Today’s attendance at FanFest is 15,000, the second-highest total behind last year’s 18,000. And more fans are filing into the building.
Nick Markakis is entering his final season before free agency unless the Orioles pick up his $17.5 million option for 2015. Brian Roberts already left, signing a one-year deal with the Yankees. Does Markakis think about how he’s in similar situation?
“That I’m going to play for the Yankees? No, not at all,” he quipped.
Thick beard, dry sense of humor.
“Like I said, it’s a business and anything can happen,” Markakis continued before heading to the main stage at FanFest. “We’ll just see how things play out.”
And not apply extra pressure on himself to put up big numbers in his contract year.
“Not at all,” he said. “I’m still going to have the same mindset and the same approach and try to be the same player that I always am, going out there every day. The main thing is to stay healthy and play 160-plus games.”
Markakis said he was “a little surprised” that Roberts left, “but at the same time not surprised.”
“This is a business and anything can happen,” he said. “Anybody can come and go at any given moment. Not too surprised.”
Markakis insists that the club is good enough to make the playoffs, “with the exception of a few pieces here and there that probably 90 percent of the teams are in the same situation as we are.”
“We have our main core back and that’s a big step to any team, getting the core back, a group of guys, and then piecing it in,” he said. “At this point in the year, a lot of teams are scrambling to fill in a couple holes here and there. I’m not too concerned about it. What we have in spring training is what we’re going to work with and go from there.”
Asked to compare his health now to the past few winters, Markakis replied, “That’s an easy question. A lot better than it has been the past two seasons. I’ve had nagging injuries and those are things you can’t avoid. To have three surgeries in nine months takes a lot. There was a lot that I was limited to do within those nine months. To get back in shape with a month or two in this business and be successful is hard to do. I like where I’m at right now. I’m comfortable and confident and ready for it to start.”
So when’s the last time Markakis used a razor?
“The game before last to end the season,” he replied.
Henry Urrutia will enter his first full spring training.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m working really hard all year. I hope this is my great year in the Orioles organization. I’m working, I’m working.
“My goal is to be on the 25-man roster and represent the Orioles this year.”
Urrutia has put on 20 lbs. and looks more muscular than last season.
“I’ve worked hard every day in the gym,” he said. “The work is really hard. Every day, two times in the gym. Hitting, running, everything. The only day off I have is Sunday.”
Urrutia didn’t rely on an interpreter for every question today, answering a few of them in English. He’s quickly become acclimated to life in the U.S.
“The Orioles have helped me in the process a lot with the transition and I feel really good to be part of this organization,” he said. “My English is continuing to get better, but it’s hard work, so I’ve got to continue to do it. I’m learning to listen and learn questions as they come in slowly.”
Steve Pearce also is competing for a spot on the roster as an extra outfielder and designated hitter. Manager Buck Showalter stated earlier than 11 outfielders will come to camp later this month.
“Competition is good for spring training,” Pearce said. “It’s not where I’ve never been before. I come into spring training competing every year. I know there’s nothing given to me. I still have to go out and earn it.”
Pearce was bothered by a sore wrist for most of the summer, ruining his season and leaving doubts whether the Orioles would tender him a contract.
“Health-wise I’m 100 percent, ready to go. I’m hitting every day and throwing and just trying to get in shape and get ready for spring training,” he said.
“It was frustrating. I had a great spring training and came into the season and started kind of slow, and then I started to get wrist problems. It was a frustrating year, but I’ll turn it around. There were some good things I did last year. It’s good to return this year and try to get back in there and do what I can do.”
The Orioles signed Pearce to a $850,000 contract for this season.
“The good thing is I got picked back up,” he said. “I like it here. I like being here and I’m glad they re-signed me. That’s where I stand right now.”
Pearce started hitting last month, and he’s heading to Sarasota next week.
“The wrist feels great,” he said. “I’m ready to go.”
Nolan Reimold also is ready to go after undergoing a corrective surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck.
“It’s a lot better than it’s been the last few years,” he said. “I had the surgery again but they did a procedure a little different and it healed faster. I was further along to start. I’m the healthiest and feel the best I have since it happened.
“I am ready to go right back in it. I’ve been doing some pretty tough workouts. I can do everything. I’ll listen to my body. It’s different once you get out there every single day, but I don’t imagine any setbacks or anything going wrong. I’ll be full-go once I get down there and get started.”
Reimold expressed his gratitude for the Orioles tendering him a contract, signing him for $1.025 million despite being limited to 56 games the past two seasons.
“I wasn’t worrying about it too much, but I’m definitely very happy they brought me back because I don’t want to go anywhere else,” he said. “I’m also very appreciative, too. There’s probably not too many teams and too many owners or front offices that, after a guy has two neck surgeries, somebody who’s not a super-established player or anything like that, they bring you back. I’m very appreciative to the organization. It’s one of the many things I can use for motivation, because I want to prove that the organization was right in giving me another shot.”
Asked whether he’s burdened by the belief that he’s down to his final chance with the Orioles, Reimold quipped, “I’ll be living and dying every pitch, every at-bat. It’s do or die.”
Clean shaven, dry sense of humor.
“It’s in the back of your head, but if you’re really thinking about it a lot, nothing good can come from that,” Reimold said. “It’s more, relax, play, have fun, blah blah, yada yada. That stuff.”
Dylan Bundy told reporters that he will play catch from 90 feet on Monday.