Johan Santana is here and took part in his first practice in an Orioles uniform. Wearing his #57, Santana is still rehabbing and won’t be a full participant this spring with the O’s targeting June for the left-hander –coming off his second shoulder surgery– to be an option.
I’ll have a full story up on Santana on Orioles.com shortly, but here is a full transcript of what he said to the media..
On why he chose the Orioles…
“One of the biggest things is they understand exactly where I am as far as my rehab and everything. And then they’ve got the confidence that they’ll be able to help me to come back. We’re on the same page and I’m very happy for that. Also, Chris Correnti, who is an assistant trainer, I’ve worked with him in the past, so we’ve been together and working in some rehabs. Definitely, I feel good about it.”
On if he feels good with where he’s at in the rehab progress…
“Yeah, definitely. We still have some way to go but I’ve been throwing off the mound and getting my strength back, and so far everything’s been good. We don’t know how long it’s going to take, but we’re on the right track.”
On June being the target return date…
“I hope so. There’s nothing written down right now. I’ve got to go one day at a time and make sure every day is a good one and we’ll see when we’ll be ready. Right now, I’m throwing off the mound but I’m not facing hitters or anything and the intensity is not there yet. But the good thing is I feel good, and once you start building up and getting into baseball, it definitely should catch up quicker.”
On how to gauge when his velocity will come back…
“Honestly, I have no idea. Only time will tell how fast I will throw. But as long as I don’t feel anything in my arm, I’ll be able to go out there. I know what to do. And again, you’ve got to make adjustments. There’s no question about it. That’s what I’m going to do. But right now, I don’t really know what my velocity will be. This is just a process that we have to build up everything, and then we’ll see how it goes.”
On potentially joining the Orioles down the stretch…
“That’s a good situation that might happen with me. It could be sooner, it could be later. This team is going to contend. And I am going to prepare to try to help as much as I can in any way. So whenever it is time for me to join the team I’m going to help as much as i can and hopefully it will be sometime soon.”
On if it was important to him to join a potential contender…
“No question. You never know what’s going to happen and injuries are part of the game. Definitely being in this situation is good for me. I don’t even know when I am going to pitch again, but I hope I will do it and do it for this ballclub. And it means a lot to me. Because I don’t know what the future holds, I don’t know when my career is going to end. So you just got to take a chance and I think I’m in a good situation here.
On learning from last year’s situation, when he tried to come back and had to have surgery again…
“You got to take one step at a time. You got to listen to your body. Something was wrong. We didn’t know what it was until we saw the doctor and the medical point [of view], and they said there was something else in there. It was a tough situation but I did my best and they went in there and fixed it and now you start all over again. I’m just starting a new chapter of my career. now, I’m in Baltimore and I’m very happy about it.”
On if he thought his career was over…
“I never thought about it, but it was there, but I was told by the doctor the surgery was successful, and it was going to be up to me to come back, and that’s all I needed to hear. He told me it’s not about being a tough surgery or whatever, it’s just about how you’re going to handle it, and how much you put into it, and I really have worked hard to be up to this point, and I’m not done yet. I don’t want to go out in the game like that. I want to go out of the game on my own terms, knowing this is going to be my last game, knowing this is going to be my last year, and not just not knowing maybe that my last game was my last one. I don’t even know who I faced, and when it was; I might not want to remember.”
On mentoring some of the younger players…
“I can help any way. We’re definitely here, and I’m happy for the opportunity and they’re going to be my teammates, and their success is going to be my success and vice-versa. This is a team thing, and you know, you’ve got some good guys, good arms, and you’ve just got to take it through the whole process and get experience, and I’ll be happy to share everything I know.”
On if he’s spoken with anyone, such as Brett Saberhagen, who had the same procedure…
“I haven’t talked to him. When we talked to Dan Duquette, he told us that he had that kind of experience with him. He’s pretty optimistic that I’ll be able to come back, and the work ethic that we have will definitely help a lot. We’re working it as a project, I guess. You could call it a project or whatever where we have to build it up and see how it goes. Nothing to lose, a lot to gain, so that’s the way we’re looking at it.”
On if he will have any apprehension when he does face live hitters again…
“I went through it before so I’m just happy and anxious to come back and compete. Once I am there I don’t think about too much. I just compete and go, so whatever happens, happens. To me, I love this game so much and I just have fun every time I am out there so that’s what I’m going to do.”
On the plan after spring training…
“I’m going to be here until we start pitching and competing. But as of right now we are going to be here the whole time until we know we are going to be able to compete.”
On if pitching in relief is an option….
“The main thing here is to make sure the shoulder is back to being healthy. And then after that we will see how it goes. Definitely, my intention is to be a starter. There is no question about it, but at the same time we’ve got to make sure we are capable to do that in the long term. So I don’t really know as of right now. We’ll make adjustments as we go. But definitely the main focus here is getting the strength back. So, that’s what I’m going to focus on.”
Greetings from Fort Myers, where the Orioles will take on the Twins…
*About 30 Orioles, including manager Buck Showalter, will leave Friday’s game about midway through and get on a private plane to the Virginia area to attend memorial services for Monica Barlow. Showalter said the plane was originally going to seat just 10, but there was such a demand that owner Peter Angelos, who is arranging the plane, expanded the aircraft.
“Everybody wants to go, we had that problem and Mr Angelos expanded the plane,” Showalter said. “He will be [angry] I brought it up, but it’s a hell of a gesture.”
The plan is for the group to leave around 4 p.m. ET and return around 10:30 p.m. ET on Friday night. Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy and pretty much all of the team’s regulars will be going, with bench coach John Russell taking over and managing the rest of the game against the Phillies.
*Bud Norris will pitch Saturday’s home game against the Red Sox (which is on MASN), with Kevin Gausman traveling to Fort Myers for the night road contest. Miguel Gonzalez will start tomorrow with Ubaldo Jimenez making his Orioles debut on Friday.
*David Lough was supposed to come tonight, but he got hit with a line drive during outfield work in the right toe. X-rays were OK, but Showalter wanted to play it safe and left Lough at home.
*Suk-min Yoon will leave for Canada on March 10 and will “at least” pitch in a sim game before that. He will be gone a couple days to work out immigration issues.
*Manny Machado started moving side-to-side today in fielding ground balls, which is a good sign. He also had a mole removed off his back, but that’s not anything that will sideline him.
*Dylan Bundy has six more long toss sessions and he’s slated to throw off a flat ground mound on March 19.
*Alexi Casilla (hamstring) took live batting practice today and shouldn’t be too far away, Showalter is hoping he’d be available for Saturday’s split squad. Chris Marerro [oblique] took about 10 swings off the tee and isn’t doing much better.
*Henry Urrutia is a go now. He will be back in the mix for Thursday’s game after doing everything during today’s practice.
*The first round of cuts will likely come Sunday or Monday, after the team’s split squad game.
*Johan Santana held court with the media and you can read that here.
*Kevin Gausman is sporting a pair of prescription glasses today and he’ll try those out on the field. His contacts have been giving him some problems.
*Brock Huntzinger has been an interesting early name. He’s retired all six batters he’s faced, including striking out the side against the Yankees on Tuesday night. The 25-year-old threw a scoreless third inning against the Red Sox regulars, also on the road, before that and has been praised by manager Buck Showalter in both appearances.
“I was joking around with my buddies, I can’t remember the last time I struck out the side,” Huntzinger said, when asked if Tuesday’s trio of strikeouts was normal. “Probably in high school. I think it was all from getting ahead of guys. If I can start doing that, great. But no, I’m not going to strike everybody out. That’s not really my thing.”
Huntzinger has been sharp since arriving in Sarasota, and credits playing winter ball for the first time in his career for helping to keep him on track. He had two stints in the Dominican, including 15 2/3 innings with the Estrellas, where he pitched to a 1.15 ERA. He returned shortly after Christmas and pitched in the postseason for the Aguilas.
The Orioles bullpen has three or four unclaimed spots, and Huntzinger said he used to get really into keeping track of roster battles and what contract situation were in the clubhouse. But those days are gone.
“Coming here, I don’t know what guys are starters or relievers, who’s a free agent. And I think that’s just kind of freed up my mind to just go out there and do what I can do,” he said. “Obviously, I know they’ve got their guys or whatever, but they made me feel good in the process this offseason and they said there were going to be opportunities, so hopefully there’s an opportunity.”
Quintin Berry CF
Jemile Weeks 2B
Xavier Paul RF
Steve Pearce 1B
Johnny Monell C
Nolan Reimold DH
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Alex Gonzalez SS
Julio Borbon LF
Chris Tillman RHP
Also slated to pitch: Zach Britton, Tim Berry, Mike Belfiore, TJ McFarland, Troy Patton, Fabio Castillo, Steve Johnson, Eddie Gambo and Zach Davies
Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen made his first spring start, going two innings and allowing two runs on five hits including a walk. He also picked up a strikeout in the 42-pitch outing.
“I feel pretty good, it’s been a while since I’ve played in a game. Especially in a night game,” Chen said through his interpreter. “So I tried to make some adjustments, and I feel pretty good overall.”
Chen gave up a solo homer to Francisco Cervelli, but that was really the only hard hit ball.
“It’s still early in the spring, so I tried to make some adjustments,” he said. “Sometimes pitches weren’t ideal location-wise, but I made adjustments and overall I feel pretty good. And it’s still Spring Training, so I don’t mind it.”
Chen has knee surgery to remove the bone spurs from his right knee this winter and this was his first start since.
“It does feel somewhat different but I don’t know how to describe different how,” he said. “Compared to last year, I do feel a little more comfortable when I was pitching. So, I was happy about the result. and tried to make my pitches and not to think about that…I just feel comfortable right now. “
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Chen wasn’t as crisp as his last time out.
“He’ll get better, that’s why they call it Spring Training,” Showalter said. “He’s fine. Feels good physically, knee. So, that’s a good sign.”
*The Orioles officially added Johan Santana on a Minor League deal today, with the target date June 1 for him to be an option. Santana is still rehabbing, but the Orioles feel like he’ll be able to get that velocity up after his second shoulder surgery. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said today that Santana’s surgery is the same as Bret Saberhagen, who was able to come back and have a successful year.
“He’s been really getting after his rehab,” said Duquette, who mentioned Santana’s character and veteran leadership as other factors in the deal. “He’s only 34 years old and he’s determined to come back and pitch. He has some life-long goals that he’d like to fulfill and he’s another quality left-hander that will be able to help our club.”
Santana’s contract has incentives for starts and manager Buck Showalter said today that he thinks the best way to keep Santana healthy is to have him be a starter.
“I’m excited. I think it’s great,” Showalter said. “I’m not going to say no risk, as far as, I’m not the owner [Peter Angelos], but it’s another thing that Peter’s allowed us to do that puts us in position to get kind of lucky. I’m not going to say it’s a no lose proposition. There are things you lose, but it makes a risk worth taking. I think it’s exciting, the possibility down the road. I’m hoping we get five starters who pitch so well, we don’t need it, but pedigree speaks for itself, especially with the people that have been…we have some people here who I really trust their background and their opinion with Johan.”
*Brian Roberts is here and playing second base in the cleanup spot for the Yankees. I’ll have more from Roberts on Orioles.com later, but he said he has no ill-will for the Orioles, who didn’t offer him a deal and physically is in a good place.
“I had 15 incredible years of my life there. Why would I be angry?,” he said. “There is no point in living that way. I’m grateful and thankful for every day that I had there. At some point, it was going to come to an end, whether it was you had to retire. Very few guys get to do what Derek does and walk in and say, ‘I’m done on my own terms.’ I think probably one percent of the world gets to do that, so I’m not angry. That organization, and that team and our fans and the city have been great to me and my family and I have nothing but praise for every one of them.”
Still, was Roberts –who had played his entire career in Baltimore before this season- disappointed that they didn’t even try to keep him?
“It’s hard to really sum up all the emotions that went into it,” he said. “Sure, in some way, you might be, but at the same time you understand it’s a business. I knew going into the offseason it was a possibility, and I told everyone I was fine with it if that was the case. I don’t know all the circumstances behind it. Did I want to spend my entire career there? Sure, that probably would have been my number one choice, but sure. But, that doesn’t always work out.”
*Edgmer Escalona will be shut down for three weeks with shoulder inflammation after making just one appearance. The bullpen hopeful had a second opinion, but has not had any injections yet Showalter said.
*Henry Urrutia said all of the pain in right shoulder is gone and it’s just a little sore at this point. He will throw again today and try to take batting practice and hopes to be cleared to play tomorrow. Urrutia has been shut down the past two days with inflammation in the area and Showalter said he hoped it’d only be a couple days before Urrutia is a game option.
*Alexi Casilla also is feeling better and will try to run outside tomorrow. He’s been sidelined with a hamstring issue.
*Nolan Reimold was back today practicing after dealing with food poisoning yesterday. Hitting coach Jim Presley is dealing with a similar thing.
*Nick Markakis started his offseason two weeks after last year ended, adding 16 pounds of muscle in what could be his final season as an Oriole. You can read my feature on him here.
David Lough CF
Jemile Weeks 2B
Delmon Young DH
Steve Clevenger C
Steve Pearce 1B
Ryan Flaherty SS
Francisco Peguero RF
Quintin Berry LF
Cord Phelps 3B
Wei-Yin Chen LHP
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Derek Jeter DH
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian Roberts 2B
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Francisco Cervelli C
Brendan Ryan SS
Russ Canzler 1B
Yangervis Solarte LF
David Phelps RHP
SARASOTA, Fla. — Twice a week, hours before the Orioles have to be at the Ed Smith Stadium complex for team stretch, a bulked up Nick Markakis is at Pilates. Baltimore’s longtime right fielder started the regimen last year during the baseball season, but he got really intense about it — among other things — this winter and is now a regular at 6 a.m. ET class, which he upped to three times a week starting Monday.
The focus is on core strength and balance, two key components of an offseason like Markakis has never had before, one that had him pounding the pavement of his driveway with teammate Ryan Flaherty for workouts just two weeks after the Orioles’ season had ended and weighing in 16 pounds heavier this spring.
Coming off the worst season of his career, Markakis is confident he has never been this strong, not even close. The 30-year-old, who was an American League Gold Glove finalist despite his struggles at the plate, is well aware that this is a contract year, with a looming $17.5 million 2015 club option that, if declined, would make Markakis a free agent for the first time in his career.
Yet all Markakis, who was sidelined during the Orioles’ 2012 playoff run after a CC Sabathia pitch ended his season, wants from his offseason regime is to be able to stay on the field.
“I’m at the point in my career where a lot of things don’t matter to me right now besides winning the World Series with this group of guys and this team right now,” said Markakis, who would get a $2 million buyout if the Orioles don’t pick up his option at season’s end. “Because I don’t know what the future holds for me, this could be my last year in an Orioles uniform. And I’d rather win a World Series, bring a World Series to Baltimore and this organization. I don’t want to do it anywhere else. This is the team I came up with, this is the team that pretty much raised me. This is my family.”
The grizzled veteran is determined to come back strong. After three surgeries in nine months between 2012-13, he was slowed with a neck injury during Spring Training last year. However, he went on to play 160 games, the fourth time in the past five seasons he’s hit the 160-game mark. Talk to any player in any Major League clubhouse about what kind of grit that takes and their expression says all you need to know.
Click here to read the rest of the feature on Orioles.com.
Orioles starter Bud Norris pitched two scoreless innings in his first spring start, striking out two and allowing a hit and a walk. Norris, considered the leading candidate for the team’s fifth rotation spot, was pleased with how his first spring game with Baltimore went.
“It went really well,” he said. “It’s more about getting out there, getting back into competition and just feeling comfortable. I’ve been through a couple now, so this is a new one to me here in Sarasota, but just to get out there and play baseball again is what you like to do. I had good results, i felt really good and that’s obviously the goal is to leave here healthy.”
Norris said his emphasis was on fastball command, pounding the strike zone, and he’s been working with catcher Matt Wieters on establishing a little better tempo.
Minnesota got on the board first with a two-out single from Wilkin Ramirez, which scored two-out walk Chris Colabello in the third. Baltimore’s prized pitching prospect Kevin Gausman got out of the inning with no further damage as Jason Kubel was tagged out trying to advance to third on the play.
“I got 3-2 on him, and tried to do a little bit too much,” said Gausman, who retired the first five batters he faced in the 24-pitch, two-inning outing.
Gausman was clocked in the mid-90s pretty consistently, which was what he was at last spring as a rookie as well.
“It always takes me longer to get ready armwise. I started throwing the exact same day,” Gausman said of his preparation this winter. “I just tried to make sure I was ready coming into camp.”
“Last spring, I tried not to step on anyone’s feet or really do anything wrong. Now, I have a relationship with most of the guys on the team. I feel comfortable going to them and asking questions. Last year, I really didn’t know what to expect, schedulewise, what we were wearing… This year, I feel more comfortable.”
The Orioles are closing in on a Minor League deal with free agent pitcher Johan Santana.
Santana threw for numerous clubs — including the Orioles– last week and was at the team’s spring complex on Monday afternoon according to MLB.com and MLB Network Radio’s Jim Duquette. Orioles pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez also posted a photo with Santana.
Santana is rehabbing back from his second shoulder surgery and it would be interesting to see –if he signs– how the Orioles plan to use him. The lefty is still rehabbing and would be a guy they would likely keep in extended spring until he gets back to form. Santana’s velocity was reportedly in the 70s in his last audition.
Santana would be an interesting move for the Orioles, who have a lot of starting pitchers but space for lefties in the bullpen. The O’s are down Troy Patton, who is suspended for the first 25 games, and have a host of lefties in camp along with Brian Matusz, who is being stretched out as a starter. Santana has pitched in 360 career games, 284 starts, and is 4-2 with a 3.96 ERA in 76 relief appearances. His splits aren’t that drastic, holding right-handed hitters to a .225/.281/.364 career line and lefties to .240/.293/.394.
*The Orioles are closing in on a Minor League deal with Johan Santana, who was spotted at the Minor League complex today. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said coyly that outfielder Francisco Peguero, who wears uniform No. 57, could stand to make some money soon. That number is what Santana has worn his whole career. You can read more on that developing situation here.
With free agent starter Ervin Santana still out there, could that be the Orioles’ only visit from a Santana this spring?
“I wouldn’t say that and be completely sure it was true,” Showalter said.
*The Orioles have resigned lefty Chris Jones to a Minor League contract after he was released last week. Jones was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Nelson Cruz and cleared waivers before signing a new deal with the O’s. He will now report to Twin Lakes Park.
*Alfredo Aceves made his debut for the Orioles today, throwing one scoring 1-2-3 inning. He will take a day off throw and then go two, take two days off and then throw three. Then he will be evaluated from there.
*Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman both threw two innings today and you can read more on that here.
*Prospect Jonathan Schoop continues to have a strong spring, with a pair of hits today making him 4-for-6 in four games. He also had a pair of homers in the teams intrasquad games.
“He’s going to take advantage of every opportunity he gets,” Showalter said. “He’s been locked in, seems to be in a good spot offensively since the first intrasquad game. Really BP.”
Is there a way Schoop can force his way to the Opening Day roster?
“I wouldn’t use the word force. I would say he’s competing for the job and there’s nobody ahead of him or behind him right now,” Showalter said of the second base competition that also includes Ryan Flaherty and Jemile Weeks. “He’s very much in the mix as he was the day we got here. In my mind I can tell you for sure there’s nothing in stone about where he’s going to start the year. Down or up. We made sure he knows.”
All three of those guys have Minor League options, which certainly helps Schoop’s case.
*There are no plans right now for Suk-min Yoon to leave for Canada. He’s still waiting on paperwork and then he will be gone for a few days. Given all that uncertainty, there’s no timetable for his first spring game.
*Nolan Reimold is sick today after contracting some kind of food poisoning last night. Manager Buck Showalter said he came into his office this morning and he immediately sent him home.
*Reliever Darren O’Day will be working with Orioles scout Todd Frohwirth on an off speed pitch that the club hopes will aid the the sidearmer in getting left-handed hitters out.
“I know Darren’s excited about it”, said Showalter, who wouldn’t specify what kind of pitch it was but came up with the idea over the winter. “It’s one thing, how does a pitching coach work with a knuckleball guy? how do they work if he’s n ever thrown down there? I know Dave and mark and rick before always spent a lot of time talking with people about mechanics.
“We thought, we had this great resource…Todd thought it was real important he build up his arm strength and arm speed before he got here, that’s why you didn’t see him early. Plus he coaches a girls basketball team back home that he’s big on.”
Pitchers like O’Day have a difficult time with secondary pitches because, as Showalter explained, it’s not always a case of just changing your grip.
“It’s hard, you don’t see many guys down there who have a good off speed pitch,” he said. “Be interesting to see if he can do it with the grip or if they have to do something different with the arm action.”
*David Lough will not play against lefties right now, Showalter said. The plan is for Nelson Cruz to play left field in that scenario, which frees up another spot for a right-handed hitting bat. Cruz is starting in the outfield for the first time this spring today.
“We need to use nelson’s skills to make everybody better,” Showalter said. “It’s possible, right now going in, I don’t plan yet on using [Lough] against left-handed pitching. So,you’d have a DH spot for a right-handed hitter. He could evolve into that too, a guy we trust against left-handed pitching. It’s also a way to keep everybody involved, too.”
The Orioles relied heavily on their regulars last year, they were the first club in the Majors to have seven or more players reach the 140 games played mark last year, and Showalter doesn’t want to get into that same rut again in regards to his bench.
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis DH
Adam Jones CF
Chris Davis 1B
Nelson Cruz RF
Matt Wieters C
Ryan Flaherty 2B
Alex Gonzalez 3B
David Lough LF
Bud Norris RHP
Darin Mastroianni CF
Danny Santana SS
Trevor Plouffe 3B
Chris Parmalee RF
Chris Colabello 1B
Jason Kubel DH
Wilkin Ramirez LF
Jomil Pinto C
Jason Bartlett 2B
Vance Worley RHP
*Brian Matusz pitched well in his spring debut, allowing two hits over two scoreless innings (35 pitches, 18 strikes) to a lineup full of Red Sox regulars. He could get another start in before leaving for Philadelphia, with the winter storm up north causing the team to cancel his trip for Monday morning. Matusz has a wart (on the side of his middle finger on his throwing hand) that needs to be removed and was slated to go with catcher Michael Ohlman, who is also dealing with the same issue on his throwing hand. They’ll both go at some point, but there’s no definite date just yet.
*Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Carl, is here today in place of Henry Urrutia. Urrutia was shut down with a sore right shoulder that he said –through interpreter teammate Chris Marrero– first crept up when trying to make a throw to third base on Friday. Urrutia said he felt better on Sunday and wasn’t concerned that this would be a lingering issue.
“I think it was just something where I didn’t stretch it or warm my arm up,” said Urrutia, who hasn’t had this at any point before in his career. “Doesn’t hurt to swing.”
It was pretty cool to see Yastrzemski and his famed grandfather on the field prior to today’s game (see the photo above) and he got in the game as a pinch-runner in the sixth inning and moved to right field.
Yastrzemski walked and scored as part of a five-run ninth inning.
“I got to see him a couple times in Aberdeen last year. He’s a real fundamentally sound guy, can play all three [outfield spots]. Good defender. You can tell he’s pretty polished.”
He’s one of the guys that keeps surviving at a different level and the next thing you know they’re in the big leagues. He’s one of those guys, they say you can trust him.”
*Josh Hart, who delivered the Frank Robinson paper, also made an appearance in today’s game but did not get an at-bat. He served as a pinch runner in the ninth.
*Showalter thought pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez threw well despite his line –four runs on four hits and a walk– and he also got in Brock Huntzinger behind Matusz to see how the right-hander fared against some of the Sox regular right-handed hitters. Huntzinger threw a scoreless third.
*Delmon Young is “probably in as good shape as he’s been in for a long time”, said Showalter, who hasn’t ruled out Young making the club as a designated hitter option despite the signing of Nelson Cruz.
Asked if he’s had a talk with Young since Cruz arrived, Buck said: “He knows, sometimes i plant a seed through somebody else…he can still make the club he can still DH against left-handed pitching. nothing has changed there. Still looking for that guy. Nellie is going to play against left-handed pitching at least.”
*The “Two Minutes with…” series focused on lefty T.J. McFarland yesterday and you can read that here.
*As a reminder, the full game recap from yesterday –and all of the Orioles spring game stories– are up on Orioles.com along with additional coverage in my daily notebook. Nelson Cruz’s home debut and Steve Clevenger’s winter assignment were among the items up from yesterday.
*Zach Britton’s first start was encouraging to the Orioles, and you can read more on that –and the chances of Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar making the club– here.
Jemile Weeks 2B
Francisco Peguero RF
Delmon Young DH
Steve Pearce 1B
Nolan Reimold LF
Steve Clevenger C
David DeJesus SS
Julio Borbon CF
Michael Almanzar 3B
Brian Matusz LHP
RED SOX LINEUP
Jonny Gomes LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Wil Middlebrooks 3B
Cody Ross C
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bryce Brentz RF
Felix Doubront LHP
Numerous prominent Orioles and coaches had a new addition to their uniforms for Saturday’s home opener: gray wristbands with the initials “MB” scrawled in black marker, a touching tribute in honor of the passing of public relation director Monica Barlow.
“I put it on my hat, it’s more visual that way,” said center fielder Adam Jones of the tribute, which the club originally tried to do something with their ball caps until they hit a snag from the League. “I think no matter what we did, she’s in everybody’s hearts right now, everybody’s minds. We lost a good member of our family and it’s not easy just to cope with it and let it go. We are going to remember her in great fashion.”
Barlow, 36, passed away Friday morning and the news rocked the organization as the longtime Oriole employee had a courageous four-year fight against Stage IV lung cancer. A non-smoker, Barlow was an advocate for lung cancer research but shied away from the spotlight, never letting her diagnosis prevent her from working long hours at Camden Yards.
“She probably would have thought it was a terrible idea, but that’s what I love about her,” first baseman Chris Davis said of the public display. “She made our jobs easier and you just can’t say enough good things about her.”
“She would have been so [angry],” manager Buck Showalter added. “We were talking about it in the dugout. You could feel it in the dugout, everybody was thinking about her today. During the first few innings, always but…I said many times I’m proud of how Chris handled all the things that came his way last year. But he’s just grounded. Very grounded.”
In addition to Davis and Jones, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters, Ryan Flaherty, Manny Machado, Showalter, hitting coach Jim Presley, first base coach Wayne Kirby and bench coach John Russell all sported the wrist bands for the televised game.
There is also talk of the team trying to put something permanent on their uniforms during the season.
“That’s up to Mr. Angelos and than you have to get it through Major League Baseball,” Jones said. “But she was such an instrumental part of our family here in the Orioles. I wouldn’t be opposed with it, to be honest with you, for everything —not just she’s done with the team— but for the individuals. She’s helped out a lot of individuals with their personal life also. So to pay tribute, to pay homage any way we do it would be awesome.”
Added Davis: “I would like to. I think it’s a good idea to honor her. A lot of people don’t understand what goes on behind the clubhouse doors, but those are the people who are really important to us. Anything we can do to honor her, whether it’s wearing her initials on a wristband or putting them on our hat, whatever we could do, we’d sure like to do that.”
Barlow had been with the Orioles since serving as an intern in 1999, leaving for a year to work with the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate before coming back to Baltimore and working her way up the ranks.
“What she’s done for us is help us just worry about the on-field stuff. … PR and community relations, they get tons of requests for players and coaches to do certain things and certain activities and Monica has learned each player’s personality and what they were willing to do and not willing to do,” Jones said. “She always told me, ‘Let me be the bad guy. I don’t want you to be the bad guy. Let me be the bad guy.’ She just helped me a lot with making the right decisions and doing things that not just helped me, but helped the team instead of just doing things just for the sake of doing them. There’s always a purpose behind things and she helped me out a lot with that.”
The Orioles intend to honor her beyond the 2014 season and are working to go through the proper channels.
“There’s about four or five things that [VP of communications and marketing] Greg [Bader] and the organization are looking into right now you will see in some form or fashion for sure,” Showalter said. ‘And quite frankly not just this year. There’s some thought about honoring her in some places that Monica was at a lot.”