’t anticipate any players of this caliber soon, but we’re always looking around. We’re glad to have Nelson. Nelson is a proven slugger. He’s one of the few guys who has hit over 20 home runs over the last five years and you heard from his former team [about] what a great teammate he is. He’s a real solid addition to our team both personally and by what he brings on the field.”
On joining the lineup: “Every time you play the Orioles the presence of the hitter, that always sticks out in your mind. Hopefully I come in and do my job. Like I said, I’m excited about this opportunity. I’m going to be in a great ballpark in a great division. I like the challenge and I like to compete, so this is the best atmosphere I’ve been in.”
On why the Orioles: ”First of all, I want to thank Dan and Buck and my teammates. Thank you for the support. I think it’s the right fit. I like to compete, I like to be in a race. This is a team that fits right for me. It’s a great environment.”
On if the club was on their radar all winter: “Yeah, it was there since the beginning. That was my goal, one of the teams that I was looking for.”
On if he’s motivated to come back strong after the market dropped for him: “I don’t think I have to prove anything. It was a frustrating process, but I’m happy for the decision that I made. I’m really excited for the opportunity. I like challenges and I think it’s going to be a great challenge for me. Hopefully, I do my best and I look for the World Series.”
On what means to have his teammates present for the presser: “That means they care about their teammates. From experience I know the closer you are to your teammates, the better you’re going to perform on the field. We are now a family and we’re going to stick together the whole time.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter sat next to Cruz and was asked about his brief time managing him.
“He was a puppy then,” Buck quipped. “He’s a grizzled veteran now.”
Cruz added: ”He was kind of my first manager, the one who gave me a chance to play almost every day, and I’m happy to be with him again.”
“He made us look smart,” Showalter said. “That was an easy evaluation. I’m real proud of the way he’s evolved not only as a player, but as a person and teammate. The one common denominator when you talk to people about Nelson is about his relationship with his teammates and his city. This is one of the most popular players in Texas. He’s a real sincere guy. It’s one of those things where he’ll show you, not talk about it. That part of the equation we felt real good about. And any time you’ve got first-hand knowledge of a guy, the way he conducts himself, you feel real good about that part. The only thing you want to have challenge guys is the game itself, and he has a way of making his teammates better by the way he treats them.”
The Orioles officially announced the signing of Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal on Monday with a press conference slated for 9:30 a.m. and televised live on MASN.
The Orioles designated left-handed pitcher Chris Jones for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man for Cruz who will wear No. 23. Jones, who held lefties to a .196 batting average in the Minors last season, was acquired in the Luis Ayala trade from Atlanta last spring.
Hall of Famer Frank Robinson visited Orioles camp on Monday morning after being invited at the owners meetings this winter by executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. Robinson was invited down last year by manager Buck Showalter and addressed the team in the clubhouse this morning before stretch.
Robinson, who works for Major League Baseball as executive vice president of baseball development, was sporting his orange polo and said there was no specific message in his talk.
“The one thing I tried to get across is it’s a team game, not individuals,” Robinson said. “If the team has success, everybody has success. If you don’t, and the team doesn’t play well, and you don’t function well, and you wind up in seventh or eighth place, whatever, I don’t care what you’ve done as an individual, it’s not going to feel the same, it’s not going to taste the same, and you’re not going to be the same.”
Robinson, a former World Series MVP who had his uniform number retired by the Orioles, said he doesn’t keep that close of an eye on his former club because he’s supposed to be neutral. But he has brought the orange polo back out of his closet as a way to show support.
“They’ve really come a long way,” he said. “I told them, the last 13 years, I’ve had this shirt in my closet, and I didn’t wear it. The last couple of years, I broke it out and wear it now because I’m very proud of what this team did.
“I’m very proud of this team. They brought back the pride in the Orioles. They brought back a lot of good times for us old timers, and it’s just great to see.”
Robinson said he feels like the organization has turned a corner under Duquette and Showalter and is pleased at the role some of the franchise’s great players have had in recent years.
“I feel good about that,” he said. “I feel like they are now starting to include and reach out to players of the past. And I like that. I’m very honored that they asked me to come here and talk to the players.”
“I think this ball club is starting to realize that [importance of having guys from the past around] and do that. I talked to the Angelos’ about that years ago about including the previous players from the past, to come and just be a part of this organization.
One thing I’d like to see, maybe the next step, they bring some of the guys in as special instructors in Spring Training, just to get them around the players. Talk to them, be around them, let them see them…I told them, I saw my blood is not orange like Tommy’s is blue, but I’m certainly an Oriole through and through. This is the place i had the greatest team success and the greatest individual success of my career right here. And it wasn’t just what happened on the field. It was a great relationship and feeling with the city and organization. And i was very proud of that.”
*The Orioles are expected to Nelson Cruz’s one-year contract later today with a press conference expected on Tuesday morning. Cruz was here yesterday getting his physical and was listed on the original sheet for today’s practice, but he didn’t work out with the team.
The hope is Cruz will be at tomorrow’s practice and manager Buck Showalter said he talked to the outfielder last night and he was “excited” about joining the O’s.
*Quintin Berry exited Monday’s workout with a back spasm and the outfielder will get an MRI to make sure its nothing more serious.
Berry, who said he hadn’t dealt with the issue before, didn’t seem overly worried about it being an issue. The non-roster invitee was in the clubhouse walking around and was optimistic he would be at practice on Tuesday.
“I hope, we’ll see,” manager Buck Showalter said of Berry’s back being a minor issue. “He went down pretty good there.”
*Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz will leave the team a few days after pitching in Wednesday’s intrasquad game to get a wart removed from his left index finger in Philadelphia. Matusz had the same issue in the spring of 2011 and also went to Philly. He is expected to be back that night, but will likely be sidelined for at least a couple days after.
*Hitting coach Jim Presley was gone today, as he got an epidural for a pair of building disks in his neck. He’s expected back tomorrow.
*Suk-min Yoon will throw his final bullpen on Tuesday and then progress to throwing to hitters with the target date for his first spring game March 6 or 7. Yoon hopes to secure a work visa in the next week, since he will need one to pitch in a Grapefruit League game.
*The “Two Minutes with…” series continued with Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez yesterday and you can catch up with him here. Gonzalez threw live batting practice today with a couple of the guys coming over from Minor League camp.
*Hall of Famer Frank Robinson is here and addressed the team this morning before they went out for stretch. Robinson also held court with the media and you can read that interview here.
Showalter asked one of the Orioles’ young players, last year’s sandwich pick Josh Hart when he was walking with Robinson if he knew who he was. When Hart said no, Showalter assigned him a one-page paper on Robinson to be put on his desk by Tuesday.
*Ubaldo Jimenez also hopes to get into a spring game the first week. Jimenez, like Yoon, will throw another bullpen before facing hitters. While the right-hander didn’t throw any bullpens before camp, he said his arm feels good and he’s not worried about being behind at all.
Jimenez, who signed last week, has really enjoyed just being out on the field with new teammates after a winter of waiting around.
“I was kind of desperate to be out there, be with a team, doing my stuff,” he said this morning. “I’m used to every year in February be doing something. And this year everything was different, so it was hard. It was hard to be waiting so long. It feels like I’m able to breathe again. I’m able to be happy.”
Jimenez played a Double-A All-Star game with Miguel Gonzalez and was Little League teammates with Alexi Casilla. They go way back, playing together when he was 12 or 13.
“He was an unbelievable hitter,” Jimenez said of Casilla.
*The Orioles have said all along that they want to extend J.J. Hardy and the shortstop and his camp have made it clear that they want it done before Opening Day. Hardy said today that there a meeting between the two sides. Nothing earth-shattering, but it’s obviously encouraging that they’re going to start getting things going.
*I keep getting asked about the Orioles interest in Ervin Santana, which is a rumor that won’t go away. Again, I’m told there’s no substantial interest by the O’s and Santana would have to fall in their lap price-wise for anything to get going. It seems Santana’s camp is OK with waiting instead of dropping their asking price, which makes him even less likely to be an Oriole. Baltimore is OK with its pitching depth as it stands now, and payroll-wise they don’t have a whole lot of room to work with.
*The Orioles have their annual MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association) annual meeting this morning with former O’s in the clubhouse in attendance in Jeffrey Hammonds, Phil Bradley and Bobby Bonilla. Tony Clark and Dave Winfield, who spent a sizable chunk of the morning sitting down and talking with top infield prospect Jonathan Schoop, are also here. Schoop was in awe after his chat with Winfield, asking for a picture after. It was a pretty cool little scene.
*Dylan Bundy will work up to throw at 150 feet again today, with the only difference being that he will move back to 90 feet after that and throw a bit more. Bundy said it’s been hard to hold himself back, he’s throwing at around 75 percent right now, and everything is going according to schedule right now.
*Pitchers who will throw live batting practice today: Tommy Hunter, Bud Norris, Darren O’Day, Troy Patton, Ryan Webb, Evan Meek, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Wei-Yin Chen, Brock Huntzinger, Tim Alderson, T.J. McFarland, Nick Additon and Tim Berry.
*There was lots of news yesterday, including the Orioles agreeing to terms on a one-year, $8 millions deal with Nelson Cruz. No sign of him just yet at the complex. You can read more on that here along with yesterday’s notebook from camp here.
Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, who has been a vocal advocate for stricter penalties for performance-enhancing drug users, said Saturday the organization’s addition of Nelson Cruz –who was suspended last season for his role in the Biogenesis scandal — doesn’t change his opinion any.
But Markakis, the team’s longest-tenured player and a quiet leader in the clubhouse, will put aside his personal feelings on the matter and plans on welcoming Cruz to the Orioles.
“He’s my teammate now and I got to be a teammate, and no matter if you disagree or agree with your teammates they are still your teammates,” said Markakis, who has called PED users out for ‘stealing’ money. “He’s going to be welcome here and we are going to play as one. That’s for sure.”
Markakis didn’t think there would be any ill-will among the other players when Cruz –slated to arrive Saturday night– joins the clubhouse. Chris Davis, who has also been vocal about PED users and maintains that the home run record being 61, has played with Cruz in Texas.
“We know how things go on in this clubhouse, we know how we do things, and we do things certain ways,” Markakis said. “Guys coming in here are going to have to adjust to that. It’s not just about making adjustments in the batters box and on the pitchers mound, it’s making adjustments to a new clubhouse, a new team, and so forth. There’s adjustmentes, not just on the field but off the field, too.”
“I’m aware of what’s going on and what’s been going on in baseball. But my opinion doesn’t change toward anything. He’s part of this team now and he’s going to be in this clubhouse and we’re going to welcome him just like anybody else. He’s going to be part of this team.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has had Cruz and –speaking hypothetically until the organization officially announces the deal– said the front office and coaching staff has done their homework on researching guys before they bring them in.
SARASOTA, Fla.— The Orioles have agreed to terms on a one-year, $8 million contract with free agent Nelson Cruz, a Major League source confirmed to MLB.com on Saturday.
The deal, pending a physical, was first reported by ESPNDeportes and comes just days after the team made their first major move in signing right-handed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50-million deal. Cruz, 33, adds another power bat to Baltimore’s lineup, giving the O’s a much-needed threat out of the designated hitter spot. A right-handed hitter, Cruz has at least 22 homers each of the last five seasons and his arrival in Camden Yards, is seen mainly as a platoon DH and occasional left field. Cruz’s contract, like Jimenez, also contains performance incentives.
Because Cruz rejected a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Rangers, the Orioles will lose a draft pick, their 55th overall, in signing him. But that wasn’t seen as a huge obstacle given that Jimenez also had a qualifying offer from the Indians, and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said recently the club would evaluate losing picks on a “case-by-case” basis.
And the case for the Orioles in 2014 is simple, with Duquette acknowledging that the team has a window of success with its current core in place. While the Orioles also had interest in switch-hitter Kendrys Morales, they weren’t keen on his asking price and it’s believed Cruz’s camp came down recently. Whether it was the rumors of the Orioles after more pitching to trade for a bat, or the nature of how late it is in the offseason, Baltimore picked up steam on Cruz in the past 24 hours and was able to swing a deal that fits within their payroll.
Over an 109-game season last year — he missed 50 games because of a suspension due to the Biogenesis scandal — Cruz hit .266 with 27 homers and 76 RBIs. His arrival, which would require a corresponding 40-man roster move- could make it tough for Orioles’ DH hopeful Nolan Reimold to get consistent at-bats, and Cruz could also spell left fielder David Lough once in a while. Left-handed hitter Henry Urrutia is considered the top internal candidate for the other half of DH.
(Pictured above: Buck Showalter, Jim Presley and Brady Anderson convene on the field. Chris Davis gets a drink during stations. Davis and J.J. Hardy during the sliding station.)
*Nelson Cruz is flying in from the Dominican Republic today and is expected to drive over from Miami tonight to the Orioles’ spring home in Sarasota, Fla. You can read more about the Orioles’ one-year agreement with Cruz here, but the physical is scheduled for either Sunday or early Monday morning, and the official word would be at least a day after he gets checked.
“They’re getting a power bat and a guy who drives in big runs,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the Orioles deal with Cruz. “They’re getting a guy who loves to play baseball they’re getting his power in that small ballpark. He’s a tremendous teammate. All the qualities you want in a winner, that’s Nelson.”
*Cruz, of course, comes with some baggage. Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, who has been a vocal advocate for stricter penalties for performance-enhancing drug users, said Saturday the organization’s addition of Cruz –who was suspended last season for his role in the Biogenesis scandal — doesn’t change his opinion any. You can read more from Markakis here.
*The club will have a pair of intrasquad games on Wednesday and Thursday, and they’ll play four and eight innings respectively. I do not know yet if they will be open to the public. Will keep you posted.
*In case you missed it, I wrote about Henry Urrutia in his first Spring Training and how far he’s come in the past year here.
*Random fact of the day: Alexi Casilla and Ubaldo Jimenez were Little League teammates.
*I’ve said it repeatedly, including in my blog entry yesterday, but it’s pretty doubtful the Orioles sign Ervin Santana. You can never say never on anything, but he’d basically have to fall in their lap for that to occur.
*A reminder that the “Two Minutes with…” feature has moves to Orioles.com, and yesterday’s featured pitcher Wei-Yin Chen.
The Orioles focus remains on adding a bat — not another starting pitcher– before Opening Day, multiple sources told MLB.com on Friday as rumors swirled that Baltimore was still in on right-hander Ervin Santana.
CBSports.com and FOXSports.com both reported that the Orioles have had active dialogue recently with Santana, who is the best –and one of the only– remaining free agent starters on the market this late. And that could certainly be true, with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette liking to accumulate pitching depth and perhaps hoping to get a deal on Santana that would make it easier to trade for a designated hitter. But there’s nothing as of Friday afternoon to suggest there’s anything imminent with the Orioles and Santana or even if the talks are serious.
The Santana situation is interesting and certainly something to monitor, but two organizational sources downplayed any serious negotiations between the two parties.
The Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract and officially unveiled him in a press conference on Thursday in which Duquette later said that the club was still exploring some external DH options. Jimenez gives the O’s some pitching depth and –assuming everyone stays healthy– there could be enough of a pool to draw from to trade for a bat. Free agents Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz are also still in play.
It was an off day for the pitchers today as scheduled, and Monday will start the team’s voluntary biomechanical testing. Saturday is team picture day, so there won’t be any media access until after practice. Here are the rest of the notes from Ed Smith Stadium complex today…
*Dylan Bundy threw today and got up to 150 feet of long toss, which was encouraging. Things with Bundy are going “as well as you could hope for” manager Buck Showalter said today.
*Miguel Gonzalez (back spasms) threw a bullpen today with no issues. He will throw next, probably on Monday, with hitters tracking.
*Alfredo Aceves will not be with the team for at least 4-5 days, tending to a visa issue in Mexico. The O’s aren’t concerned about him missing time, however, given that he played in Winter League.
*Liam Hendriks, who was put on waivers on Wednesday for Ubaldo Jimenez, was claimed off of waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays. This is the third time he’s been on waivers and claimed since the season ended.
*I discussed the Ervin Santana rumor and the nature of the O’s interest here.
*The Ubaldo Jimenez signing shows the Orioles “mean business” according to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince, and you can read that column here.
*Jimenez’s signing had a lot of factors in it, the fourth year was important and obviously so was the total contract value. But so was the initial visit he had with the O’s and the word of Pedro Martinez.
“We had a really good visit with [pitching coach] Dave Wallace and Dan [Duquette] and Lee Thomas at the Winter Meetings,” agent Fernando Cuz said yesterday. “I flew Ubaldo up. We spent a long time talking about the direction the organization was going. Dave Wallace and [athletic trainer] Chris Correnti had a connection with Pedro. Pedro thinks the world of Dave Wallace and of Chris. Chris was his personal trainer when he played with Boston and in New York. So he knew that these guys really know how to work with pitchers, and he had a chance to be on top of his game with this staff around him that Dan has put together.
So that’s what really impressed him more than anything. Dave speaks perfect Spanish, he knows the culture, he’s worked with some of the best Dominican pitchers in the history of baseball. And I think this environment is going to be good for him.”
Jimenez is a big family guy and plans on getting a house in the area. His mother will be a staple at Camden Yards every fifth day.
*Suk-min Yoon threw his first bullpen session as an Oriole yesterday and talked this morning with reporters through interpreter Justin Yoo:
“I threw nice and easy. My control was good, and it was better than I expected.”
Is he on pace with everyone else?
“I’m on pace and everyone’s been very welcoming, so that’s also helped me get on pace.”
What pitches does Yoon have?
“Fastball, slider, change, curve.”
Initial impressions of O’s after first four days?
“This is my first Spring Training here, but baseball is baseball anywhere you go. You’ve got some of the best players here, so spring camp has been very good.”
Intimidating being in the Majors after being in Korea for so long?
“No, not at all.”
Bullpen session tomorrow, throwing to hitters or what?
“[Pitching coach Dave] Wallace told me I’m going to throw a pen tomorrow. No hitters. Probably the same as yesterday.”
*With all the news in the Orioles signing two pitchers, the annual movie on the eve of the first full-squad workout didn’t generate much buzz in the media. But this year’s 20-minute motivational video, which manager Buck Showalter has made to show to the team every year, still did its job. Several players said this morning that the video — part of the team’s meeting– went over well, although it didn’t have some of the famous cameos of years past with guys like Ray Lewis.
*The “Two Minutes With…” series yesterday focused on new Oriole David Lough, who studied for and got certified to be a personal trainer while with the Royals. You can read more on him here.