Notes on Ayala and Chavez

With most of the country focused on football today, I wanted to pass along a couple of Orioles notes and remind everyone that pitchers and catchers report in nine days.

Nine ... days.

I may need to start packing.

Reliever Luis Ayala will be in Sarasota, but the Orioles aren't sure whether he's going to leave for the World Baseball Classic.

Ayala is listed on Mexico's roster, and pitching coach Rick Adair is proceeding as though the veteran right-hander will eventually be marked absent. However, the Orioles would prefer that Ayala stayed in camp.

They're already going to lose center fielder Adam Jones (USA), reliever Pedro Strop (Dominican Republic), infielder Jonathan Schoop (Netherlands) and catchers Chris Robinson (Canada) and Allan de San Miguel (Australia). Jim Johnson (USA) and Miguel Gonzalez (Mexico) turned down offers.

Ayala had to undergo ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow on March 30, 2006 after suffering an injury on the last pitch of a WBC game. He didn't return to the majors until the Nationals called him up on June 20, 2007.

Ayala was hanging onto his career by a thread before posting a 2.09 ERA in 52 appearances with the Yankees in 2011, and he went 5-5 with a 2.64 ERA in 66 games with the Orioles last season after signing for $825,000. They picked up his $1 million option for 2013.

The Orioles can't prevent Ayala from pitching in the WBC. The decision lies with the players. But I'm sure he's been made aware of their preference.

The only advantage to Ayala and Strop leaving camp is it potentially creates more innings for relievers who may require a longer look from manager Buck Showalter. Thins out the herd.

Meanwhile, the Orioles view Zane Chavez, 26, as the possible everyday catcher at Double-A Bowie after signing him last week from the independent American Association.

Chavez, a 19th-round pick by the Royals in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, batted .339/.373/.498 with 23 doubles, four homers and 51 RBIs in 70 games with Grand Prairie and El Paso. He's regarded as a plus-defender behind the plate.

Chavez's manager at El Paso was Tim Johnson, the former Blue Jays skipper.

A big part of Chavez's appeal is that he bats from the left side. Orioles catchers in the system lean heavily to the right.

If Chavez does become the Baysox's regular catcher, the Orioles will have to figure out what to do with Robinson, de San Miguel, Caleb Joseph and Brian Ward. Triple-A Norfolk manager Ron Johnson doesn't need that many backstops.

OK, that's all I've got for now.

Ravens 24, Niners 20.

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