While wondering if Gilbert Arenas simply misunderstood what his coach meant by a morning shootaround...
I’ve got about six more weeks before I fly into the Sarasota airport with a look of confusion and angst on my face.
I don’t know how to fly a plane.
Actually, it’s because my comfort zone for spring training will be gone. I’ll feel lost for a while, not knowing the best routes to my hotel, the ballpark, a bar that’s still serving at 2 a.m.
It’s never too early for me to stress out. I’m not the type who waits until he’s actually down there.
Without knowing the final composition of the Orioles’ roster, I’ve already come up with five things, in no particular order, that need to be incorporated in their daily workout schedule. There are plenty more, but five is a good start.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Make sure every pitcher does a better job of holding runners
Matt Wieters became much more accurate with his throws as the season progressed, thanks in large part to his work with roving catching instructor Don Werner, but his success rate would improve if the runners weren’t halfway to second base before the pitcher released the ball.
This is a facet of the game that hasn’t gone ignored in past springs. I’m not breaking new ground here. But I’m placing special emphasis on it because Wieters can become a weapon behind the plate, not just to the left or right of it, if he has a little more help.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Teach Felix Pie how to steal bases
Pie has tremendous speed - which proves that being fast doesn’t automatically make you a threat on the bases. He finished the season with one steal in four attempts. Maybe he’s not getting a good read on the pitchers. Or it could simply be poor technique. Poor leads off first. A lack of aggression. Not enough fiber in his diet.
The Orioles haven’t announced their guest instructors for spring training, but someone who was adept at stealing bases would be a wise invite. And perhaps Brian Roberts could be encouraged to work with Pie and offer some tips.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Get Koji Uehara in better shape
The Orioles allowed Uehara to largely stay on his own schedule last spring, and work with his own personal trainer, figuring that he knew how to get ready for a season. It was a show of respect as much as anything. They opened the door to the Asian market and wanted Uehara to feel comfortable the minute he stepped through it. Quite admirable. But Uehara had hamstring and stamina issues. He was gassed removing his cap for the anthem.
It might be time to tweak the program.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Try to determine Josh Bell’s future as a switch-hitter
The Orioles have seen the splits. They know Bell is much more proficient from the left side. But they want their own people working with him before making a final decision. He’s not necessarily on the clock, but if he’s a candidate for a mid-season call-up, the Orioles will have to get a pretty solid read on him.
Keep him in the cage with hitting coach Terry Crowley. And it might not be a bad idea to give him some swings from the left side against left-handed pitching, just in case.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Move Justin Turner all over the field
Turner is a utility candidate, a true challenger to Robert Andino. We know he can play second base. Give him plenty of innings at shortstop and third base. Hit him fly balls in left field. The more positions he can fill, the more valuable he becomes to the Orioles.
Turner swings a pretty good bat. If he can back up Roberts, Cesar Izturis and Garrett Atkins, and help in the outfield in an emergency, he gives the Orioles greater roster flexibility. They don’t have a starting job for him, so he’ll need to be a super sub if he wants to stick in the majors.