Manager Buck Showalter stays in contact with everyone on his roster throughout the winter. Each time I bring up a name, he’ll mention how he recently spoke to that individual over the phone.
I’m told that he saw Alfredo Simon in the Dominican Republic over the weekend. I’m not sure if that qualifies as a random sighting, but I assumed that Simon was staying in the U.S.
Showalter was asked whether he believes the young pitchers can step up next season if the Orioles focus more on filling holes rather than making a flashy acquisition.
“I think that’s the normal process,” he replied. “I’ve talked a lot about not cheating the process. You look at the dynamics of a lot of young pitchers, there’s a process you go through. Hopefully, we’ve got some of those times behind us. There will be some other bumps along the way, but I think they’re all in position to take the next step.
“The baseball world will tell you if you’ve got five or six, you’re lucky if two or three really bite and are part of it. And I’ll take those numbers. Jake and Zach and Brian Matusz, a lot of our guys - (Tommy) Hunter - they’re all in position where if you look at their careers and what they’ve been exposed to and the way it’s supposed to work, they’re in a position to make a step. We’ll see. And the world will tell you that you’re lucky if half of them do that. But they’re not all robots, either.
“I’m focused on what’s within, and if something else shows up, then I’ll look that, too, obviously.”
Showalter is encouraged by Matusz, who’s having “a great offseason” after going 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA and spending time on the disabled list and in Triple-A.
Was 2011 an aberration?
“I’m not naÃƒÂ¯ve. There’s a lot of factors that figured into it, but the great thing about where he is, he starts with a clean slate,” Showalter said.
“I’ve seen the good and I’ve seen the challenges that he’s had, and I think his offseason has been a whole different approach from what happened last year, and you can tell he’s very focused about getting back on track. I’ve been impressed with his offseason. There’s six or seven guys out there (Arizona) working together. I know (Chris) Tillman’s out there. Tommy Hunter. I know (Matt) Hobgood’s out there with them.”
Do the Orioles need a veteran anchor for the rotation?
“I feel like we kind of have that a little bit with Jeremy, but at the same time, I’m not a big believer in that,” Showalter replied. “Sometimes, that guy can be the bad cop, too. They come out of the police academy and they show them all the bad shortcuts that catch up with them. I’m not a big believer that you have to have this guy who shows them the way. Sooner or later, these guys are going to have to stand on their own two feet, and you better make sure you’ve got the right guy setting examples, too. I’d rather them stand on their own two feet and be who they are.
“If somebody else shows up and Dan (Duquette) says we’ve made a trade or signed somebody, then we’ll see how it fits. I can tell you this: It’s going to be competitive in the spring and if these guys don’t realize that, it won’t bode well for them.”