One of the most memorable moments from my night at Sports Legends Museum, where I served as emcee for “An Evening With Buck Showalter,” is when the Orioles’ manager said that pitcher Brian Matusz looks to be in excellent condition.
The crowd let out a collective sigh of relief that almost fogged the windows.
Everyone understands Matusz’s importance to this club, and that includes Brady Anderson, who’s been training the young left-hander in California. Showalter and Anderson offered high praise for Matusz, who’s in Baltimore for the mini-camp at Camden Yards and Saturday’s FanFest at the Convention Center.
“We had a nice group in Irvine,” Matusz said, rattling off a list of names that included Tommy Hunter, Chris Tillman, Rick VandenHurk and Scott Beerer. “I’ve been working out there, focusing on power lifts and speed, and balancing between the two of them. I’m having a good time. It’s a good group. We’re just having fun as well as working hard.”
There’s no reason for me to rehash Matusz’s 2011 season. The numbers have been regurgitated enough times, and they leave a nasty aftertaste.
Matusz has been throwing since Dec. 1, mostly long-toss before engaging in his first bullpen session yesterday.
“That went well,” he said. “I’m just continuing the process.”
Matusz didn’t offer many specifics about present condition except to say that he’s feeling good and continues to work hard.
“That’s all I can do,” he said.
“The goal for me was to just get stronger, to be more powerful, faster and to be able to work out with a bunch of the guys. It’s nice to work out with teammates because we’re able to push each other and really get after it.”
Does he notice a big difference in himself?
“Absolutely. Big time,” he said. “Brady has a good program.”
Matusz could get squeezed out of the rotation because of all the additions made by executive vice president Dan Duquette, but he’s putting a positive spin on the situation.
“There are spots for everyone,” he said. “It’s great to have competition. Everyone will be competing. It should be fun for everyone to go into spring training knowing they have a chance to get a spot on the team. That’s really what it’s all about.
“Right now, my focus is just on preparing myself for spring training, and that’s the only thing in my mind right now. Get ready for spring training, get ready to compete and have fun with the guys.”
Since you’ve read this far, I’m asking that you check this link to learn more about Showalter’s charity, KidsPeace, which brought us all together last night.
Anderson isn’t all caught up in his title of special assistant to the executive vice president of baseball operations. He was fine working behind the scenes with no title.
“I could have gone on indefinitely,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was calling and asking for a title. Just the opposite. I was like, ‘I’m fine. Don’t worry, don’t worry.’ ‘What are we going to name you?’ ‘It doesn’t matter.’
“I was more reluctant just because, what does that matter? Why do I care? So I can get a business card? I don’t want a business card with my name on it.”
Anderson is grinning as he continues his thought.
“I’m happy I don’t have one,” he said. “Now I’m going to have to get one. I’m not very happy about it.”
Showalter mentioned last night that the Orioles haven’t offered Adam Jones to any team this winter, but they’ve gotten a bunch of calls about the center fielder. The Orioles don’t initiate the conversations. They do listen, and they come back with counter proposals that are rejected.
I couldn’t resist dropping Prince Fielder’s name into the discussion.
“Well, stranger things have happened,” Showalter said, smiling. Anything to goose the crowd.
Then he noted how he was glad that the Rangers signed Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, as if they won’t have enough cash left for Fielder. Meanwhile, plenty of industry types believe the Rangers will still make a run at Fielder.
Earlier this week, I wrote about former catcher Chris Hoiles’ interest in getting back into the organization. Well, he may be on the verge of landing a job.
Hoiles met with Showalter for more than an hour yesterday at the warehouse. Nothing is official because any hire must be approved at the upper levels of the organizational food chain, but Hoiles could wind up as an instructor at spring training, which would be a nice way of getting a foot and shin guard in the door.
Stay tuned for updates as they become available.
Don’t be surprised if at least one pitcher that the Orioles signed as a minor league free agent ends up in Japan. The door to the international market swings both ways.
More: According to this article in the Baltimore Business Journal, the Orioles have submitted a request to Major League Baseball to host the All-Star game in 2016.
The Mid-Summer Classic hasn’t been played in Baltimore since 1993.
And more: Baseball America’s Matt Eddy passed along more minor league signings by the Orioles. The list reads as follows:
RHP Winston Abreu, LHP Will Startup (re-signed), C Zach Booker (re-signed), 2B Travis Adair, 2B Tom DiBenedetto and OF Edgardo Baez
Abreu returns to the organization. Adair is the son of Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair.