Springing ahead to Sarasota

And so it begins.

I’m heading to the airport for my flight to Tampa and the hour-long drive into Sarasota. The Ed Smith Stadium complex is closed to the media today, which I discovered after booking an 8:20 a.m. flight. Upon further review, I probably could have stayed in bed a little longer.

Pitchers and catchers report Tuesday, with their first workout the following day. Position players are due Friday.

I’ve been asked many times, by fans and hosts of various radio/television shows, for my opinion on the most interesting storylines in camp. I always begin with the rotation and who will emerge as the fifth starter. Not necessarily the No. 5 starter, but the one who joins Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman.

Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter are in for quite a fight. So is Jair Jurrjens if he passes his physical. Should be good stuff.

I also want to know who grabs the last bullpen spot after Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day, Luis Ayala, Troy Patton and Matusz (if he doesn’t claim a starting job.) Hunter is a logical candidate because he’s out of options and can blow away hitters for an inning or two, or provide length if a starter is knocked out early. However, the Orioles may need to stash Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland in the ‘pen.

What about second base? Can Brian Roberts make it through camp and claim the starting job? If not, does Alexi Casilla get the start on opening day, or does Ryan Flaherty beat him out?

Chris Davis is going to be under a microscope at first base. I feel sorry for him if one ground ball scoots past him or one throw from across the infield eludes his glove.

“When I left Texas, I was known as a very good defender at first base, and that’s something I want to restore, not only with my teammates and our organization, but with our fans, as well,” Davis said on Saturday during WBAL Radio’s “Hot Stove Baseball” show. “I feel like I kind of got a bad name as a defender last year and I think it will be nice to be an everyday guy and have one position to focus on and really be able to lock it down.

“It’s almost like when guys go through slumps at the plate. It’s a dreaded word to use in the baseball community, but it’s true. You can go through defensive slumps the same way as at the plate, and that’s the thing that happened to me. I missed a few throws, gimme throws. I’m not ashamed to talk about it. I’m not shying away from the fact that there were some balls that I looked really bad on and it was embarrassing at the time.

“You can get in a funk, a slump, and it gets in your head a little and it spirals from there. About the time that I felt like things were kind of turning the corner, we had the injury to Nolan (Reimold) and I had to go to the outfield and do different things and start DHing.

“As long as the team is winning and I’m the everyday first baseman, I’ll be happy.”

Davis has been working out at first base at an early camp in Sarasota.

“I’ve done a lot more infield work, infield drills,” he said. “It was a routine I had when I was with Texas that I really liked and really worked well for me that I got away from last year, and I think that’s the main reason I struggled a little bit.

“You all talk about the fact that I’m going back to first base. I never thought I’d be playing the outfield and doing the things I did last year. I always thought of myself as a first baseman. I’ve been out here almost two weeks now and I feel comfortable there. It was just one of those things last year where I got in a funk and couldn’t get out of it. I have all the confidence in the world in my defensive skills.”

It also will be interesting to see whether executive vice president Dan Duquette parts with a few of his young pitchers as spring training winds down and teams come calling again.

Anyway, let me know whether you’ll be in Sarasota. If so, give me a shout. And I’ll check in later today after I get settled.

Let the (exhibition) games begin. After the workouts, of course.

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