The Orioles officially kicked off Grapefruit League play this afternoon in Port Charlotte, where they took on the Tampa Bay Rays and Erik Bedard.
*Chris Tillman threw two scoreless innings, striking out three and allowing one hit.
“It was good,” Tillman said. “I think it was more of going out and getting the adreneline flowing at the beginning and the nerve flowing more than anything else. I felt good about my self. Just wanted to work on fastball command today and for the most part it was good.”
“I think this early in spring it doesn’t really matter who you face. It’s just going out there and getting the feel again, we face our own hitters the first two weeks and it isn’t the same feel. So, it was good to get the juices flowing again.”
Zach Britton followed and allowed a run over his two innings, although it was a play that could have been made by Rule 5 Draft pick Michael Almanzar.
*Alfredo Aceves joined the team today, as expected, and practiced at the complex after being in Mexico to deal with a visa issue.
*Left-handed pitcher Chris Jones was officially released this morning, the team announced. Jones, acquired in the Luis Ayala trade last spring, was designated for assignment to create a roster spot for Nelson Cruz.
Jemile Weeks 2B
Fracisco Peguero CF
Steve Clevenger C
Steve Pearce 1B
Nolan Reimold DH
Henry Urrutia RF
Alex Gonzalez SS
Xavier Paul LF
Michael Almanzar 3B
Chris Tillman RHP
David DeJesus LF
Yunel Escobar SS
James Loney 1B
Evan Longoria 3B
Matt Joyce RF
Desmond Jennings CF
Jose Molina C
Logan Forsythe 2B
Erik Bedard LHP
The Orioles had their second intrasquad game, a 4 1/2 inning, which they played on the main field of Ed Smith Stadium.
*Jonathan Schoop homered for the second consecutive game, and manager Buck Showalter was asked about the maturity of the young infielder this spring. Schoop is vying for the second base spot, although he will mostly likely start the season in the Minors. He will help the big league club at some point this year, the question is when. You can read more on that in yesterday’s notes here.
*Mike Belfiore was held out of intrasquad games the past two days due to a small fracture on his left pinky finger. Belfiore did it fielding grounders, but he was cleared today to play and hasn’t missed any scheduled throwing days.
*Nelson Cruz grounded out in his only at-bat, with T.J. McFarland getting three ground balls and also retiring Chris Davis. Cruz spoke with Showalter at length before yesterday’s intrasquad game and said he wants to play the outfield a lot in Spring Training.
Cruz hit ninth today, which he said he probably hadn’t done since his days starting out in the Dominican, but said it doesn’t matter to him where he is in the lineup. The veteran outfielder will make his spring debut on Saturday and wasn’t sure if he’d be in the field or not.
“I told [Showalter], I want to play most of my games in the outfield, especially during Spring Training. So, I get everything done,” Cruz said. “It depends on how you feel, sometimes in Spring Training in your first at-bat you feel great. It’s about feeling, feeling good. Sometimes you can get hits and you don’t feel like it should be hits, but it happens. Let’s see how it feels Saturday and how many at-bats I take.”
I asked Cruz why he chose uniform No. 23 and he quipped: “I wanted to take the number from [Wayne] Kirby.”
Cruz and Kirby, the Orioles first base coach, go back to their Texas days together. Kirby sported No. 99 for today’s intrasquad game, but will wear 24 when the season starts.
“I thought nobody wore Number 23,” Cruz explained of how that came to be. “They asked me, do you want to wear 23? I guess I’m going to have to buy something for [Kirby].”
*Wei-Yin Chen won a 12-pitch battle with Delmon Young in the first inning, throwing a nasty change up that had a little cut action to it.
*Closing candidate Tommy Hunter was clocked at 95 mph in an eight-pitch inning. That’s really fast for this early in spring.
*Henry Urrutia singled and stole second and Showalter had his stopwatch out on-and-off during the intrasquad game.
“He had a baserunning mistake yesterday. So did some other guys,” Showalter said. “He’s got one of those swings that, his bat stays in the zone a long time. His ball seems to have top spin and get through the infield. He hits some slicing balls that are hard to defend.
“I said before, if you look at all his stops with the exception maybe of one level, he’s handled every level statistically if you just go by batting average. The power is there. It’s just, you don’t want to sacrifice the average sometimes for that. Henry’s got a chance to be a pretty good offensive player.”
Showalter also said that Urrutia has put more emphasis on his base running and defense and it shows.
*Jemile Weeks singled and walked and Showalter singled him out as a plus runner. Weeks is competing for a second base or utility spot. He also has a Minor League option remaining, though Showalter said the club wouldn’t hold that against him.
*Chris Tillman will start Friday’s spring opener and throw two innings. He will be followed by Zach Britton
*Manny Machado expects he will have to leave camp for his doctors appointment on March 18. Although nothing is set in stone yet, that is expected to be the appointment to see if Machado can be cleared to start playing in games. More on that here.
*Quintin Berry took some swings this morning and said he’s not in any pain and is ready to go whenever the team says so. Berry exited practice a few days ago with a back spasm and the Oriole are being cautious given how early in spring it is.
*Alexi Casilla is planning on just getting treatment again today. He said his hamstring feels “a little better” but didn’t plan on doing any baseball activities.
Here were the lineups…
Henry Urrutia DH
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Francisco Peguero RF
Steve Pearce 1B
Michael Ohlamn C
David Lough LF
Ivan De Jesus, Jr. SS
Julio Borbon CF
Michael Almanzar 3B
Wei-Yin Chen LHP
Delmon Young DH
Jemile Weeks 2B
Chord Phelps SS
Johnny Monell C
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
J.J. Hardy SS
Chris Davis 1B
Nelson Cruz LF
Bud Norris LHP
Also slated to pitch: TJ McFarland, Tommy Hunter, Evan Meek and Kelvin De La Cruz for the visiting team.
Tim Berry, Troy Patton, Josh Stinson and Darren O’Day are on the schedule to throw for the home team.
Maybe not. The Orioles– who held three press conference in the past week– would seem to be done adding to their team, but it doesn’t seem that way. The organization is still looking to add pitching depth, which could potentially be tapped into later in the spring if there’s an injury/trade. They also have a few guys out of options, both in the bullpen and rotation battle –such as Zach Britton– who they would lose on waivers if they don’t make the Opening Day roster.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette side-stepped the question yesterday at Nelson Cruz’s press conference in regards to whether the team would have another presser soon.
“We’ve been steadily putting our team together,” Duquette said. “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.”
The word on Ervin Santana still seems to be that his asking price won’t drop and the Orioles wouldn’t be interested at his current tag. He’d have to fall, like Cruz did, for that to work.
Here are the other available starting pitchers, courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors: Jon Garland, Jair Jurrjens, Jeff Karstens, Jason Marquis, Jeff Niemann, Clayton Richard, Johan Santana, Joe Saunders and Barry Zito.
The Orioles were one of seven teams yesterday to watch Santana –coming off a second shoulder surgery– throw, and I doubt they’d want to revisit Jurrjens again.
They could, however, bring back Joe Saunders who they’ve had some interest in this winter, and have shown some recent interest in. Nothing is imminent there, however, and it’s unlikely Saunders –part of the Orioles 2012 playoff run– would accept anything less than a Major League deal. But it’s worth keeping an eye on and makes the most sense out of the remaining crop.
Duquette loves having pitching depth and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Orioles –who recently added pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Suk-min Yoon– add more between now and Opening Day, be it on the free agent market or internationally, with well-known international scouting director Fred Ferreira working on a few things right now. It wouldn’t be a headliner, but keep in mind it was only two springs ago that Miguel Gonzalez signed a Minor League deal out of the Mexican Winter League.
The Orioles held their first intrasquad game on the main field at Ed Smith Stadium complex, which lasted 6 1/2 innings and included homers from Jonathan Schoop, Chris Davis and Delmon Young.
They’re planning on having Thursday’s intrasquad game start around 11 a.m. ET. on the back fields, weather permitting.
*Nelson Cruz took infield on Wednesday morning and manager Buck Showalter talked to Cruz today, with the plan being for him to play in Saturday’s home opener.
*Ubaldo Jimenez will make his debut on March 7, which had also been the original plan for Suk-min Yoon. But given that Yoon has to leave on the 4th to go to Canada and secure his work visa, the O’s will have to wait. Yoon won’t be ready to go before that, so his spring debut is uncertain right now.
*The tentative date for Manny Machado to has his knee re-evaluated is March 18, although Showalter wasn’t sure if that meant Machado couldn’t play in games until then or not. It’s also unclear whether Machado would have to travel out to California –where he had his last appointment– to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
*Alfredo Aceves is expected be back and workout with the team on Friday, with plans for the reliever to fly in from Mexico the night prior.
*Schoop’s homer brought up a few questions about the Orioles top position player prospect, who seems much more comfortable than a year ago.
“He is with his teammates,” Showalter said. “I’m not picking on him, but I seem to always go with him for questions during drills and stuff. I think he likes it. He knows how much we like him. He’s a real likable kid. People miss he’s got some toughness about him. He’s going to be a good player. It’s just a matter of when.”
Schoop has filled out nicely, coming into spring one of his goals was to add strength. He’s around 230 now, according to Showalter, although he doesn’t look like it.
“Jon’s got a lot of ability,” he said. “He’s kind of got through that baby fat stage. this is a big strong man..he’s carrying it well. He can really turn a double play, too.”
*Are the Orioles done making moves? I don’t think so and you can read more on that here.
*With Showalter’s homework assignment for prospect Josh Hart making national headlines, the young outfielder will get some time at big league camp this spring.
“He’s definitely going to be now. So, I can apologize,” Showalter said, laughing. “Heck, he might play the whole year.”
Hart came over from Minor League camp Monday as an extra guy for Miguel Gonzalez’s live bullpen session and became a big name when Showalter told reporters he had assigned the prospect a paper for not knowing who Frank Robinson was. Robinson visited Orioles camp and spoke to the team on a personal invitation from executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and he was walking with Showalter past Hart before the Oriole skipper decided to test the youngster.
When Hart didn’t know who Robinson was, Showalter assigned him a one-page paper on the Hall of Famer, due on his desk the following day.
“I called [director of player development] Brian [Graham] yesterday about something else, I said ‘This kid’s not ruined for life or embarrassed?’ and he said, ‘No, he loves it. I just got through taking to him.’ He said he didn’t realize what a great player [Robinson] was and he really needed more than one page to get everything on it. And he hopes to get a chance to see Mr. Robinson again one day. Said he knew he was somebody famous.
I actually feel bad now. I do. I got a good feeling we will be talking about something else concerning Josh Hart than that at some point. He’s a talented kid.”
Hart, last year’s sandwich pick in the Draft, discussed his report with Showalter on Tuesday night and will bring the actual report in the next time he’s at Ed Smith Stadium complex.
“That’s what I get for telling anybody,” Showalter said of the national attention the story received. “You are never too old to learn a lesson.”
*Miguel Gonzalez remains on track to start Saturday’s game and the Orioles are planning on having Ubaldo Jimenez make his spring debut on March 7.
*One prospect who doesn’t figure to get any playing time in big league camp is top draft pick Hunter Harvey, who was selected out of high school last season. Showalter said he may bring Harvey over to see how things are run, but he wants him concentrating on getting ready for the Minor League season.
*The Orioles have a board with question marks for position battles this spring, one for backup catcher and second base and three or four in the bullpen. One potential candidate is non-roster invitee Evan Meek.
“Evan has got a chance to make our bullpen, that was an exciting late add for me personally,” Showalter said. “I think he’s got a chance. Especially if he’s back physically all the way. two years ago, he was about as good as there in the National League. I’m looking forward to seeing him pitch, seeing where he is physically.
Meek was getting ready to tryout for a bunch of clubs before Baltimore got something done. “I think we can out-opportunity people,” Showalter said.
*Alexi Casilla, who strained his hamstring during yesterday’s practice, still has some soreness and won’t play today. He’s day-to-day right now.
*Quintin Berry (back) is progressing and Monday is the latest for him to get into a game right now.
*MLB Network will air its “30 Clubs in 30 Days” segment against this year and it comes to Orioles camp on March 24. The show will air at 10 p.m. ET that night.
Here are your lineups (in alphabetical order). Showalter joked this bought him at least three days of no lineup questions from the media…
Michael Almanzar 3B
Steve Clevenger C
Ivan DeJesus Jr. SS
Xavier Paul LF
Steve Pearce 1B
Francisco Peguero CF
Nolan Reimold DH
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Henry Urrutia RF
Brian Matusz LHP
Chris Davis 1B
Ryan Flaherty 2B
Alex Gonzalez 3B
J.J. Hardy SS
Adam Jones CF
David Lough LF
Nick Markakis RF
Matt Wieters C
Delmon Young DH
Kevin Gausman RHP
Eduardo Rodriguez, Brad Brach, Ryan Webb, Edgmer Escalona, Fabio Castillo and Tim Alderson are on the list to pitch for the away team.
Nick Additon, Steve Johnson, Brock Huntzinger, Mike Wright and Eddie Gamboa are also slated to pitch for the home team.
Sorry for the later than normal notes, I took most of the afternoon following the Nelson Cruz press conference to work on some longer features. Here are the links to catch you up on the news…
*Nelson Cruz was officially introduced as an Oriole today and you can read that full story here.
*Alexi Casilla strained his hamstring today during practice while Quintin Berry had an X-ray on his back that came back negative. You can read more on that here.
*You can read an update on Dylan Bundy’s progress here.
*MLB.com columnist Barry Bloom visited O’s camp today and wrote about patience paying off for the organization, which you can read here.
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.