SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles annual mini-camp officially begins on Tuesday, but about a dozen players gathered on one of the practice fields at the Ed Smith Stadium complex this morning to participate in conditioning drills and do some throwing.
Five of the players were easy to identify - pitchers Tommy Hunter, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Mike Wright, and outfielder Henry Urrutia.
Bundy, recovering from ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, played catch with minor league medical coordinator Dave Walker from about 60 feet. He later ran sprints with Gausman.
Hunter did some running and tossed a football. Urrutia stayed in the outfield and shagged fly balls while everyone else headed inside to the weight room.
Catcher Matt Wieters, who lives in Sarasota, stopped by the complex to meet new bullpen coach Dom Chiti and visit with manager Buck Showalter and a few of his teammates. He recently purchased a second home and is in the process of moving, so he won’t return this week.
Wieters didn’t get a chance to meet new pitching coach Dave Wallace, but he was impressed with Chiti.
“He’s a baseball guy and I think that most baseball personalities jell pretty well together, because when you play in this game for a while, you have a lot of stories that relate to all generations and all types of players,” Wieters said.
Wieters said he’s had “the itch” for a while to get spring training started. Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13.
“I think all the other stories that go on in the news, they make you realize that you just want to play,” he said. “I don’t want to deal with that. All the offseason, it doesn’t matter. It’s what happens on the field that’s going to come down to it. As players, everything that happens off the field, you just want to get back and get ready to go.”
Wieters has been subjected to trade rumors, but is two years removed from free agency. His salary for 2014 hasn’t been determined, and the two sides will try to reach agreement and avoid arbitration.
“I am fortunate enough to have a great job playing for the Orioles right now,” he said. “I feel very privileged to be able to do what we do. I think for me it’s just being able to work and try to become the best baseball player that you can be.
“It (an extension) isn’t a big worry for me. I think in year’s past it’s taken a little more of my thoughts than this year. I’ve been able to have success in this game, and now I just want to be able to improve. The money is something...that’s why we hire agents and you have front office people that can work that stuff out. I’ve always considered myself a baseball player first and foremost and that’s what I try to concern myself with.”
Wieters said he isn’t concerned about the lack of a big move in the offseason.
“For me, I just want to get into the spring and get all the guys here. And once you get all the guys in the same room and realize everybody’s working toward the same goal, it all comes together,” he said.
“Buck’s great with getting us ready to go for opening day. Anybody who’s in this clubhouse, we’re going to welcome with open arms. And as long as everybody knows what goal they’re working toward, and that’s to be in it until the end, we’ll be fine.”