Though left-hander Zach Britton is determined to win a spot in the Orioles rotation in spring training, he won’t complain if he has to settle for a bullpen role. And since he’s out of minor league options, the possibility increases that he could be used as a long reliever and swingman.
Britton has made only two relief appearances in 48 major league games - one each in 2012 and 2013.
“I don’t mind pitching out of the bullpen,” he said. “I did it in September the last two years, so if that’s the role I’ve got to go into, then I’d rather be in the big leagues and get that experience than not.
“Obviously, I want to be a starter, but if I’ve got to earn my way back into the rotation, I’m game for that. I’m not in a situation where I can be picky. I’ve got to go out and pitch well wherever I get an opportunity, and if it’s not in the rotation, I’ll have to earn my way back. That’s the way I’ve got to look at it.”
Britton had his first workout Tuesday with Orioles vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson in Glendale, Calif. For the past few weeks, Britton had been working out at home with pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, since they live close to each other.
“Brady is pretty good at individualizing it a little bit,” Britton said. “Most of the time, especially this early in the offseason, you’re trying to get all of your strength back that you lost. Squats, pull-ups, a lot of running. When we get going, we’ll tinker more with baseball-specific stuff, incorporating a throwing program and things like that.”
Britton also worked out with Anderson last year, “but this year I should get more benefits out of it,” he said.
“These are different workouts than I’ve ever done before. Last year, I felt a lot was the learning phase of it. Now, I know how to do it the right way, and I think that’s going to benefit me more strength-wise.”
Jair Jurrjens, who offers a ringing endorsement of new pitching coach Dave Wallace, is trying to land a major league job after allowing four runs and nine hits in 7 1/3 innings in his only start with the Orioles.
Jurrjens is a free agent again after signing with the Tigers on July 24 and going 1-4 with a 5.49 ERA in seven starts at Triple-A Toledo. He underwent another surgery on his right knee in Vail, Colo., and apparently is drawing interest from several clubs.
Jurrjens also is exploring his options overseas, but the obvious preference is to latch on with a big league team. You know, the ol’ “catch lightning in a bottle” type of signing.
I mentioned yesterday that reliever Edgmer Escalona, signed to a one-year contract, faced the Orioles twice at Camden Yards and allowed two runs and two hits in 2 1/3 innings. Those were his last two appearances in the majors in 2013.
Chris Davis hit his 45th home run off Escalona, a long two-run shot to right-center field in the eighth inning of the Orioles’ 7-2 victory on Aug. 18.
The Orioles have added two bullpen candidates this week in Escalona and left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz. Could end up contributing in 2014. Could end up being two more guys who never reach Camden Yards and are quickly forgotten. But they’re on the 40-man roster, so it’s not quite the same as being tossed in the pile of minor league free agents with spring training invites.
As I’ve written, the Orioles potentially have two openings in the bullpen with Francisco Rodriguez hitting the free-agent market and T.J. McFarland no longer a Rule 5 pick. And the Orioles could move left-hander Brian Matusz into the rotation or to another club if they get a good offer. Another lefty, Troy Patton, could be a trade chip.
Lots of moving parts, as manager Buck Showalter says.
The Orioles didn’t add right-hander Oliver Drake (Navy) to the 40-man roster yesterday, leaving him exposed in the Rule 5 draft.
Will a team take a chance on him? Don’t bet against it.
Drake, who turns 27 in January, went 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA in 19 relief appearances at Double-A Bowie, with 19 hits, 13 walks and 38 strikeouts in 31 innings. He was limited to three starts with the Baysox in 2012 because of a shoulder injury that required surgery.
Drake, a 43rd-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, held left-handers to a .167 average and right-handers to a .176 average. The Orioles are taking a risk by leaving him off the 40-man, but if he’s selected, the odds still favor him being offered back to the organization.
The three players added to the 40-man had a long road to travel. Left-hander Tim Berry was a 50th-round pick. Catcher Michael Ohlman overcame a shoulder injury and had to earn the trust of the organization after a 50-game suspension in April 2012 for a second violation of baseball’s minor league drug program. Pitcher Eddie Gamboa may have saved his career by learning how to throw a knuckleball.
I’ve been sitting on the following press release for a few weeks. No wonder I’m sore. Anyway, if you’re interested in participating in the Orioles 2014 Dream Week in Sarasota, here you go:
Orioles fans of a variety of ages and abilities will enjoy a week filled with once-in-a-lifetime experiences at the team’s 2014 Dream Week. Held at the Orioles’ two-site complex in Sarasota, Fla.(Ed Smith Stadium and the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex) from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, 2014, Dream Week participants will receive full major league treatment, playing daily doubleheader intrasquad games and receiving instruction from former Orioles including Mike Boddicker, Don Buford, Rick Dempsey, Jim Gentile, Ron Hansen, Chris Hoiles, Rocky Johnson, Milt Pappas, Boog Powell and Don Stanhouse. In addition to on-field play, participants will enjoy luxurious beachfront accommodations on Lido Key in Sarasota; a personalized home uniform and road batting practice jersey; daily breakfast and lunch at the ballpark; evening social events throughout the week, including a Q&A and autograph session with former players in attendance; and a reunion game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore during the 2014 regular season.
Dream Week is open to men and women 30 or older. Fans of all skill and ability levels attend the camp each year, and are able to participate in as many or few of the games as they wish. There is no prerequisite of experience or physical ability required to attend. Other amenities provided during the week include a clubhouse locker, treatment by Orioles athletic trainers and laundry service by clubhouse attendants. Participants will play doubleheader games each day at the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park. The championship game will be played at Ed Smith Stadium. A highlight of the week includes a chance for campers to provide some payback for the 1971 and 1979 World Series, as they face off against the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Fantasy Camp participants.
Dream Week is $4,299 and includes roundtrip airfare from Baltimore to Tampa, ground transfers to and from the airport to the team hotel, and six-night, seven-day hotel accommodations (double occupancy, private rooms are available) at the Lido Beach Resort. Separate week and weekend packages are available for Dream Week guests.
Fans interested in participating in Dream Week should visit www.orioles.com/dreamweek, call 410-547-6063 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register or to receive more information.