Banks, Showalter and more

SARASOTA, Fla. - So much for another slow day.

Yesterday was pretty dead, but there have been nuggets of news today.

Let's start with Josh Banks.

Banks, who still lives in Severna Park, signed a minor league deal with the Orioles today after throwing at the Twin Lakes Park complex. He'll remain there, as I wrote earlier, but could be brought over to the Ed Smith Stadium complex at a later date.

"It's pretty surreal," he said. "I actually wore old Oriole uniforms when I played for the Oriolelanders. It's pretty surreal seeing a lot of the older guys. I saw Chris Hoiles and B.J. Surhoff. I watched all those guys when I was growing up. It'll be good to get around those guys and see them on a daily basis, hopefully."

Banks and Gavin Floyd played on those Oriolelanders teams managed by Dean Albany.

Zach Britton will play catch tomorrow and throw off flat ground on Thursday - 25 throws at 60 feet and 25 at 120 - before throwing a 20-25 pitch bullpen session on Friday. His second bullpen comes on Monday, "and we're going to reevaluate where we are with him on Tuesday after that," said pitching coach Rick Adair.

Britton will start out at the bottom of the mound to get a feel for the slope.

"If he stays healthy, with the progress he's made, and if he's throwing the ball well, he can definitely be ready to help us. But that's something that he'll determine from a health-standpoint and a performance-standpoint," Adair said.

"I personally wouldn't put him as behind," manager Buck Showalter said. "I look at behind as not an option to break with us, but right now if he stays on this plan, he's an option to break with us if he pitches enough to make our club. We hope to get to the point where it's just a pure what we're seeing and there's not a health issue there, and we think that has a chance of happening."

Showalter surprised us by announcing his starters for the first exhibition games on Monday - Alfredo Simon in Port Charlotte and Brian Matusz in Sarasota. We would have settled for the pitchers in the two intrasquad games.

This doesn't mean Simon or Matusz are the frontrunners to start the April 6 opener at Camden Yards. And this doesn't mean Simon no longer is a bullpen candidate.

Simon and Matusz could each go two innings. Most of the pitchers used in the intrasquad games will go one inning.

Tsuyoshi Wada's left elbow is feeling much better since he had fluid drained from it Sunday morning and received a cortisone injection.

"That's good, that's progressing," Showalter said.

The Orioles are positive that the Cubs will take Rule 5 pick Ryan Flaherty if he's offered back to them. The Cubs weren't happy that Flaherty was claimed.

Flaherty is a candidate for one of the two bench roles that figure to be available. Endy Chavez is an extra outfielder. Taylor Teagarden, if healthy, will be the backup catcher. That leaves two reserves.

Robert Andino would be a third backup if he isn't the starting second baseman. It all depends on Brian Roberts' status.

One of the reserves must be able to play shortstop. Showalter will be evaluating Flaherty, Matt Antonelli and Steve Tolleson.

Showalter talked about Jai Miller's chances of making the club as a spare outfielder.

"If you look at Chavez and Nick (Markakis) being left-handed bats, he's a guy who could fit in as an extra player," Showalter said. "He's also out of options. That's really what his niche is coming in. We've got to get our arms around him defensively and see what he is."

The following pitchers threw live batting practice today, with hitters allowed to swing: Simon, Jason Hammel, Jake Arrieta, Luis Ayala, Tommy Hunter, Kevin Gregg, Dana Eveland, Brad Bergesen, Darren O'Day, Matt Lindstrom, Pedro Strop, Troy Patton and Zach Phillips.

Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver is expected to visit camp this weekend.

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