Wieters could catch in intrasquad games

SARASOTA, Fla.— Matt Wieters could catch in an Orioles intrasquad game this spring -on March 1 and 2— as the backstop has been cleared to do everything but thrown full-throttle to the bases.

“We control that,” manager Buck Showalter said of the run game during the team’s intrasquad matchups. “I don’t want to get to the 17th [of March] and have him catch three innings the first time. I want him to catch, five, six, seven out of the chute. We can do that. We can handle it. Whether it’s a ‘B’ game, intrasquad…we could find games left and right.”

Showalter said he probably wouldn’t take Wieters to the Orioles first spring game in Lakeland, Fla., but —coming off Tommy John surgery in June— Wieters’ legs are built up a lot earlier than they usually are in camp.

“He can throw the ball back to the pitcher [in a game],” Showalter said. “He wants to throw on bunt defense. What he’s doing out here right now [on the back fields] he can do in a game.”

Wieters isn’t cleared to throw full-throttle until March 17, a cautious deadline that Showalter expects will make Wieters pretty anxious when the time finally comes. Wieters, and third baseman Manny Machado, are expected to get a lot of at-bats this spring as they are both coming off season-ending surgeries.

Duquette on Cabrera, Janish, additions, etc

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said there are still some “issues” to resolve regarding the pending signing of Everth Cabrera and it could not be done until next week. Nothing has changed on the O’s end, it’s just a little bit of a slow process.

Here are some of the other highlights from Duquette’s session with the media.

*Infielder Paul Janish had surgery a few days ago to remove bone chips from his right elbow and is expected to be sidelined 6-8 weeks.  The news is also one of the reasons the O’s signed Jayson Nix to a Minor League deal (which was officially announced today), a move that gives there depth.

*Duquette said that the Orioles are still looking to add relief help and that if they do sign some bullpen guys it will likely be a Minor League deal at this point. He noted that Baltimore is confident the bullpen, which lost only Andrew Miller, will once again be one of its strengths.

*Another huge factor in the O’s upcoming season isn’t about their offseason transaction list.

“The most powerful thing we’ve done for our team in the offseason is get [Manny] Machado and [Matt] Wieters and [Chris] Davis back on it and get them healthy and playing ball,” Duquette said.

Machado is among the early arrivals for the position players and is expected to be a full go in camp.

*Duquette didn’t seem confident that the O’s would avoid an arbitration hearing with Alejandro De Aza, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

Pitchers and catchers report day

The Orioles have officially started Spring Training, with the pitchers and catchers report date the first sign of a new camp. There will be an informal workout today, as there has been the past few days, with the first actual practice on Friday.

Here are a few early notes from the clubhouse….

*The Everth Cabrera deal will not be announced today, though it could be made official later this week. The news broke yesterday that Baltimore was on the verge of a deal with the infielder, who has already taken his physical. Jayson Nix, who the Orioles agreed to a Minor League deal with a spring invite on Tuesday, has a locker set up but no sign of him just yet. That deal has also not been made official by the club.

*J.P. Arencibia is a guy to watch this spring as he competes for a spot. The rehab of Matt Wieters could change what catchers are on the O’s Opening Day roster, but Arencibia has had success at the Major League level and could vie for a backup spot -with Caleb Joseph- even if Wieters starts the season.

Arencibia spent four seasons with Toronto, before playing in the Rangers organization last year, and said there were opportunities for him to sign with other places that would have had a little easier path to the big leagues.

“I wanted to be able to go to one, [a] great team, and two, to a situation where I know I can help a team win,” Arencibia said. “And this is a team that wins, and I know I can be an asset.”

Arencibia had his best offensive season in 2011, hitting 23 homers and posting a .219/.282/.438 line. He started 2013 well, hitting 16 first-half homers, but finished the season poorly with a .194 average and 22 homers total. He was non-tendered at the end of the season and signed with Texas.

“Last season was a tough year, but a great learning experience for me,” Arencibia said. “I started off slow. So it was a good thing to be able to go down [to the Minors] and reset, go down for a month. You kind of look at yourself in a mirror and you say, ‘I was once [in 2010] MVP of this [Pacific Coast] League. Why am I back in it?’ It was something where I just kind of had to make adjustments and had to do things to further my career. I had too much ability to be where I was.

It was a huge learning experience. I was able to get going, get back [to the Majors], have success. So, then it was like something where I can still do damage, i can still help a team win. I can still do things on an every day basis to hep a team, whatever it may be. [New Orioles hitting coach Scott] Coolbaugh was another big part of my decision, he was with me for the month I was down. We had a good relationship. I figured that it was something that would be able to help me going into this season.”

*There are numerous position players already here, including Nolan Reimold who agreed to a Minor League deal this offseason.

“I never wanted to leave in the first place,” said Reimold who was claimed on waivers by Toronto during last season. “So obviously, I’m happy to be back. I just think that this will be the best place for me and I need to go out and show that I can stay healthy and play. I think it will all work out.”

Why did Reimold want to return to Baltimore?

“I guess there’s a lot of reasons that go into it, but I think the staff here, the management, everybody, I know them, I’m comfortable with them,” he said. “They really have the player’s best interest at heart. For me, staying healthy, I’m a big fan and advocate of the strength program and things that have been done here, so I think that would be a big thing too. It’s just a place where I feel comfortable and I feel a little sense of loyalty to the Orioles. If I’m going to have a career, this is where I want it to be.”

*Darren O’Day was among those who welcomed new additions to the family this winter, as the pitcher was carrying around his infant daughter this morning.

****

Zion Lutheran Church will hold its fifth annual baseball talk at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 23 in the church’s sanctuary, 2215 Brandywine Lane, York. This year’s event features: Fred Manfra, radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Baltimore Orioles; Mel Antonen, baseball writer for MASN and Sirius/XM talk show host; and Dan Connolly, Orioles/national baseball writer for The Baltimore Sun. The panelists will discuss the upcoming baseball season – including their thoughts on the Orioles and Phillies — and will answer questions from the audience. There is no admission fee, but a freewill offering will be taken to benefit the church’s youth attending the National Youth Gathering this July in Detroit. In addition, signed copies of Connolly’s soon-to-be-released book, “100 Things Orioles Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die,” will be available for purchase for $15 following the event. For more information, contact the church at 717-767-4673.

Fans invited to watch Spring Training workouts

Per a team release…

The first official spring training workout day for Orioles pitchers and catchers at Ed Smith Stadium will be held on Friday, February 20. Fans are invited to watch the team’s workouts on the back fields at the complex each day until March 4, when home games begin. There is no charge to attend, and free parking is available in the East Lot off of 12th Street and Tuttle Avenue.

Orioles pitchers and catchers will take the field at approximately 10:00 a.m. on Friday, February 20. The club will work out from approximately 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. each day, leading up to the first home game against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, March 4. The first full team workout will be held on Wednesday, February 25.

Tickets for the Orioles’ spring training home games are available atwww.orioles.com/spring and at the Ed Smith Stadium Box Office each day from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Orioles on the verge of signing Cabrera

The Orioles are on the verge of signing infielder Everth Cabrera to a one-year deal, MLB.com has confirmed. Cabrera, who has already taken his physical, will be part of the O’s 40-man roster and presents a speedy option that could alter how the Orioles break camp.

With 99 steals in the last three seasons, Cabrera has played predominantly shortstop over his Major League career though he has also played a dozen games at second base. While J.J. Hard is firmly entrenched at shortstop, Cabrera could vie for the second base job or the utility infielder role, making for an interesting competition with him, Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop.

He owns a career .248/.319/.333 line in six Major League seasons and could also be a leadoff option for the O’s, who are looking to fill the spot since losing Nick Markakis.

A former National League All-Star who was non-tendered by the Padres this winter, Cabrera doesn’t come without some drawbacks. Besides being a player implicated –and suspended– in the Biogenesis scandal, the 28-year-old is facing a pending misdemeanor charge for resisting arrest during a Sept. 3 incident.

On that day, Cabrera was arrested on the suspicion of driving under the influence for marijuana and was also cited for possession of the drug. If convicted he could face up to a year in jail. Cabrera has pleaded not guilty and the trial is set for mid-April.

The O’s, particularly under manager Buck Showalter, haven’t been afraid to take on players that come with baggage. Last season they added both Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young, who flourished in the clubhouse and on the field. They re-signed Young this winter.

Cabrera played in 90 games last season, twice going on the disabled list for hamstring issues.

Orioles announce 15 non-roster invitees

The Orioles announced their Spring Training roster on Tuesday morning, with 15 non-roster invitees expected in big league camp. Two of the most notable names are prospects Dariel Alvarez and Hunter Harvey, who was the club’s first round Draft pick in 2013.

Here’s the list:

PITCHERS
70 De La Rosa, Dane RHP
62 Harvey, Hunter RHP
34 Hendrickson, Mark LHP
52 Johnson, Steve RHP
75 Jones, Chris LHP
65 Roe, Chaz RHP
# CATCHERS
15 Arencibia, J.P. CA
60 Lavarnway, Ryan CA
74 Ward, Brian CA
# INFIELDERS
67 Almanzar, Michael INF
1 Janish, Paul INF
41 Parmelee, Chris INF
# OUTFIELDERS
79 Alvarez, Dariel OF
14 Reimold, Nolan OF
48 Tuiasosopo, Matt OF

Orioles notes on Gonzalez, Ohlman, etc.

The Orioles made a bunch of minor moves on Tuesday, agreeing to terms with right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, trading Steve Lombardozzi and Michael Ohlman and bringing back outfielder Nolan Reimold on a Minor League contract.

Gonzalez will get $3.275 million for 2015 and leaves the O’s with just two remaining arbitration eligibles in closer Zach Britton and Alejandro De Aza.

Lombardozzi was traded to the Pirates while Ohlman was dealt to the Cardinals, with both moves netting Baltimore cash considerations. Lombardozzi, 26, spent most of the season in Triple-A for the Orioles, who acquired him in a late spring trade from the Tigers. Ohlman, who had been designated for assignment by Baltimore, has yet to play above Double-A and is coming off a disappointing 2014 campaign in which he batted .236/.310/.318.

Reimold’s deal, which was first reported by MASNSports.com, includes an invite to Major League Spring Training. The 31-year-old has spent most of his big league career in Baltimore, the organization that originally drafted him, and was a waiver claim by Toronto in July. He was later claimed again by Arizona.

Tickets available for Babe’s Birthday Bash on Friday

There are still tickets available for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation’s annual Babe’s Birthday Bash this Friday, where former Atlanta Brave and Maryland-native Brian Jordan will receive the Babe Ruth Museum Community Service Award at the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards.

The evening will include unlimited ballpark inspired food and beverages; a silent auction; appearances by local professional and amateur athletes; free parking at Camden Yards; and admission to Sports Legends Museums’ galleries. Tickets to Babe’s Birthday Bash are $50 each for members of the Museum; $55 apiece for the general public when purchased in advance; and $60 each at-the-door on the night of the event. Ten or more tickets purchased together can be discounted at $45 each. Tickets are available at BabeRuthMuseum.org. For more information on the Bash, call 410-727-1539 ext. 3033.

Former Baltimore Oriole Mike Bordick and U.S. Olympic figure skater Kimmie Meissner have been added to the lineup for the event, which runs from 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

“We are pleased to welcome these special guests to Babe’s Birthday Bash,” said Mike Gibbons, Executive Director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation. “Each of them has been a great supporter of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, and we are excited they will be joining us as we celebrate the 120th anniversary of Ruth’s birth in Baltimore.”

In addition to Jordan, Bordick and Meissner, fans will have the chance to mingle with numerous Baltimore Colts legends, including: Bruce Laird, who spent 12-seasons in the NFL, primarily as a defensive back/strong safety for the Colts (1972-1981); Tom Matte, former Colts running back and Super Bowl V Champion (1961-1972); where he posted career stats of 4,646 rushing yards, 249 receptions for 2,869 yards, 1,367 yards returning kickoffs, and 57 touchdowns; fellow Colts teammate and Super Bowl V Champion, Rick Volk (1967-1975); and Stan White (1972-1979), who holds the single-season record for interceptions by a linebacker (8), and is still involved with Baltimore sports as a WBAL Radio broadcaster and Baltimore Ravens’ game-day color commentator.

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.

***

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.”

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