LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Not only did the Orioles lose 50 saves, their leadoff hitter and a couple of starters with the departures of Jim Johnson, Nate McLouth, Scott Feldman and - at least for now - free agent Jason Hammel, they also lost players deemed as good clubhouse guys and leaders.
It’s about more than statistics.
“You can’t put that in sabermetrics or whatever they’re calling it,” said manager Buck Showalter. “I know one thing, our clubhouse guys took a hit because they were some of our better tippers. Think about how it affects everybody. And on the road, too.
“We hope to replace them with guys that bring similar contributions other than playing the game. But there are some other guys who might step up a little bit with having a year under their belts.
“Let’s face it, chemistry comes from winning games, to start out with. You can start with good chemistry in the spring, but if you go 0-30 in April, I bet your chemistry isn’t real good. So, it runs hand in hand.
“I don’t apologize for spending a lot of time trying to fit that as part of the equation and evaluation. Same thing as everybody else tries to do. Sometimes, people can overpower the game physically talent-wise. You see some clubs do that. But our season’s so long, some other things get in the way of that sometimes.”
Wei-Yin Chen is expected to participate in the four-day pitchers’ mini-camp next month in Sarasota. The Orioles want to check on his knee, which may have hindered his performance toward the end of the season.
Chen underwent surgery in October to remove bone spurs from the knee.
“Possibly,” Showalter said. “He wouldn’t say that, but sometimes those things affect you mentally as much as physically, just knowing that it’s there.”
Showalter remains hopeful that left-hander Zach Britton, who’s out of minor league options, can emerge as Chris Tillman did in 2013.
“A lot of people think it’s more pressure, but I’ve seen through the years that when a guy’s out of options, Zach doesn’t have to worry about every time he pitches, ‘Are they going to send me out?’ ” Showalter said. “He knows that more than likely, he’s going to be pitching in the big leagues for somebody this year. Hopefully us.
“There should be a real peace about that coming into camp for the first time in a while because he gets some anxiety about it. I can see it.
“Tilly and I talked about it last year. I said, ‘Man, you’re at a great point where you don’t have to... that’s not an issue anymore. Go get them.’ And he took it in the right direction. And I think Zach’s got a chance to do that, too. He’s got a good hand. He can do some things with the baseball. It’s there for him. It’s up to him. He’s going to get a heck of an opportunity.”
Showalter was asked about his relationship with executive vice president Dan Duquette.
“Dan’s been good,” Showalter said. “He grinds it. I think a lot people miss that he laughs easily. We kid around a lot. Sometimes, you’ve got to laugh to keep from crying. It’s a tough business and a tough job. A lot of pressure, a lot of juggling of a lot of balls, and I think he has a healthy respect for what I do, and I do for what he does. It’s tough. There’s a fine line between being sympathetic and... We pep talk each other now and then, because it’s a challenge. But I respect the job he has to do.”