SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles will play intrasquad games on March 2 and 3, and they’ll probably add at least one more before breaking camp.
My guess is the off-day on March 19 will end up being a pretty busy day for the hard-working media. Same as last spring.
The Orioles will take live batting practice Sunday, though it’s mostly “tracking,” with hitters instructed not to swing. You’ll still get some guys hacking here and there, but it’s more like pitching practice.
The Orioles will use their newly renovated turf field for the first time on Sunday, but not until Mike Bordick and Bobby Dickerson try it out later today.
“They’ll be the sacrificial lambs,” manager Buck Showalter said.
“It’s definitely a huge upgrade from what it was last year. It’s outstanding.”
It’s the same surface as the fields used by the Blue Jays (Rogers Centre) and Rays (Tropicana Field), and that wasn’t done by accident.
Having a synthetic field allows the Orioles to practice on it shortly after a rainstorm. They also have tarps for the Camden Yards and Ed Smith Stadium fields.
“I don’t know if there’s anybody in spring training that has three fields they can get on 15 minutes after it rains,” Showalter said. “There should never be a reason why the Gulf Coast League team or us in spring training at some point during the day don’t have three fields.”
Showalter estimated that the Orioles will have to make “two to four moves” before breaking camp because they have so many players who are out of options.
Second baseman Brian Roberts felt good after yesterday’s workout. It sounds like a modest gain, but it’s significant to the Orioles.
Wilson Betemit has been taking most of his ground balls at third base, but he’ll also get a look at first base and maybe shortstop.
Showalter said the Orioles had a lot of competition for outfielder Endy Chavez over the winter.
“I don’t want to call him a fourth outfielder because we think he’s potentially a little better than that,” Showalter said. “There were a lot of people competing with us for Endy’s services. Those guys are so important over the course of a season. I use the correlation to SEC football. It’s that fifth or sixth game when offensive linemen and defensive linemen and linebackers go down, it’s their next line of defense that allows them to maintain a level of play that really separates them.”
Asked to characterize the Orioles’ closing situation, Showalter said, “We have good options. I like the options we have. We’ll see where we are with the health. As we get healthier and we feel like we’ve got some givens about where a guy is physically and once he crosses those hurdles, we’ll get a little more definitive about it. But I’ve got some ideas in the back of my mind.”
It still sounds like Jim Johnson, who throws off a regular mound Sunday, is the closer once the club is convinced that he’s healthy.
Reliever Jon Link has a sore hamstring.