SARASOTA, Fla. - A few minutes before today’s Nelson Cruz press conference, eight of his new teammates walked into the interview room and formed a line before the video cameras. Tommy Hunter found an empty chair and took a seat.
“Just kind of giving him a little bit of support,” Hardy said. “We all know him from playing against him or playing with him. I played with him in Milwaukee, half of this clubhouse played with him in Texas. He’s a good guy. He’s a friend of all of ours. So, it was just kind of a way, I guess, to show him that we want to welcome him here with open arms.
“It was good timing, for one. We were all just kind of sitting around in here. There’s a press conference? I’ll go sit in there. We would have all been there for (Ubaldo) Jimenez, too, but something was going on when he had his press conference. We heard about it, but I think we had to go do something. Otherwise, I think a lot of us would have been in there for his, too.”
Manager Buck Showalter joked how players were thrilled that Cruz kept his answers short and allowed the workout to start about 15 minutes earlier than anticipated.
“He already made some friends with the players,” Showalter quipped.
“Yeah, thanks Nellie,” Hardy said. “Good work.”
Showalter made sure his players knew about the press conference, a subtle way to nudge them into the room. As it turned out, they didn’t need any prodding.
Showalter looked in the back of the room and saw the players, confirming what he assumed would happen.
“My first thought was, ‘Yeah, I thought so. Doesn’t surprise me at all,’ ” he said. “Our guys are enthused about what could be, with Nelson and Ubaldo and even (Suk-min) Yoon here. It was their choice to be there.”
Cruz won’t play in today’s intrasquad game and Showalter doesn’t have a firm date for the outfielder’s debut.
“He just got here,” Showalter said. “I’m going to sit down and talk to him probably tomorrow. I don’t expect that you’ll see him in the game tomorrow unless he makes a heck of a case and tells me he’s been playing somewhere in pick-up games.”
Showalter said he’s unsure of the severity of Alexi Casilla’s hamstring injury and will know more about it on Wednesday.
“Casi’s been a real durable guy,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, it happened early and we caught it.”
Outfielder Quintin Berry’s back is much better today.
“He had a pretty good MRI yesterday,” Showalter said.
First baseman Chris Marrero remains shut down with an oblique injury.
“He’s coming,” Showalter said. “We’re going to be real cautious with that thing. First one he’s ever had, and when that happens, guys don’t know... He’s getting plenty of feedback from players saying, ‘Don’t go too fast.’ You think it’s all right. Unfortunately, the only way to test it is to swing.”
The Orioles will play an intrasquad game at Ed Smith Stadium today that’s closed to the public. Showalter is considering moving Thursday’s game onto the main field, as well, unless the outfield dries out on the Camden Yards replica field.
If that game is moved, it will be closed to the public.
“It’s still real soft in right field,” Showalter said.
Showalter still hasn’t received the one-page report he assigned to minor league outfielder Josh Hart on Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.
“He’s got 24 hours,” Showalter said. “I’ll give him until the end of the day.”
An e-mail from Hart, 19, won’t be accepted.
“We don’t do e-mail. It’s got to be on a piece of paper,” Showalter said.
“That’s a good reminder. I’ve got to get with Brian Graham and make sure (Hart) knew I wasn’t BSing.”
The Orioles will host the return of Tag Day on Saturday, March 8, from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Camden Yards.
Tag Day gives fans interested in purchasing either a full or partial Season Plan for the 2014 season the opportunity to “try out” their seats before they buy. Available seats will be tagged with pennants, and Orioles sales representatives will be stationed in each section to discuss season plan options and answer questions.
Purchasing a Season Plan represents the only way for fans to guarantee themselves access to opening day on Monday, March 31 against the Red Sox.
Orioles Season Plans are available in 81-game, 29-game, and 13-game packages. Season Plan Holders are exclusively entitled to Orange Carpet Benefits, including a significant discount on tickets and parking over single game prices, early entrance to the ballpark for batting practice, priority access to opening day, postseason and other special events.
Tickets for plans purchased at Tag Day will be printed immediately, allowing fans to take their tickets home with them. The Orioles Box Office will also be open for single game ticket purchases.
Free parking for Tag Day is available in Lot A. Fans should use the Home Plate Plaza entrance to the ballpark, located between dates D & E. For more information, call 1-888-848-BIRD or visit www.orioles.com.