McDowell wraps up the three-day minicamp

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles concluded their three-day minicamp at the Ed Smith Stadium complex this morning with Richard Bleier throwing his second bullpen session.

Bleier was the only pitcher on a mound today and the only one cleared for multiple sessions this week.

This is the fifth year in a row that the Orioles have held their minicamp in Sarasota.

Dariel Álvarez did some long-tossing again while rehabbing from ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. As I wrote in my last entry, he should move to a flat mound by the end of the month.

Pitching coach Roger McDowell and bullpen coach Alan Mills oversaw a bunting drill as the latest installment of pitchers fielding practice.

McDowell fielded questions from the media under a sunny sky. Here’s a sampling:

On the minicamp: “It went good, real good. Some of these guys have been up in the north. Keegan Akin has been up in Michigan throwing out of a barn he and his father built, so it was nice for him to get down here and some guys to get down here that we haven’t seen in person. Some of them threw off the mound but some of them aren’t there in their throwing program yet and that’s fine. What is it, the 13th or 14th when we start camp? And then guys who aren’t going be in big league camp, they have another couple or three weeks after that.

“It’s hard to get ready, especially around the holidays when guys travel. I know David Hess did a lot of traveling around and it’s hard to get on any kind of specific program or throwing. So after the holidays, there’s plenty of time to get ready. Five weeks is usually enough time to start playing catch and get arm strength.

“Everything was good. Great weather. Got some PFPs in. Got to introduce bunt plays for guys who haven’t been in the organization today. Also, a refresher for the guys who have been here. Obviously, when we talk about winning games and one run, if we can negate something and execute a bunt play, then all be it. Just a little refresher, a fun time, but nothing over the time. Just getting ready for spring training.”

On Hunter Harvey: “Obviously, have heard a lot about Hunter. Had a couple years of injuries. You pull up pictures of his dad (Bryan), looks just like him, especially from the face. But his body, he’s got the pitcher’s body, so hopefully he can stay healthy and we can stay on top of his health and he can get back to pitching and not worrying about it.

“I know Buck (Showalter) asked him the other day about being able to throw a baseball and not having the question every time about, ‘How does it feel?’ So getting over that hurdle, and a lot of times it’s a mental hurdle for guys when they’re coming back from injury of, ‘When I release or when I get extension, how’s it going to feel?’ So I think it’s good that he was able to get down here. I know he and his dad have been doing some work and it was good to see him.”

On Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr.: “It was impressive. He can spin it, he can spin it. Obviously, he’s got some different looks. I think he has an idea of how to pitch just from watching video of him and getting to see him and talk to him. He has an understanding of how to manipulate and he has pitches for both sides of the plate for right-handed and left-handed hitters.”

Richard-Bleier-throw-orange-spring-sidebar.jpgOn what he looks for in crafty lefties that carries to major league level: “You can watch as many bullpens or sides as you want to. When you get them in game situations and get them in competition, some guys can get people out and some guys can’t get people out. Sometimes, they’ve got good stuff in the bullpen and it doesn’t equate to on the field.

“Richard had a really, really good last year. Numbers indicate it. His past numbers or past performances before we got him may not have indicated the success that he had last year, but he pitched really well for us last year in a variety of roles. But specifically to look for anything, it’s kind of like, if and when they face a hitter, do they get the hitter out? And that’s what you kind of look for. And sometimes the stuff doesn’t equate to whether you get a hitter out. A lot of it is guile and heart and executing pitches.”

On Mychal Givens as closer: “I think overall, and Buck talks about this a lot, it’s a process. I remember way back last century when I pitched, the process was, you came up to the big leagues, and you were a long guy. If you were a starter, you fit into that five spot, and kind of moved up according to how you pitched, and the experience level, the experience factor of going out there on a continuing basis.

“With a reliever, you start as a long guy and then you got put into some roles, important roles, maybe a sixth inning, a seventh inning, and that’s how it used to be. You got graduated into a certain role. With the couple years of experience, and Mychal had another solid, good year last year, I think he learned a lot about himself and a lot about how to navigate hitters and how to navigate a lineup, and I think it’s just based (on) nothing more than experience and opportunity. When you get the opportunity to have success, to be successful.

“As you alluded to with Zach (Britton) being out, there are a number of options and last year, obviously, Brad (Brach) got the bulk of the save opportunities. You’ve got guys down there that have closed games. You’ve got Brad, Darren (O’Day) has closed games, pitched at the end of games. Once I think you get into that end of the game, then that next step is just getting the opportunity and being successful at it.”

On Miguel Castro as starter: “Boy, he can use a few pounds, huh? Miggy, as you guys saw last year, again a guy that pitched in a variety of roles, but also was able to get extended and pitch some extended innings for us and saved us a number of times. I think he has the ability. He has the pitches. What does he need to do? I think he just needs the opportunity to go out there and get the ball.

“Obviously, when you come out of the bullpen and you throw multiple innings, it’s a little different because you don’t have the preparation involved. You don’t have the hitter preparation involved. I tell relievers that ... opposing hitting coaches (don’t) have enough information, especially on a young Miguel Castro as maybe when he’s a starter. The same thing with him. You just give him the opportunity, see where he’s at.

“He has the pitches for both sides of the plate that he can get both righties and lefties out, above-average fastball, good changeup. His breaking ball is getting better. That’s part of the process of getting a three-pitch mix and hopefully getting through a lineup a couple or three times.”

On so many pitching uncertainties this close to spring training: “Here’s the thing. My job description is take the pitchers that we have and get them better and compete in the American League East, and that’s what we’ll do. Whoever we have, that’s who we’re going to have. My job is to get them better and hopefully do well, not only in the American League East, but through the course of a major league season, so it’s a daily process.

“I think we made a lot of progress with a lot of guys last year, and hopefully that process will continue with whoever we have.”

On whether he’s eager to erase last season: “Obviously, it’s a new year, and again talk about the challenges of each and every day, each and every game, looking at where a pitcher starts at the beginning of the year and is he better at the end of the year? That being said, we do have a number of guys who are going to get opportunities that may not have been presented to them if you have different people here. They’re going to get that opportunity, and very much looking forward to working and starting the process from the beginning of the year to the end of the year and getting better.”

Note: Individual tickets for all 16 of the Orioles’ spring training games at Ed Smith Stadium will go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. It’s recommended that fans purchase tickets online.

Fans interested in season tickets, five-game flex plans or group tickets, or those wishing to receive additional spring training ticket information, should call 941-893-6312.

Spring training tickets for Orioles home games at Ed Smith Stadium may be purchased in the following ways:

Online: Tickets can be purchased at the Orioles’ official website, www.orioles.com/spring.

Phone: Individual game tickets can be purchased by phone by calling 877-222-2802. Season, five-game flex plans, group tickets, suites and other specialty areas are available by calling 941-893-6312.

At the ballpark: Individual game tickets can be purchased in person at Ed Smith Stadium in the Left Field Ticket Office, located at 12th Street and Tuttle Avenue. The box office will be open on Jan. 13 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and will be open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. from Jan. 15-Feb. 9.

From Feb. 12-March 24, the box office will be open seven days a week at the same times.

The Orioles will play their first of 16 home spring training games on Feb. 23 against the Rays.

Richard-Bleier-minicamp.pngLeft-hander Richard Bleier throws his second bullpen session on the final day of Orioles minicamp in Sarasota, Fla.

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