Talking renovations and Tillman

SARASOTA, Fla. - I took an extensive walk through Ed Smith Stadium, where the construction will continue right up to the home opener on March 1.

Most of the work should be completed by Feb. 21. Construction beyond the left field fence, including an elevated picnic perch that fans are going to love, will take a little longer.

The lawsuit delayed construction, but it also allowed for some late changes to the original plans, including raising the picnic area from ground level.

I walked through the suites behind home plate, which also are under construction. There will be 11 or 12 concession stands and a spacious retail store. No shortage of bathrooms, either.

This is basically Phase 1 of the renovations. More work will be done once the exhibition schedule is emptied. What you see in March won't be the finished product, but the changes from last spring will be dramatic. It's a completely different look.

Work on the clubhouse building, which also includes the weight room, should begin June 1. Plans also are being discussed for the transitional area between the back of the right field fence and the clubhouse.

As for the back fields, No. 4 is the exact dimensions of Camden Yards. And the half-field is synthetic turf.

New bleachers are being set up for fans to watch the workouts.

Meanwhile, it's pretty quiet around here, as most of the players who reported today have headed out. Michael Gonzalez just walked in at 3:19 p.m.

Chris Tillman said he's in the best shape since he played high school football. He worked out for the first time this winter at Athletes' Performance Institute in California and noted his improvement cardio-wise and strength-wise.

Tillman isn't in the best position to make the team, especially after the Orioles signed Justin Duchscherer. He'll also battle Zach Britton and Rick VandenHurk.

We assumed that Tillman would make the club last spring, and he lost out to David Hernandez.

Was that only a year ago?

"I'm in the same boat as last year," he said. "Maybe it's just a little more public now. But I think I put myself in a good spot and I'm really looking forward to it."

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