SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles made it through four days of their mini-camp. Manager Buck Showalter is hopping on a flight back to Dallas. Players are packing up their gear and heading home, though Dylan Bundy is renting a house in Sarasota and will stay here until FanFest on Feb. 1.
“At things like this, you read the players. That’s what I’ve always thought,” Showalter said. “I think it’s better here than in Baltimore. It just kind of gets everybody away. The weather is better. It also gives us a chance to dry run some things before spring training. We got what we wanted to get out of it and more.”
Pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti are flying to California tonight and will visit six or seven Orioles who are working out with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson, including Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Miguel Gonzalez. Showalter isn’t certain whether Wei-Yin Chen will be there.
Showalter doesn’t anticipate receiving the results of Manny Machado’s knee exam until late tonight, since it’s taking place on the West Coast. And we’re still waiting for official word on outfielder Tyler Colvin’s signing.
Nolan Reimold took batting practice outdoors today, the first time he’s seen live pitching since undergoing corrective surgery on his neck on July 23.
Reimold was in the same group as Delmon Young. He cleared the left field fence at least once, but many of the balls died on the warning track because of the wind.
“It felt good,” Reimold said said. “I feel a lot more comfortable. It’s definitely better than it was, way better than the start last year. And the biggest gains you make are when you start swinging every day, get all those little functional muscles that can build themselves up. I felt pretty good.
“It was good to get out there. Taking BP is fun. I wish the wind wasn’t blowing in 30 mph, but it was still good to get out there again. Getting in my stance is a lot more comfortable. Last year, I couldn’t really pick up a bat and be relaxed because my neck and my traps and my upper back were just all balled up. I remember Brady telling me, ‘Nolan, go up there and be as relaxed as you can.’ And I said, ‘Brady, I can’t. I physically can’t go up there and hold a bat and be relaxed.’ In that regard, it felt a lot better. When I was up there getting in my stance and swinging, it felt loose and fluid. Good.
“Even just from hitting in the cage yesterday and hitting today, it feels a lot better. It’s just a matter of repetitions, getting muscle memory back and working on getting your body in shape to swing a lot with those muscles.”
Henry Urrutia has put on about 20 pounds, taking his weight up to 200. He’s more muscular and is driving the ball in batting practice. He’s also improved his English to the point where he can conduct a short interview without an interpreter. He’s just more comfortable in this environment.
“This is the first time that he can take a breath,” Showalter said. “He knows what’s coming, he knows what’s ahead of him, he knows what’s going on here in the states. He’s in a good place. I just talked to him again. He’s happy. You can tell. It’s just there and I think you’re going to see it. I think he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the spring.
“I’ve always been impressed with Henry, especially with all the things that were thrown at him last year. He had a lot of things going on in his life for the first time. He handled that well and it’s graduated to what I was hoping it would. He’s in a good place. I’ve seen him really grasp how important his defense is going to be if he’s going to play here. Every chance he gets, you see him running around the outfield. He’s worked hard at it.”
Urrutia chose on his own to attend the mini-camp, making him the only non-catcher among position players on the 40-man roster who wasn’t recovering from an injury.
“It’s not like he’s going back to Cuba,” Showalter quipped. “OK, with that being said, he could be in Miami, he could be anywhere. He likes it here. He likes being here and he gets it. He’s in a good place. I wouldn’t be surprised...he might take off. He might be one of those guys that... This guys hasn’t had much failure. It’s not like he went out in the fall league and got the bat stuck up his (butt). He likes what he does. Some guys like being around the environment and the bells and whistles, but don’t like the other part. He likes the other part, too.”
Pitcher Kevin Gausman has gained 12 pounds, taking his weight up to 195.
“My gut on Kevin is that he’s going to be one of those guys who he’s not ever going to weigh 230-240,” Showalter said. “I like him just like he is or however he ends up being. He’s long legged.
“You see the body language, you see him walk around. You saw it with Tillman last year. You see it a little bit with Gaus. Even Dylan has a certain pace to him right now that he didn’t have. Mike Wright, from the first time I saw him (is different). It’s hard to put into words. Like I’ve said before, when you go into the locker room, there are times when you know you’ve got it going on. Sometimes you walk in and there’s a feeling that something’s not quite right. With those guys, there’s a body language you look for.
“With Eduardo (Rodriguez), last year we brought him in at 20-years old for one reason. It was (to put) his locker next to this guy, and now you see the seriousness on his face when he throws on the side. You see him not goofing around with anything. That’s why I wanted Hunter Harvey here and his dad. That’s why I wanted Parker Bridwell here.”
Earlier today, Showalter had a conference call with pitcher Alfredo Aceves that included Wallace and Chiti. Aceves will work out as a starter in spring training so the club can stretch him out, but his role will be determined later.
“He was good,” Showalter said. “You could tell he had some things he wanted to say as much as ask. It was good. It was interesting hearing his decision about why (he chose the Orioles) and who else was offering on him. He has three other pretty solid offers pretty close to ours and at least one in the American League East.
“He’ll come in here initially as a starter. He said he’d do whatever, but I think he was happy to here we’d go down that road to start with.”
Aceves and Young are seeking fresh starts after being embroiled in controversies in the past. Does Showalter have any concerns about a potential disruption of clubhouse chemistry?
“We do a thing where, I don’t know what other clubs do, but we do a background check,” he replied. “It’s actually on paper. Everything. It might go back to their high school days. I know Delmon’s dad was a Navy pilot. Just fact-finding. I don’t want to be surprised by anything.
“I think (maintaining chemistry) is not only my job, but our team’s job. We work very hard to develop a culture in the clubhouse here that polices itself. Peer pressure is very strong. I’m not naive. There’s a reason why they’re... I thought about it. But I look at it as, Dan (Duquette) and our people have a lot of confidence in the coaching staff and the players we have here. They’re talented young men. I look at it as the start of something good. But I’m not naive. But I think it’s my job and I look at it as a real confidence in me and the staff, and in our players.
“We’ve left ourselves a lot of wiggle room with players. I think we have a lot more flexible roster than we’ve had in the past, whether it be people with options or people who are not here on a major league roster who have a commitment. There’s a lot of people who we have walk-away points. They have to please us, or please their teammates more importantly, and show us they can fit into the culture we’re trying to have here, that you have to have to be successful.”
Note: The Orioles have hired Marco Gentile as vice president of corporate partnerships. In his new role, Gentile will oversee the corporate partnerships department, which includes new sponsorship advertising sales and partnership marketing.
Gentile rejoins the Orioles after spending the previous six and a half years with the Washington Capitals, most recently as senior director of corporate sponsorship sales.
OK, that’s it from me. I fully expect to be in the air when the Orioles confirm the Colvin signing or the results of Machado’s exam. My colleague, Steve Melewski, will be checking Twitter.