SARASOTA, Fla. - We’re only one day into the Orioles minicamp and manager Buck Showalter is accomplishing everything on the list. Pitchers coming off surgeries are checked, the newbies are evaluated, meetings are held with everyone who received an invitation.
Chris Tillman’s workouts while the club retains interest in re-signing him are an added bonus. I’ll just assume that he remains out of view of the three beat writers who made the trip.
“The criteria for being here, and we have a lot of people to pick from - you try to keep it at 15, 16 - one would be some medical situations, whether it’s a Hunter Harvey, whether it’s a Dariel Álvarez, whether it’s a (Ryan) O’Rourke. Different guys you’re trying to check on physically,” Showalter said.
“You want to get a head start on with some of the guys, like a (Nestor) Cortes or Joely Rodríguez, some guys who were really well-thought of in the six-year free agent market. Not that someone who isn’t here doesn’t have a chance to impact your club, but we felt like these guys were either ... Some people from our minor league system said, ‘You guys need to take a look at these guys and get a little ahead of it.’
“Some of these guys won’t be in big league camp, which means this will be the only chance we really get to spend some time with them. Roger (McDowell) and Alan (Mills) and I will spend 20-30 minutes with each one, have a little conversation with them and kind of get to know a lot of things that help you help them. It kind of moves the process forward. We have so many pitchers in camp, sometimes those relationships and that knowledge gets harder to gather.
“I’m not saying that everybody here we feel like has a chance to impact our club, but some of them are here for that criteria.”
Left-hander Chris Lee could be one of those pitchers. He competed for a spot in the rotation late in spring training, was cut and never got to Camden Yards.
Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation mirrored the struggles of the major league club. Lee registered a 5.11 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in 27 games, including 20 starts, and opponents batted .302 against him.
“I was a little inconsistent in figuring things out and spent a lot of time this offseason getting the little things right. Just come out ready and come make the team,” he said.
Lee had a 6.21 ERA before moving to the bullpen on July 27. He allowed four earned runs in 24 1/3 relief innings for a 1.48 ERA and opponents batted .250.
Given a start in his final appearance of the season, Lee held Charlotte to two runs and struck out seven batters over five innings.
“It was more about just putting all the bad stuff past me and just taking everything day by day and pitch by pitch,” he said. “More the mental side. Just staying relaxed and not letting the game speed up on me and take me down. Keep my head up and keep firing away and do the best I can to give my team a chance to win.
“My body’s good. It was just one of those times where you haven’t got it every single game, but you’ve just got to look past it. It’s a new year, a new me and I’m ready to go.”
Lee was used basically as a second starter out of the bullpen, a piggyback method that enabled him to work at least three innings in five of the games.
“I took it as any other start,’ he said. “I just prepared the same way. I was ready to go.
“Wherever they need me, I’m ready to go. How they want to use me, I’m up for it.”
With the need for starters and the desire to plug in a left-hander, the Orioles probably will give Lee another chance to establish himself in the rotation.