SARASOTA, Fla. - We’ve entered Day 3 of this mini-camp at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, and we’re still waiting for a lull.
You want notes? We’ve got piles of ‘em.
Delmon Young is expected here today after signing his minor league deal. He wants to do a meet-and-greet of sorts, and Buck Showalter already has a chair waiting for him in the manager’s office.
Showalter will put aside the press clippings and form his own opinion of Young, who’s expected to serve as the right-handed side of a platoon at designated hitter this season.
It might be a good idea to get Nolan Reimold’s opinion on it.
Reimold, who arrived in Sarasota last night and will be in the clubhouse this morning, figures to lose at-bats with Young on the roster. He could platoon with David Lough in left field. Heck, he could beat out Young. But it’s interesting that the Orioles signed a right-handed DH after stating their preference for a left-handed hitter.
Steve Pearce also may be wondering how Young’s arrival impacts him.
It might be a good idea to check on T.J. McFarland, who’s got his right knee wrapped after tweaking it last month during a workout. We didn’t know until yesterday that he was one of the walking wounded.
McFarland had the knee examined yesterday and Showalter didn’t seem concerned about it.
I enjoyed getting caught up with Cust, an Oriole for 27 games in 2003 when I covered the team for The Sun. You talk to him and you root for him to get back to the majors. It just may not be in Baltimore. We’ll see.
Cust is just looking for a shot. Anything can happen once he’s in camp.
If anyone predicted last month that the Orioles might have a DH platoon of Young and Cust, well, you’re wasting your talents on baseball. Aim higher.
The most impressive interview so far in mini-camp has been produced by 22-year-old left-hander Tim Berry. If the kid shows the same composure on the mound, he’s destined to be a 20-game winner.
Berry has an extremely pleasant personality, always quick with a smile, and offers thoughtful responses. He also happens to be an inspiring story, a former 50th-round pick in 2009 who made it to the 40-man roster.
“The 50th round was so long ago that I don’t even think about it anymore, but everybody brings it up,” Berry said with a laugh.
“That’s what we do,” I reminded him.
“Yeah,” Berry said, another smile creasing his face. “I mean, it’s cool, but that’s past me and now I’m just looking forward to spring training and this next season.”
The Orioles are looking forward to seeing how Berry builds on this past season, when he was 11-7 with a 3.85 ERA in 27 starts for Single-A Frederick. He also went 2-0 with a 1.84 ERA in seven games in the Arizona Fall League, with three runs allowed, 11 hits, three walks and 11 strikeouts over 14 2/3 innings.
“Obviously, I’m glad that they view me highly, but it’s kind of irrelevant,” he said. “If I can take care of what I need to take care of, and progress how I feel like I’m progressing, then it will work out. That’s really what I’m excited about more than anything. I can feel myself progressing, especially in the second half of last year and in the fall league. I feel like I’m taking steps. I’m more excited about that than what anybody else thinks how I’m doing.”
Berry was a 50th-round pick in number only. His talent warranted a higher selection, but he underwent ligament-reconstructive surgery on his left elbow before the draft.
“I was happy for the opportunity in 2009 that they still took me,” Berry said. “I thought I was going to college after I got hurt. It’s rewarding to myself mostly that I’m progressing how I thought I would progress. The time frame I wasn’t sure about, but I knew I had it in me to get better from that point. I’m glad I made that decision. Dave Walker took care of my arm and I’ve been healthy ever since, so it’s been good.”
Let’s pause here to appreciate Walker, the Orioles’ minor league medical coordinator who has been rehabbing Dylan Bundy’s right arm following ligament-reconstructive surgery. Bundy praised Walker this week for keeping him on the road to recovery, making it possible to set June 28 as a goal to pitch in a competitive game. Now, we’ve got Berry offering up his appreciation of Walker.
That’s two pitchers in two days of mini-camp.
Berry credits fastball command for producing better results last year, but where does it come from?
“That was a result of my process being better, what my mental state was on the mound,” he said. “That was a result of that mental game. You know what I mean? The fastball command and being able to change speeds with the changeup with that command, all of a sudden you’re in control of the at-bat. I felt like I was much more in control this year of what was happening, as opposed to years past where all of a sudden I’m 2-0 and 2-1, and I’m playing to their strengths. Fastball command is really the important thing, but that stems from the mental side.
“I have the kind of personality, especially when I was younger, that I need to be perfect. If I can hit that outside fastball once, why can’t I do it every time? But that’s not how it works. As I grew and as I started to understand and be a little easier on myself, I started to develop and be able to hit that more often, because I’m not putting more pressure on myself than I need to. It’s kind of like a relaxation and just do what I do. I can’t be my own biggest enemy, you know?”
See what I mean about thoughtful responses?
Berry could begin this season at Double-A Bowie. That would be a safe assumption.
“I try not to assume anything at this point because I’ve been surprised before,” he said, “but if I had to guess, that’s what I would say.”
That would put Berry a phone call and a short drive away from Camden Yards.
“That is how it works, but I need to be ready for that call, so that when I get that call, I’m going to stay,” Berry said. “That’s all I care about. I don’t know when it’s coming - this year, next year, 10 years from now - but I need to be ready when it happens.”
Showalter has noticed that Berry possesses a “fast arm,” which becomes evident when watching video of him. At first glance, he appears to have a short-armed delivery, but that’s not the case.
I noticed that Berry is wearing No. 75, which thrills him because that’s the same number worn by Barry Zito, his favorite pitcher growing up. I told Berry that Alan Mills, his pitching coach in the AFL, also wore 75 with the Orioles.
“I didn’t know that,” he said. “I love Alan Mills. My time in the fall league was the best six weeks I’ve had. Just soaking up what he was saying. He gave me a couple books to read. I think he’s extremely underrated as a coach.”