Yesterday proved to be one of the busiest days of the offseason, with the press conference for executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter followed by a stop inside the Orioles’ clubhouse to interview players taking part in the minicamp, pitcher Miguel Gonzalez confirming that he wouldn’t pitch for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, rosters being announced for the WBC and news that second baseman Brian Roberts underwent sports hernia surgery last month.
I half expected Lance Armstrong to pedal through the clubhouse or my imaginary girlfriend to show up and accuse me of cheating - which would have bonded me with Armstrong.
We may receive word this afternoon of more players agreeing to terms on 2013 contracts before today’s deadline. Again, it’s important to note that these players are under team control. It’s just a matter of determining their salaries, which would interest me a lot more if I had to pay them.
The local media got to meet infielder Danny Valencia yesterday. He’s at Camden Yards for the minicamp and Saturday’s FanFest. Great hair, if you care about that sort of thing. He’ll give Nate McLouth and Chris Davis a run for their money.
Duquette keeps bringing up Valencia’s name as a possibility to share DH duties with Wilson Betemit. Betemit is much better from the left side, Valencia from the right side.
“I’m just going to try to make a good impression and show them that I can help this team win,” Valencia said. “Everybody’s goal going into spring training, obviously, is to try to make the team, so I’m going to go there and show that I belong and can help, and see what happens from there.”
How can he help the team?
“My versatility,” Valencia said. “I can play third, first base. I’ve had success against left-handed pitching. I feel like I can do a bunch of different little things, and hopefully they’ll see the same thing.”
The Orioles purchased Valencia, 28, from the Boston Red Sox on Nov. 28.
“I knew the whole Boston thing was, I never felt that was going to be a permanent place for me, to be honest, when I was there,” he said. “I’m happy that I’m here. I’m excited to be here. That’s for sure.”
Valencia paid attention to the Orioles from the opposite dugout.
“Playing against them, it always seemed like Buck put a lot of the guys in a good position to succeed, and I think that’s what you can admire most and appreciate the most as a player, being put in a position where you have the best opportunity to do well,” he said. “I think it’s going to be pretty cool.”
Betemit worked out yesterday and said his right wrist no longer bothers him. He’s pain-free and ready to play.
“Everything feels good,” he said. “I rested in the Dominican and I feel really good right now.”
Betemit is prepared for whatever Showalter throws at him.
“I know my role,” he said. “I can play everywhere. I can play third base, first base, outfield. Wherever they put me, I’m fine. I’m coming in to help the team and we’ll see what happens.”
Veteran left-hander Mark Hendrickson wanted to make sure that reporters knew he never officially retired from baseball. He just couldn’t find a job.
He’s not ready to quit, which explains why he was willing to change his delivery - throwing with a sidearm motion - in hopes of landing a job. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011, and he spent last summer in an amateur men’s league near his York, Pa., home.
“I wasn’t away from the game. I just didn’t get paid to do it,” Hendrickson said.
“Nothing panned out. It was difficult. I think it was maybe one foot in and one foot out of what I wanted to do. At the end of the year, when nobody called, I still felt like I had something left. I started to make some phone calls and it started with Buck, what we talked about in 2011, about just changing and trying to create some excitement and different looks for what I can offer.
“Surprisingly, I’m very comfortable. I tinkered with it a little bit last year, maybe in June, and it was kind of all over the place. And I figured, coming into a new year, a new spring, start early and buy into it mentally. I started throwing the first of December and I picked it up rather quickly. Even yesterday, throwing in the ‘pen, working with Rick (Adair), a couple things here and there, tinkered with it, and I picked it up. I said, ‘Hey, a 38-year-old mind but a 20-year-old sponge right now,’ as far as open and willing to say, ‘Hey, teach me whatever. Let’s work at this and see how good I can be doing something a little different.’”
Hendrickson said his old style had pretty much run its course, and he had to be open to change.
“Ultimately, if you want to be in this game a long time, you have to adapt,” he said. “For me, it was just a matter of saying, ‘Hey, let’s buy into it, see how good I can be.’ I think I was encouraged by the excitement I had and the excitement Rick had.”
Hendrickson was still deciding whether to throw today. First, he had to sit down with Showalter and Adair.
“I’m just looking for an opportunity,” he said. “It’s plain and simple, and I’ll go from there.”