SARASOTA, Fla. - The first workout will be held Friday afternoon, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter can’t recall a larger turnout of players reporting early to camp.
“It’s the most I’ve ever had in 30-something years this early,” Showalter said.
“The facility is one (reason). It’s a great facility that the ownership and the city of Sarasota... This place buzzes the whole offseason, and Baltimore does, too. I think they like being here. It’s a good environment. They know they’re not going to come in here and it’s going to be some dictatorial boot camp. It’s going to be somewhat casual. If they don’t stay out there two hours, nobody’s going to question it. That’s intentional.
“I do think there’s some competition here. Also, guys look around at the weather they’ve been in, I’m sure some of them say, ‘I’m going down.’
“We were going over it, and who have we not seen? I put a little mark next to it, and that’s where it kind of hit me. There’s not many.”
Non-roster pitcher Fabio Castillo is expected to report late because of weather-related travel issues in the Dominican Republic. It’s not a visa situation, according to Showalter.
Showalter wouldn’t comment on Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon, since the deal hasn’t been announced.
Tommy Hunter was asked whether having foreign-born players in the clubhouse makes the game more enjoyable.
“You get to learn a few new bad words in a different language. That’s the best part,” he quipped.
“We taught (Wei-Yin) Chen some very good English, if you know what I mean. Just as we did Casey, the massage guy. It’s fun. Usually, the foreign guys are pretty funny in general. I think all baseball guys have a good sense of humor.
“Having a different culture and their kind of sense of humor coming back into it, it usually plays fun in the clubhouse. We’ll see what happens.”
Players are required to shave off their beards by Friday. Nick Markakis and Chris Tillman still need to find a razor, but Liam Hendriks wasn’t taking any chances while trying to stay on Showalter’s good side.
“I almost cried,” he said.
Hunter showed up this morning with a neatly trimmed beard, but it was coming off later in the day.
“It’s getting knocked off in about three hours,” he said. “Kind of sucks. I think I look pretty sexy with it. I think it brings a mantra of intimidation to the stage. Really just manly. I just feel like a man. I feel less of a man without it.”
J.J. Hardy has inherited Brian Roberts old locker. Darren O’Day has moved to where Jim Johnson used to dress each morning.
Showalter indicated that Ryan Flaherty will work out exclusively at second base during the early portion of camp. Flaherty could switch to third later if Manny Machado isn’t deemed ready to start on opening day, but for now, Showalter wants him concentrating on second.
“That’s why we’re going to get a good look at Michael Almanzar,” Showalter said, referring to the Rule 5 pick. “We’re not going to be running Flaherty over to third base. He’s concentrating on playing second base. He’s trying to win the second base job. You won’t see him over at third base. If we get to a point where we don’t think Manny’s going to make it, there will be plenty of time for someone to go over at third base.”
Showalter said he must decide roles for pitchers capable of starting and relieving by the third week of March. He listed Brian Matusz, T.J. McFarland, Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Steve Johnson and Alfredo Aceves.
Josh Stinson wasn’t included in that group.
“He’s more a reliever for this club,” Showalter said. “That’s about it.”
Showalter said he hasn’t reached the point where he needs to hold back Chen, who underwent surgery on his knee in October.
“Not yet,” Showalter said. “He’s doing great, knock on wood. Richie (Bancells) gave us the medical updates yesterday before the meeting. He’s doing really well.
“Dave (Wallace) was giving me the schedule for the first week of games. He’s trying to decide whether he was going to pitch Chen at the end or whether he was going to wait and see how the first few games go here.”
Showalter said he won’t handicap the competition to replace Jim Johnson as closer, and there’s no reason to keep asking about it.
“I don’t think it’s productive for the players,” Showalter said. “We got Jimmy some multiple innings and some back-to-backs. It’s very similar to the setup thing. I’ll be able to camouflage it for a long time if I want to.
“Obviously, Tommy’s a strong candidate. But nothing’s going to happen down here that we’re going to say, ‘Woah, solved that issue.’ “
Hunter doesn’t expect to switch routines now that he’s competing for the closer’s job.
“I don’t think so. I’m not going to change anything. I’m not going to fix it if it’s not broke. See what happens. Let it go,” Hunter said.
“Nobody’s really the closer, so I hope he puts somebody in that role at some point in the season. You never really know. Maybe we’ll just not play the ninth inning anymore, or put a position player in there. Somebody’s going to have to do it. We’ll see what happens.”
Hunter didn’t change his winter routine, either.
“I actually felt pretty good last year,” Hunter said. “I had a pretty good fastball last year and I’m pretty much going to do that same thing. I’m not going to change anything. I’m not going to be somebody I’m not.”
When it was suggested that the biggest adjustment as a closer is handling failure, Hunter replied, “I failed a lot last year. Having to deal with failure, every player in baseball deals with that. Not just a pitcher, a closer. An eighth-inning guy failed, seventh-inning guy failed. Everybody strikes out. It’s a failing man’s sport. So, for somebody to say you have to learn to deal with failure... We all have to learn to deal with failure.
“Being a closer, it’s a little different just having to bounce back so quick. It’s a mindset, and hopefully somebody catches on quick.”
The Orioles will play an intrasquad game on Feb. 27. Showalter is deciding whether to also schedule games on the Feb. 25 and 26.
The Orioles had early interest in free-agent pitcher Chad Gaudin, but backed away after checking his medicals. Gaudin failed his physical with the Phillies today and was released.