SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles will play under the lights tonight for the first time this spring, busing to Tampa for a 7:05 p.m. game against the Yankees.
It's possible that Brian Roberts will draw a crowd of Baltimore reporters, and seeing him in a Yankees uniform will be a shock to the system.
In case you missed it, here's my interview with him that I posted on Jan. 27.
Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen starts for the Orioles tonight, while the Yankees counter with right-hander David Phelps.
The clubhouse will be open to the media from 8:45 a.m. - 9:45 a.m., and I won't start my drive to Tampa until approximately 3 p.m. That's an undesirable gap in time, but manager Buck Showalter is going to allow the guys not on the travel roster to work out early and take off the rest of the day.
The Orioles could announce their minor league deal with left-hander Johan Santana. I doubt that they will set up for another press conference, though, considering that he's going to be working out at Twin Lakes Park and may not be ready to pitch for at least a few more months.
It's a no-risk move for the Orioles, and probably won't subject them to more "start printing those World Series tickets" remarks from fans now that they've signed Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz and Suk-min Yoon. This isn't going to be hyped as a major acquisition. If Santana can't get his fastball back - and he kept it in storage last week while throwing for teams in Fort Myers - the Orioles will simply let him go.
Otherwise, Santana could be an option later in the summer, perhaps in a relief role. He hasn't pitched out of the bullpen since 2003 with the Twins, but it's sort of like riding a bike.
Santana could be a huge bargain, or he could be Dontrelle Willis or Jamie Moyer or a left-handed Joel Pineiro. Let's find out.
I asked Showalter yesterday whether this is the only Santana that he expects to show up at the complex, a clear reference to Ervin. You know, the other Santana on the free agent market.
"I wouldn't say that and be completely sure that it's true," Showalter said.
In other words, never say never. Ervin could fall into their laps.
From what I've gathered, the Orioles were comfortable offering him a three-year deal in the $30 million range, but Santana's camp kept trying to squeeze a fourth year out of them. He reportedly is seeking around $50 million, which doesn't interest the Orioles.
Talks appeared to be dead, but how long is he willing to remain on the market?
Would he wait until after the June draft, when teams no longer would have to surrender a pick? His agent, Bean Stringfellow - best name in the business - indicated recently that it could happen.
The Orioles don't seem to care about the pick, a third-rounder now that they've signed Jimenez and Cruz. It's all about the years and the money.
As for Yoon, he already was behind the other pitchers because he's accustomed to starting spring workouts in the middle of January. Now he's in camp, and in limbo, without the work visa. He can't pitch in exhibition games and the Orioles still don't know when he's flying to Canada.
No wonder they put the clause in his three-year deal that he could be optioned without his permission in 2014. He's going to need that time at Triple-A Norfolk to build up his arm and innings while also getting acclimated to life in the U.S.