New Orioles infielder Matt Antonelli dropped by MASN’s Hunt Valley studio this afternoon to tape an interview with me for “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report.” Then he dashed out the door and headed to the airport for his flight home to Boston.
Antonelli said he grew up a Red Sox fan, but he promised that he got over it about six years ago.
Antonelli passed his physical today and signed a major league deal that also gave him a spot on the 40-man roster.
So why the Orioles?
“I think there were a bunch of reasons,” he said. “I was looking for a place where I’d have a good opportunity to go, and the Orioles seemed to be a good fit for me. They were one of the first teams, actually, that called me and expressed interest. When you’re a player and you’re looking for someplace to go, you always want to go someplace where you’re wanted. From there, I just basically went out and did some research and talked to a lot of people. Everyone had great things to say about Baltimore. I thought I fit well, and now I’m here.”
It didn’t hurt that the Orioles offered him a major league deal.
“It’s always nice, but it wasn’t the No. 1 thing I was looking for,” he said. “I was basically looking for an opportunity. That definitely helps down the road, but I wanted to go someplace where I could kind of establish myself. I’ve been injured a little bit the past few years and I’m just trying to get back to being a productive major league player. That’s my goal, to get up there and help the team.
“Last year, I played a bunch of positions. I played second, short, third and the outfield, so there’s a bunch of different things I can do. I’m sure as we get a little closer to spring training, especially in spring training, it’ll be more detailed about exactly what I’ll do. But I’m open to doing anything that it takes to help the team.”
Antonelli spent 86 games with Triple-A Syracuse and four with Double-A Harrisburg this year, batting a combined .298/.390/.457 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs. He finished in the Top 10 of the International League in on-base percentage, but the Nationals didn’t promote him to the majors.
“I was hoping for one, but you can’t really control all that stuff,” he said. “I basically just tried to do as well as I could. I thought I improved in a lot of areas in my game. I thought I had a good year. But sometimes you have to have certain things fall your way, and they didn’t as far as getting a call-up. We’ll try again.”
Antonelli was the 17th-overall pick in the 2006 First Year Player Draft and made his debut with the Padres two years later, batting .193/.292/.281 in 21 games. That’s the extent of his big league experience.
“When you’re moving your way up there to the major leagues, especially when you’re younger, there’s always this thing that you never know if you can actually get there,” he said. “When you finally get there, you realize it’s just a baseball game and it’s something that I’ve done my whole life and that I can play here. Now it’s just my goal to get up there and have a long, successful career. It’s nice to say you got there, but I want to have a long career.”
Antonelli said his most natural positions are second and third. He played third at Wake Forest, then moved to second after being drafted.
One more note: The Orioles have agreed to terms on minor league deals with infielder Steve Tolleson and pitcher Miguel Socolovich. They haven’t officially signed, but that will happen shortly.
Tolleson, 28, batted a combined .275 with 27 doubles, nine homers, 55 RBIs and a .752 OPS in 123 games with Triple-A Sacramento and Tucson. The Twins drafted him in the fifth round in 2005 out of the University of South Carolina. His father, Wayne, spent parts of 10 seasons in the majors.
Steve Tolleson, who has played shortstop, second base, third base, left field and right field, batted .286 with three doubles, one homer and four RBIs in 49 at-bats with the Athletics in 2010.
Socolovich, 25, is from Caracas, Venezuela. He went 3-2 with a 3.94 ERA and one save in 29 games (two starts) with Triple-A Charlotte. He didn’t allow a hit or run in seven innings with Double-A Birmingham, walking two and striking out seven.