SARASOTA, Fla. - The weather here is insane today. The sun was shining when I walked off the back fields, but it started pouring while the media met with manager Buck Showalter. We could hear the rain pounding the roof. I returned to my laptop, and the rain had just about stopped. Maybe a few drops were falling. A minute later, the sky opened up again and players were getting drenched as they ran to their cars.
There are patches of blue sky, but one huge black cloud must be hovering over the complex.
(No need to make the obvious joke.)
Showalter said the cortisone injection in Tsuyoshi Wada’s left elbow already has yielded “positive results today compared to yesterday.”
Reliever Jason Berken tested his left hamstring today by running on the water treadmill. He continues to receive treatment and do stretching exercises and is getting closer to throwing again.
“There’s been good improvement,” he said.
Pitchers who threw live batting practice today - with hitters not swinging the bats - included Wei-Yin Chen, Armando Galarraga, Chris Tillman, Dylan Bundy, Pat Neshek, Oliver Drake, Steve Johnson and Miguel Socolovich.
“You’re focusing on what you need to do, whether it’s mechanically or physically,” Tillman said. “At the end, you get the feedback from hitters who see it day in and day out. It was good today.”
Showalter continues to be impressed by Chen, who definitely throws harder than Wada and looks stronger.
“He threw well. He’s been impressive,” Showalter said.
“He has a good look in his eyes. You can see why he’s had success. It was fun watching him throw with a hitter in there. He looks pretty comfortable.”
Instructors Chris Hoiles and Alan Mills might move over to Twin Lakes Park tomorrow to work with the minor leaguers in that camp. Mills was hired as short-season Single-A Aberdeen’s pitching coach this season. Hoiles could serve as a roving instructor.
The Orioles are gauging whether Hoiles is ready to make the full commitment, and they want to expose him to as many elements of the job as possible while he’s here. Go in with eyes wide open.
“I’ve been impressed with him,” Showalter said.
“Chris has something to bring, and it always means a little bit more to a guy who played most of his career here. Same way with Alan. There’s nobody more excited about being here than Alan Mills. I had Alan with the Yankees and he had a great persona about him. Alan’s got a chance to be a real good coach. He’s got a lot of attributes you look for. He’s got a great presence and he’s tough. As you well know, this guy isn’t going to want to hear about a hangnail up in Aberdeen. He gets the toughness part of it, but he’s also in a good place in his life where he wants to commit to this.”
Hoiles said he’s been impressed with all of the catchers in the major league camp. He said there isn’t a single one who doesn’t belong here.
John Hester had a humorous moment. Chen was instructed to pitch out, and Hester got his feet tangled as he simulated a throw to second. Hester ended up on the seat of his pants, much to the amusement of J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters, Taylor Teagarden and instructor Denny Hocking. Nick Johnson, who was “batting,” reached down and helped Hester to his feet.
The intrasquad games on Friday and Saturday are each expected to last nine innings. Showalter plans on covering the first six innings with pitchers here, and he’ll add some arms from the minor league camp to handle the rest.
Showalter on reliever Darren O’Day, who signed with the Orioles before Dan Duquette was hired as executive vice president of baseball operations: “There aren’t many people who can do what he can do when he’s healthy. We don’t have that guy. If he shows he’s healthy, he could be a contributor for us.”
O’Day has an option left and could begin the season at Triple-A Norfolk if he doesn’t break camp with the team. He’ll make the same salary no matter where he pitches. He doesn’t have a split contract.
O’Day is studying to be a doctor, and I think Dr. O’Day has a nice ring to it.
Showalter on Alfredo Simon, who’s out of options: “He’s doing well. He’s come in in better shape than I’ve seen him in the past, and he showed us some things last year when he got to us. I’d like to think he’s in a little bit different spot mentally. He’s kind of been a survivor if you think about how the organization originally acquired him (from the Mexican League) and some of the things he’s been through. Hopefully, he’d be the first to tell you it’s been self-inflicted. In some cases not.
“I don’t know how much he dwells on what he’s been through, but it’s kind of good in a way that he does. I think he’s a guy who really appreciates the opportunity that he has. I just hope he continues in that mindset.
“He’s got a lot of things working for him that he hasn’t had working for him in the past, some of the challenges that he’s faced, so that all bodes well for him. I just want the only thing that challenges him to be the competition, and not some of the other things that he’s had to deal with.”
Is Simon a late-inning power arm, a long man or a guy who can be used in a variety of roles?
“I think variety of roles,” Showalter replied. “We haven’t taken him out of the mix for potentially starting, but he’s a guy who’s shown at times that he can be successful at the end, and at times he can give you some needed length out of the bullpen and also start. I think everybody needs somebody like that. It’s just a matter of if we feel confident he’s going to be able to bring that.”
It’s possible that Simon and Pedro Strop, who’s also out of options, both make the team.
“You never can have enough of those guys,” Showalter said. “We’ve got a chance to have some guys who can make you swing and miss.”