NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Orioles manager Buck Showalter isn’t antsy about the club’s failure to make a trade at the Winter Meetings. As he said, it’s “just the opposite.”
“We value our players,” he said. “If someone doesn’t value them the way we do, then we keep them. I’m the field manager, and I’m about not just the 40-man roster, but everybody. I’ve talked to four or five of our players since we’ve been here, just checking in on them, and I’m trying to stay focused on that. I like our team.
“I listen, talk to Dan (Duquette). We’re in the same room, all of us, 10 or 12 people, and kicking a lot of things around. But we value our players. Like I said many times, the greatest thing you can do is know your own. If someone values ours as much as the guy that we might think about acquiring, then you’ve got them. If not, you hold on to them.
“It’s not (antsy) at all. From what has been out there, I’m real good we didn’t do it.”
Showalter responded to a question about a “different” vibe surrounding the team this winter by noticing how many additional media members were attending today’s session.
“There’s more people here. It was quiet last year,” he said.
“I think probably after Christmas you get into that ‘what have you done for me lately’ role,” Showalter said. “It’s OK. I’m looking forward to going to spring training, which will mean that (his daughter’s) wedding’s over, more than anything.
“I think everybody, as you can tell talking to our players, are really close to that recharge my battery season. We’ve got a lot of things going on with our players. Flaherty and Strop, just looking at what they were doing over in the Dominican. I’m really proud with where everyone is in the offseason. Everyone is very attentive to maintaining the things they established last year. A lot of hard work going on right now.”
Showalter spoke to Chris Davis about the possibility of him playing first base.
“I told him he was going to get an opportunity potentially,” Showalter said, grinning as reporters realized he wasn’t going to make a full commitment in early December.
“I talked to Chris. I told him one of the reasons why ... we’re waiting to see what happens with Mark, too. We’re still hopeful we can bring Mark back and make up for our club. But I told him that one of the reasons I got my knees done was to work with him some.
“I think Chris is capable of being an above-average defender at a lot of places. He’s very athletic for a big, strong guy. And I think the big thing is he wants to be a good defender. He doesn’t want to be in the DH spot unless that’s the way it best dictates our lineup that night. So he’s got a lot of want-to with the defensive part of it and not the pitching part.”
Showalter was asked whether he’s confident that his players are ready to take the next step after reaching the playoffs this year.
“Trusting the people that we have like I do and knowing their makeup and talking to them a lot this offseason, there’s a pretty good fire there that’s been ignited, but so has it in different places, and that’s why it’s so gratifying, if you can do some things like we were able to do last year. But no one was satisfied with that, he said.
“There wasn’t some celebration after Game 5 against the Yankees. We felt there was an opportunity we let slip away, and things you have to do to grind to get to that opportunity, but you get a taste of it. Guys like Manny Machado, it reminds me, when we took Jeter around and exposed him to the playoffs, even though he wasn’t eligible, soak that in. You wonder, you hope that really means a lot to their career as they go forward. Derek used to say, ‘That’s just where I thought we were every year in October. Is there any other place to be?’ And there was a different look in a lot of our guys’ eyes at that time of year. Now that they’ve got a taste of it, I feel real confident that they’ll continue to pay the price to do the things it takes to get there.”
The Orioles could announce the hiring of a new third base coach at the end of the week. Showalter will fly into Baltimore and sit down with executive vice president Dan Duquette.
“I’ve got the list pared down pretty good,” Showalter said. “I feel confident in them. We’ll see. I’d really like to, but I’m not going to do it hastily and not feel good about it. But there’s a lot of good candidates. I’d like to do it just because ... like I got a name yesterday, another great name.”
DeMarlo Hale, who vacated the position to accept a job as Toronto’s bench coach, offered a suggestion.
“I thought, ‘If you’d just stayed, we wouldn’t have that problem,’” Showalter said, smiling.
Brian Matusz will work out as a starter in spring training, with his role to be determined later.
“Brian will start out as a starter, which allows him to go into the bullpen, if so,” Showalter said. “He’s going to get an opportunity. He had some offseason surgery on a hernia that had been bothering him. Pretty minor, but he’s doing great. Full activity. He’s out there with Brady Anderson, as are about eight other guys working hard. I know he’s out there with Chen.”
If given the choice, Showalter would prefer being able to rotate his designated hitter instead of clogging the spot with one player.
“I’d rather be able to move it around, which allowed us to keep people healthy last year,” he said. “We really liked it because of Chris’ versatility. Chris could play right field for us and left field. He’s capable of a lot better at first base. I really feel that in my heart, and third base for that matter.
“But I’m hoping the people that will be DHing this year are capable of playing other places too and not having to drop off defensively. Nolan is one of those guys. Nolan is doing great. I’m really excited about where he is because I think he could be a great contributing force. Just getting guys like him and Wada, we haven’t had him all year. He’s doing great.
“I know that’s kind of under the radar. We have a chance to get a good pitcher a lot sooner than some people think. I’m not going to say the start of the season until we get down to spring. I think he’s going to be healthy and ready to go earlier than people think. He showed it to us once or twice in the spring why he was so coveted, but we knew something was wrong. Something wasn’t quite right with him. He showed it to us over in Orlando.
“We’ve got nothing but rave reviews on his work habits. The doctor’s real happy with the surgery. He’s got a chance to really give us a shot in the arm.”
Asked about which players he could lose in spring training to the World Baseball Classic, Showalter replied, “That’s an ongoing thing. I think the only guy I feel like I know we’re going to lose is non-roster catcher San Miguel to Australia. And we’re going to lose Robinson to Canada. Those are two non-roster catchers I’ve heard that they’ve asked for. Looks like Strop is going to be on the Dominican team. Am I breaking something here? Oh, well.
“I think Chen’s still considering. Johnson, I think he’s been asked, but with some of the things that went on last year early in the spring, I don’t think he’s going to go.”
Johnson was slowed by a sore back. He doesn’t need to be pitching competitively that early in the spring.
Showalter is hoping that Nate McLouth, whose representative met with Duquette this afternoon, re-signs with the Orioles.
“We have plans in place in case he doesn’t,” Showalter said. “Biggest one is Nolan. We’d like to have Nolan and Nate playing and healthy, but you have to have contingency things set up in case it doesn’t happen.
“You value a player a certain way, and all of a sudden somebody comes in and values him completely different the way you do, you have to have the ability to say ‘no.’ I think Nate understands that as much as we’d like him back, he has to do what’s best for him and his family, just like we have to do what’s best for the Baltimore Orioles.”