Notes on Roberts, Balfour, Urrutia and the pitchers’ mini-camp

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla - Though the door supposedly is open for second baseman Brian Roberts to return to the Orioles in 2014, it doesn’t appear that the team has reached out to him since the season ended.

The Yankees need a second baseman, in case you missed that little piece of news, and apparently have spoken to Roberts’ agent, though there’s no indication that it’s anything serious.

For now, Ryan Flaherty appears to be the leading in-house candidate to start at second base for the Orioles on opening day.

The Orioles are preoccupied with finding a left-handed hitter and a starting pitcher.

Grant Balfour’s price needs to drop before the Orioles will consider him as their closer. Interest remains in John Axford.

Henry Urrutia was named to the Arizona Fall League’s 2013 Top Prospects team as a designated hitter. Urrutia ranked third in batting (.377) and fifth in slugging percentage (.551).

The New York Post is reporting that the Orioles are “looking hard” at Daniel Murphy, who’s played first base, second base, third base and left field with the Mets. He’s a career .290/.333/.424 hitter in five major league seasons.

Earlier today, manager Buck Showalter talked about the annual pitchers’ mini-camp that will be held Jan. 13-16. Part of the challenge is getting them to Sarasota.

“A lot of it is if you can get them over here,” he said. “Whether it’s (Wei-Yin) Chen. Check how his knee is. Whether it’s (Miguel) Gonzalez. Miguel’s going back to Mexico. (T.J.) McFarland’s back now, I understand. He had a really good winter ball in Venezuela and I wouldn’t mind seeing how Mac is. (Chris) Tillman’s coming off 200 innings. Get a feel for where he is. Get a look at all of them.”

Showalter paused and added, “Get a look at our closer.”

Reporters who formed a half-circle around his table began to smile.

“I just wanted to see if you all were listening,” he said.

Well played.

The camp was moved from Camden Yards because FanFest isn’t being held until Feb. 1 at the Convention Center.

“In the past, FanFest has been a lot earlier and so we just piggybacked it on that, but the problem is FanFest is so late this year, it wouldn’t give us enough window if there’s a problem with a pitcher or there’s something we discover to rectify it before spring training,” Showalter said. “If we have it Feb. 1 and two weeks later we’re at camp, we don’t have enough time.”

The Orioles can’t extend official invites to pitchers. They must submit a list to the league office, and the agents contact their clients.

The Orioles can bring up to 15 pre-arbitration pitchers, plus non-roster types.

“We’ve got some backups,” Showalter said. “If these guys can’t come or won’t come, we’ve got some other guys we’ll go to.

“We’ll have catchers. Michael Ohlman lives down there. We may ask him. Mostly pitchers. It’s as much for Dave (Wallace) and Dom (Chiti) to get their arms around them and start that relationship, so to speak, as it is to check on them physically.

“Some of them, Dom and Dave are going to go to them. There’s been talk about a trip to the West Coast where some of our guys are working out, so they don’t have to come. These two guys had a great idea. Instead of guys coming back and forth across the coast three times - once for the camp, once for FanFest and then for spring training - just have them to out there.”

The pitchers will throw once or twice during the four-day camp, “and we’ll get some physical looks at them with the trainers and strength and conditioning coaches and see where everybody is,” Showalter said.

Last winter, the Orioles signed Mark Hendrickson to a minor league contract with a spring invite after letting him audition at the camp.

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