Pregame interviews with Duquette and Showalter

TAMPA, Fla. - Executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter arrived at George M. Steinbrenner Field during the Orioles’ batting practice session, which included one ball launched by Mark Reynolds that slammed halfway up the scoreboard in left-center field.

Duquette said he’s had trade discussions with “a lot of teams.” Asked if anything is close, he replied, “Not really. Not really.”

“It’s an active market this time of the year,” he said.

But nothing’s close?

“Not really,” he replied.

The Orioles claimed infielder Zelous Wheeler off waivers from the Brewers earlier today and optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk.

“Wheeler’s good at controlling the strike zone and getting on base,” Duquette said. “He showed good extra-base power last year. In just 300 at-bats he had 30 extra-base hits. And he’s a good defensive third baseman. That’s his best position.

“He also has exceptional leadership ability and he was signed by the great Joe Mason, aka ‘Dragnet.’ Joe signed (Jonathan) Papelbon for us with the Red Sox, but he also signed some really good players with the New York Mets before that. So, the kid gives us good on-base capability and good defense. And I believe he’s developing power. He has power, and he’s learning how to use it.”

How will third base shake out at Norfolk with Josh Bell, Matt Antonelli and Steve Tolleson also on the roster?

“We’ll have to figure that out,” Duquette said. “This kid, who goes by ‘Z,’ can play third base and he’s also played shortstop and he’s played second. Milwaukee was using him in the outfield in their Triple-A game. He has some versatility.”

The Orioles designated left-hander Dana Eveland for assignment to make room for Wheeler on the 40-man roster. Duquette traded for Eveland at the Winter Meetings.

“He’s a qualified major leaguer,” Duquette said. “We’ll see how that shakes out.”

The Orioles might be able to trade Eveland. That would be the preference over losing him to a waiver claim. Otherwise, they’ll outright him to Norfolk.

“That’s a possibility,” Duquette said. “There are a few options. We’ll see. We’ll probably need a few days to resolve it.”

Showalter wrote out his lineup for Friday’s game against the Tigers in Sarasota and it includes shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielder Endy Chavez.

“Chavez is not real happy with me,” Showalter said. “He was planning on playing here, but we’ll give him one more day.”

Wilson Betemit also will be in the lineup Friday. Showalter wanted to “freshen him up a little.”

Showalter also said Alfredo Simon and Tsuyoshi Wada threw bullpen sessions in Sarasota today, and both pitchers “felt good.”

Wada will make one more start this spring, either on Saturday, Sunday or Monday. It could be a Grapefruit League game or a minor league game. The plan either way is for Wada to throw 75-80 pitches.

“If he can get to 80, then you know he’ll be fine for the season,” Showalter said.

Asked about the decision to designate Eveland, Showalter said, “We just didn’t feel like he was going to make our club out of the spring, and we had good reports on Wheeler. We need to start paring down a little bit. We’ll see what happens. A lot of things can happen between now and the time when the designation term is up.”

Asked about Wheeler, Showalter said, “We had good reports on him, from some people who are very familiar with him. Good athlete, played a lot of positions, high walk totals. We had a scout watch him yesterday, just to verify some things. We like him. He’s got skills to play a lot of places. Efficient hitter. He’s a good addition. It’s a good (40-man) roster exchange, hopefully.

“We talked a lot in the offseason about just trying to get a little better in each spot on the 40-man roster.”

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