More chatter and notes from Sarasota

SARASOTA, Fla. - The biggest news to come out of Orioles camp today involved reliever Kelvin De La Cruz's hamstring and a waiver claim on utility infielder Jimmy Paredes.

Not much going on here at the moment.

Miguel Gonzalez cut short his workout because of back spasms, but it's not considered serious. He's already left the complex for the day.

"We decided not to take any chances," said manager Buck Showalter. "I'm not alarmed at this point. He told Richie (Bancells) that his bed has a soft bottom and it's been bothering him for two or three days."

We had a Suk-min Yoon sighting, which provided a bit of a rush for the beat crew. He looks a lot like his selfie.

Yoon was here and then he was gone. Like everyone else, he's waiting for the Orioles to confirm the results of his physical and Monday's press conference.

De La Cruz said he injured the hamstring about a month ago.

"Everything is fine," he said. "We were working here last week to get it better. Now it's really good. In two days, I'll be on the hill normally. I threw on flat ground today to see how everything goes and everything looks pretty good."

De La Cruz, a left-hander who's on the 40-man roster, kept changing his arm slot during his flat-mound session.

"It helped me a lot last year when I was with the Dodgers and it's really effective for me, for a lefty, especially," he said.

De La Cruz said he can throw from two different arm angles.

"When you start getting old, you start using some tricks," he said.

The Orioles just confirmed the Paredes waiver claim. He batted .287/.345/.462 with 16 stolen bases in 86 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City last season.

Various pitchers in camp have thrown off a side mound with strings placed at home plate that are designed to improve command. Zach Britton took his turn today with pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti.

showalter-duquette-tall.jpg"I know (Kevin) Gausman has thrown over there," Showalter said. "We've probably had just about everybody over there. They spent a lot of time putting that up. That was a lot of work on Dom and Dave's part. Dom should perfect that or sell it, take it on 'Shark Tank.' "

Britton explained that there are two strings with a moveable strike zone inside.

"Dave and Dom wanted me to go over there and focus on commanding my sinker," Britton said. "It's more of a visual. Instead of throwing at the catcher's glove, you can pick out the little target. It's not about throwing to the glove, it's about picking out spots. It's more of a visual aid and something we're going to do.

"I can see progress with being able to make an adjustment with the command of my sinker. It's something we're going to hammer out this spring and make sure that, by April, that command is where I want it to be."

Britton has used the strings for his last two bullpens.

"It's not going to be something we do all year long," he said. "It's a spring training tool right now to get my command where I want it to be, and once I feel comfortable enough with where my command is, I don't think I need that. But right now it's a tool to get my command back."

Like so many of the other pitchers, Britton has enjoyed working with Wallace and Chiti.

"They're great, really laid back," Britton said. "They let you do your thing. You could go out there and throw 40 pitches and they won't way a word to you. It's not a bad thing. They kind of let you do your thing. Then, after the bullpen is done, you chat with them about what they saw. But they're pretty simple. They're not trying to reinvent the wheel. They've got their philosophies, fastball command. That's one of the reasons why I'm over there with the strings doing that."

In the past, the Orioles have viewed Britton strictly as a starter. That perception could change, however, now that he's out of options.

"We're not there yet," Showalter said. "He's coming to camp competing for a starter's job. Sure, if we get down to the end, if you've got somebody you really like and you've got a choice between relieving him or running him through waivers, that's a pretty easy question to answer. But I'm viewing him completely as a starter right now. There certainly are some dynamics that could change that moving forward."

Showalter has noticed that Chris Tillman is taking on more of a leadership role.

"Even the way he takes his workday now," Showalter said. "You watch them come from Field 3 to Field 4 and he's the first guy in the group. They've got five token fines for if they mess up a play or something, and he's keeping the score sheet. I'm just sitting there taking all this in and I'm saying, 'This is Chris Tillman. This is what you hope they graduate to.'

"He's going to be somebody that teammates want to please, and that's as much of a compliment as I can give somebody."

Showalter wasn't done.

"He's not self-absorbed in himself," Showalter said. "The days he's not pitching, he's watching the game. I'll be walking down the dugout and he'll go, 'Hey Skip, what about...?' He's confident in what he's seeing and taking in as being something worthwhile."

Showalter isn't concerned about the late arrivals of pitcher Alfredo Aceves and catcher Johnny Monell. They played winter ball and should show up in good condition. There isn't any rust that needs to be knocked off.

And here's one last picture and video from today's workout:

Tommy Hunter, Bud Norris and Darren O'Day throwing.

Norris chats with catcher Michael Ohlman.
norris-ohlman-tall.jpg

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