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Wieters on track for Opening Day for now

BALTIMORE— If everything goes according to plan, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters believes he will be ready for Opening Day.

Wieters, who had season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in early June, has been throwing up to 150 feet and said that everything has gone the way doctors anticipated so far.

“We are still in a phase where a lot could happen in the next few months,” said Wieters, who has been swinging the bat with no issues for about a month. “It could get a lot better, it could slow down. So we won’t know until we go through a throwing program. But I’m preparing every part of my body to be ready for Opening Day, and that’s all I can do right now.”

Wieters doesn’t anticipate catching a lot of early spring games, but he said he can get the most out of camp by catching bullpens, spending time in the weight room and making sure his body is conditioned for the long haul of the regular season.

A free agent at the end of this season, the All-Star catcher didn’t think his contract status made it more imperative for him to return to the field quickly.

“The main thing is we have to get the arm healthy enough to play the rest of my career. whenever that is, it is,” said Wieters, who has never gone this long without playing baseball before. “We don’t want to be feeling like we are babying [the elbow] through the season. We need to be ready to go.”

Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who also underwent season-ending surgery on his knee, expects to be a full-go in camp next month.

“I’ve been through pretty much everything, catching my grounders, hitting,” said Machado, who has also done some lateral movement. “I’ve been doing it all. The next step is just playing some games.”

FanFest quick hits from Duquette and Davis

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette addressed season ticket holders this morning at the club’s annual FanFest convention and acknowledged there was some substance to the Toronto rumors, though his “sole and singular focus” is on improving the Orioles.

“I thought it was important for Orioles fan to know that,” said Duquette, who was coveted by Toronto for their CEO position, which they recently announced will continue to be held by Paul Beeston.

“Like I said my focus is on the O’s and helping them and I’m glad to be doing that.”

Asked whether he thought the Toronto rumors were behind him for good, Duquette just reiterated his interest in improving Baltimore for the upcoming season. As for the rumors being a potential distraction to the O’s front office, Duquette said the Orioles have continued to do what they do every winter: try to improve the team in a day-by-day and piece-by-piece manner.

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Chris Davis also spoke at length for the first time since news hit that he would be serving a 25-game suspension for testing position for Adderall. The first baseman received the suspension on Sept. 25 for failing a second test for the drug and confirmed he had previously had an exemption, but not in 2013 or ’14. He missed the entirety of the O’s postseason and will be suspended through the first game of the ’15 regular season.

Davis spoke for nearly 10 minutes and called taking Adderall without an exemption “a moment of weakness.”

“I obviously wasn’t thinking about the big picture, it was a mistake that i wish i could go back and undo,” Davis said. “It’s something that should have been addressed in the past but obviously I didn’t take the right steps.”

Davis said that taking Adderall isn’t a performance-enhancing drug and it doesn’t have that effect if you’re dealing with ADD or ADHD.

“For me, in 2008 when I was diagnosed, it was never a baseball issue,” Davis said. “It was an off-the-field everyday life thing. There was a lot of times when I was young where teachers had brought it up and kind of mentioned it but we never really went down that road. So when I was diagnosed in 2008, I was prescribed Adderall and realized what a difference it made in my everyday life. For me it was kind of the reason I went down that road. I was little overwhelmed with everything that was going on last year with the [left oblique strain] injury. There were a lot of different things that were taking my thoughts away from baseball and it was mistake that I made that I wish I could undo but I can’t. So, I just got to move forward.”

“The toughest thing for me was not being there [for my teammates]. To me the biggest thing you can do when you screw up is face the problem and not being able to look those guys in their eyes and tell them what had gone on. For them to find out the way they found out, I wasn’t really happy with that. But that’s kind of the way things went with the doubleheader that day. It was an early game, and the way I found out I wasn’t able to go to the field that day which bothered me. But I was able to come back during the postseason. I didn’t want to be a distraction, I wanted to see everybody and talk to them and let them know how sorry I was and two that I was still behind them no matter what. And I think all of that was addressed toward the season last year and we are going to move forward.”

Davis said he had to go through a lot of things this offseason to get the therapeutic use exemption (TUE) from Major League Baseball and was hopeful to put this whole thing behind him.

As for why he didn’t address the suspension earlier, Davis said he didn’t want to be a distraction while the Orioles were in the playoffs.

“When I came back in October I didn’t want to take away from what the team was doing,” he said.
“I didn’t want it to be a sore spot that everyone was going to look at when the team was doing so well. It was more a respect for my teammates and respect for the organization.”

Even without the suspension, Davis’ season left much to be desired. After a career year in which he hit 53 homers with 138 RBIs in 2013, Davis hit .196 with 26 homers and 72 RBIs in 127 games last year.

“I definitely think it was the injury,” said Davis, who was placed on the disabled list in late April. “Early on in the season I was hurt, I was trying to play through it. And i really didn’t realize how much an impact it had on me until this offseason. Until i had time to recover and start hitting again and feel the difference between the beginning of last year and now. It’s something that it’s an injury you can’t really prevent. At the time i continued to play and I wasn’t the same player.”

Snider on joining the Orioles

BALTIMORE— Travis Snider will be the first to admit parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues has been a learning experience.

“Early in my career I was young and immature, there were a lot of things in baseball I wasn’t able to process,” Snider said in a conference call Friday. “I allowed the distractions to take away from the focus of getting better every single day.”

Snider, once a top prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system, called the trade to Pittsburgh prior to the 2012 Trade Deadline a great opportunity for a fresh start. And coming off a strong second half of ’14, Snider will get another clean slate in Baltimore, who traded for the 26-year-old outfielder on Tuesday night.

“We liked Travis going back to the end of the season and we had some discussions with Pittsburgh at the Winter Meetings and almost consummated a trade at that point,” said executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who got the deal done by sending left-handed pitching prospect Stephen Tarpley and a player to be named later to Pittsburgh. “I have always liked Travis for our ball club and our ballpark, I think his work ethic is very good and he fits in very good with the lunch pail, next man up mentality that the Orioles have.”

“This is the right time in his career to really have a good season.”

Lunchbox is the first part of Snider’s Twitter name, a nickname he got in high school and one that resonates with him growing up in a blue-collar house where his father worked two jobs to help Snider make it to where he is now. Snider said he’s learned to not get caught up in the first few weeks of the season, but rather keep his head down, work hard and see where he’s at when all is said and done.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for the young core they have been building here in Baltimore and to be a part of that now is exciting,” he said. “I’m very confident and very excited to be part of a winning group of guys in a league that I’m familiar with.”


Snider, a left-handed hitter, is coming off his best season yet, hitting 264/.338/.438 with 13 home runs and a career-high 38 RBIs in 140 games for the Bucs. He is a career .146/.204/.208 hitter at Camden Yards (7-for-48) with three doubles and four RBIs and is considered an excellent defender in the corner outfield spots.

While his exact role is still undetermined, Snider gives the Orioles what they’ve needed all offseason: a left-handed hitting outfielder with some power and a good glove. He said Friday he’s served a myriad of roles in the big leagues -platoon, regular and bench player— and had “sharped all his tools” to do whatever the Orioles need most.

Orioles return to 105.7 in 2015

BALTIMORE— The Orioles will return to FM radio in 2015, as the club announced Monday a new multi-year deal naming CBS RADIO’s 105.7 The Fan (WJZ-FM) its flagship station.

All 162 regular season games, select Spring Training contests and extensive Orioles programming will be on 105.7 The Fan and across the seven-state, 34-station Orioles Radio Network beginning with the 2015 season.

Broadcast team Joe Angel and Fred Manfra will return for their 12th season in their current roles as the return to FM. The station previously was a rights holder from 2007-’10 before the club switch to WBAL AM radio.

“With a dedicated FM presence, a strong network of local CBS RADIO stations, and an around-the-clock lineup of sports programming, 105.7 The Fan is the ideal flagship home for the Orioles Radio Network,” Orioles Vice President of Communications and Marketing Greg Bader said in a press release.  “Partnering with the region’s premiere radio destination for sports fans and CBS RADIO’s powerful cluster of stations allows us to effectively reach our diverse fan base on a daily basis and to develop valuable multiplatform marketing opportunities for our sponsors.” 

Added CBS RADIO Baltimore’s Senior Vice President Bob Philips: “We are thrilled that the Baltimore Orioles are coming home to 105.7 The Fan.  This partnership with the Orioles is a great addition to our market leading #1 sports brand and platform in Baltimore.”

Orioles agree to sign Arencibia on Minor League deal

BALTIMORE— Seeking to add another catcher before Spring Training, the Orioles have agreed to a Minor League deal with J.P. Arencibi, a baseball source confirmed to MLB.com. The contract isn’t finalized just yet, but is expected to include an invite to Major League Spring Training.

The addition of Arencibia — first reported by the Baltimore Sun— reunites him with new O’s hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh, who was previously with the Texas Rangers. Arencibia, who turned 29 earlier this week, spent last season in the Rangers’ Minor League system, hitting .177/.239/.369 in 63 games.

A former first-round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays, Arencibia is a power threat but he has struggled to keep his strikeouts in check and remain consistent in the Majors. In 2013, he hit 21 homers for Toronto, batting .194 with 148 strikeouts in 138 games played.

The addition of Arencibia, who can also play first base, is interesting given that Baltimore already has five catchers on its 40-man roster. It’s possible the Orioles remove one of them to clear a spot for another player down the road given that the team now has catching depth, even with the uncertainty around starter Matt Wieters’ ability to start the season.

FanFest tickets go on sale, autograph vouchers for sale Jan 17

BALTIMORE— Tickets are now on sale for the Orioles annual FanFest, held January 31 at the Baltimore Convention Center. This year’s event —presented by Visit Sarasota County— begins at 11.a.m. and goes until 6 p.m., with appearances by numerous current and former players along with clinics, exhibits and interactive games.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children (14 and under) and seniors and are available online at http://www.orioles.com/fanfest, via phone at 1-888-848-BIRD, at the Oriole Park Box Office, and at the Official Team Store at the York Galleria in York, PA. Tickets will also be sold on the day of the event at the Convention Center and Camden Yards Box Office. Those who were 2014 Season Plan Members will receive their complimentary FanFest tickets via email and will also get early entry beginning at 10 a.m. Dugout Club members will also receive their tickets through email.

Autograph vouchers for the event will go on sale January 17 at 10 a.m. with the team’s autograph policy the same as 2014. Children ages 4-14 will have a specially designated Kids Only player autograph station, presented by ESSKAY, that is free of charge and will operate continuously throughout the day. All other ESSKAY autograph stations at FanFest will require the advance purchase of autograph vouchers exclusively at www.orioles.com/fanfest, with all of the proceeds going to children’s charities through OriolesREACH.
 
FanFest will also include question and answer forums with players and front office staff; clinics for children on a youth-sized baseball field; kids press conferences where young Orioles fans can ask questions to players; a silent auction benefitting the Orioles Charitable Foundation and a tour of the Orioles clubhouse at Oriole Park.

The sale of individual game tickets this season will be at a later date, though there will be Orioles representatives on hand at FanFest for those looking to become Season Plan holders. Complimentary parking for FanFest is available in Lot B/C. For updated information about the event, fans should visit www.orioles.com/fanfest.

A look back and ahead

Happy New Year’s Day! It’s always a slow time for baseball news around the holidays, but the calendar flip also means Spring Training is just around the corner.

It’s always weird to see the end of one year, and I took one final look back at the 2014 season with this piece on five storylines that shaped the O’s playoff run.

Of course, the focus is now on this year and how Baltimore will stack up in 2015. Like every other club in baseball, the Orioles have some lingering issues on January 1. I look at their top 10 questions heading into camp here.

Two of the biggest questions, in my opinion, is the season that Chris Davis has along with how soon the O’s get Manny Machado and Matt Wieters back healthy and productive. But you can make a case for a number of the questions being crucial to the success of this season.

Finally, thanks to all who followed along on Orioles.com, this blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Here’s to a great 2015.

Orioles, Young agree to one-year deal

The Orioles have agreed to a one-year deal with outfielder/designated hitter Delmon Young, MLB.com has confirmed, helping the club add the right-handed bat they needed.

The agreement is still pending a physical, which will be done after the holidays, and puts Young to make a base salary of $2.25 million that could reach $3 million if he hits all of the incentives.

Young, who originally had been looking for a two-year deal, was a big piece of the Orioles despite limited playing time. A non-roster invitee who made the Opening Day roster last spring, Young hit .302 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 83 games.

Young’s pinch-hit three-RBIs double in the American League Division Series lifted Baltimore to a Game 2 win in a series over the Tigers they went on to sweep. It was one of many clutch hits for the 29-year-old last season.

Over a nine-year career with five different clubs, Young is a .283 career hitter with 107 homers and 550 RBIs. He is the first free agent retained by Baltimore this season, and could be the only one as the O’s have already lost Nick Markakis, Andrew Miller and Nelson Cruz to other clubs.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette had wanted to add an outfielder and both a right-handed and left-handed bat. The club will continue to look for another outfield to help cover for departures of Cruz and Markakis, but Young’s signing should help add depth and give manager Buck Showalter a good option in the DH role.

The news was first reported Wednesday afternoon by MASN.

Orioles add two in Rule 5 Draft

The Orioles added two pitchers to their 40-man Major League roster during Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft, selecting right-hander Logan Verrett from the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate and trading for Astros’ selection right-hander Jason Garcia.

Verrett was 11-5 with a 4.33 ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2014 and it was widely speculated that he could be selected in the Rule 5 draft. The Met’s third-round pick in ’11, Verrett made 28 starts for Las Vegas and posted a 4.33 ERA over 162 innings, allowing 78 earned runs on 188 hits and 34 walks. He struck out 119.

“Outstanding control and a very good slider,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of Verrett. “He’s an accomplished pitcher. He’s won at Baylor, at Double-A and Triple-A and he should be ready to compete for a major league job. Where he ends up in the big leagues, who knows, but he’s got excellent control and really good slider than can out right and left-handed hitters.”

Garcia was picked by Houston with the fourth selection in the Rule 5 Draft, with the O’s acquiring him for cash considerations. The 22-year-old went 3-2 with three saves and a 3.67 ERA in 14 combined games (seven starts) with Class-A Lowell and Greenville. He struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings and held right-handed hitters to a .189/.275/.236 line in 121 total plate appearances.

“One of our scouts, Danny Haas, had some history with Garcia,” Duquette said. “He pitched very effectively against us in the instructional league. We saw him a lot. He pitched against 18 of our hitters and struck out 14 of them this fall.

“He’s a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher with a nice delivery and good secondary pitches. And, although he has only pitched in Class-A ball he has very good equipment and skills to be a major league pitcher. He’s 21, he’ll pitch at 22 next year.

The Orioles also picked outfielder/first baseman Sean Halton from Milwaukee in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft. They passed in the Double-A portion.

The Orioles didn’t lose any players in the Major League portion of the Draft. The Dodgers took Santana Alexander off Baltimore’s Double-A roster while Tampa Bay selected O’s right-handed pitcher Michael O’Brien.

Orioles trade falls through, other Day 3 notes

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette’s media session was pushed back 30 minutes, causing speculation about the club potentially working on a move. But when Duquette did meet with the media in his room, with the team suite mysteriously occupied, the only move he spoke of was a failed trade earlier in the day that would have netted the Orioles some pitching.

The O’s had some more trade talks today, renewing old talks and starting new conversations as some of the moves around baseball have caused new players to be made available. But nothing is hot. Right now, it seems the focus has shifted to preparing for the Rule 5 Draft with Baltimore whittling the list from 60 candidates to a few finalists in anticipation of Thursday’s draft.

They continue to meet with free agents, including that of Delmon Young, though Duquette wouldn’t say if that was any closer to being done. He also reiterated that he’s hesitant to trade starting pitching.

Asked about an extension for lefty Wei-Yin Chen, Duquette reminded reporters that they had picked up Chen’s option. Pressed further, Duquette asked how often Chen’s agent, Scott Boras, negotiates extensions when his client is one year away from free agency? The answer is almost never.

Duquette will leave Thursday following the Rule 5 Draft and indicated to reporters on his flight that he won’t have a problem making that flight now. Seems there’s not a whole lot of business left to conduct here.

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