ARLINGTON, Texas - The Rangers have left the field and it’s the Orioles’ turn to take batting practice.
Manager Buck Showalter met with the media this afternoon, sitting in a chair low enough to put him eye-level with the microphone.
“I know we’re underdogs, but...” he said.
“Maybe I’ll stand today.”
Showalter wanted to know the name of Secretariat’s jockey (that would be Ronnie Turcotte). Yes, he’s relaxed.
In one of those classic Showalter moments, he immediately pointed out that top pitching prospects Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy excelled today in instructional league. He’s still paying attention to every aspect of the organization. Nothing gets past him, even in the postseason.
Showalter gave some consideration to keeping infielder Steve Tolleson and outfielder Xavier Avery on the wild card roster, which will take on a different look if the Orioles advance to the Division Series. It took a “short conversation,” Showalter said, to omit starters Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Tillman, based on their innings and availability.
“I think everybody knows that can change very quickly. I hope we have the opportunity to look at it on the plane going back tonight,” he said.
“You’d like to be able to see somebody else’s roster before, but that’s not going to happen. But there were only one or two discussions, but a lot of it had to do with how things went in Tampa. We had it wired. We had a meeting the last day in Tampa, that morning, and nothing really changed on the input that Dan (Duquette) and I got from the coaches and scouts and things. We feel good about the chance we’re going to get with the roster that we have.
“It’s one game. Our approach is it’s sudden life, not sudden death. Something real good can happen. If you had told us at the end of last season that we’d have a chance to put a roster together for one game, we would have signed up for that in blood. And I’m sure Texas feels the same way. You grind like heck for seven, eight months for a chance to roll the dice in October, and that’s what we’re doing tonight.”
Omar Quintanilla stayed on the roster despite his virtual disappearance in September.
“There’s some versatility where Q’s concerned, a trust factor, with experience,” Showalter said. “Q gives us some versatility, especially at second base, in case we do some things with Ryan (Flaherty) and Robert (Andino). Q covers us there.
“You’ve always got to ask yourself, if J.J. (Hardy) breaks his wrist the first pitch he sees, what are you going to do? Q is probably one of our better backup shortstops. I’m sure people here in Texas know him. He’s a threat at the plate, too. Very smart guy. Gives us a good option.”
Showalter doesn’t like to compare teams that he’s managed, but it’s obvious that he has a real fondness for this year’s club.
“I think this is a team that has a lot in common,” he said. “They’ve had their nose bloodied together and they’ve gotten off the deck and said they aren’t going to take it anymore as a group. I would love to think that anybody as a coaching staff or anybody would love to think they have something in common with these guys, because it’s fun to watch them. It’s entertaining in a good way. And none of them have put themselves in that diva status. They just want to compete. They want to engage. They enjoy the competition together and feeding off the good and the bad.
“Sometimes, how you handle adversity is more important than how you handle success, but I’ve been real proud of how they’ve handled success, too, and the stuff that comes their way. They see how things have changed and the attention, more people in the clubhouse and different things going on. They’ve handled that well, too. That bodes well for us in the future.”
Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis stood behind the cage today for batting practice. They’re here to offer support, which is all they can do.
Markakis could return if the Orioles reach the World Series. Roberts’ only hope is to be ready for spring training.
Showalter feels bad for them, aware of all the losses they’ve endured and how much it would mean for them to be in tonight’s lineup.
“My heart really tugs at me every time I see them in the clubhouse,” Showalter said. “And Nick, no guy can drink more milk than Nick Markakis. He’s trying to heal a bone overnight. He’s got it all going on. I’ll tell you, it’s been a rallying cry in our clubhouse.
“If we could somehow get through this and get later into October, Nick has got a chance to play. I can’t tell you how special that would be to everybody.”