SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles manager Buck Showalter continues to proceed as if Manny Machado will be part of his opening day lineup, though trade discussions haven’t closed. There’s no other way to handle the matter.
Showalter has talked to Machado and Tim Beckham about the left side of the infield and how it might unfold. Machado could move over to shortstop, the spot where Beckham prefers to play. It’s a delicate situation.
“It’s further along than it was,” Showalter said.
“No, not yet. Not publicly,” Showalter replied.
“We’ve got a pretty good idea. We’re going to let some things play out. We don’t want to get too committed to something unless we’re sure everything is going to be as we think.”
Teams continue to check in with executive vice president Dan Duquette, the list of interested parties including the Diamondbacks, Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox and Cubs. The Cardinals were aggressive suitors but apparently have pulled back.
Showalter doesn’t worry about Machado becoming distracted or upset over the rumors. The three-time All-Star isn’t a delicate flower. He won’t wilt from the hot stove.
“Manny’s strong, he’s strong with that, and I think he’s seen enough that ... He’s a smart guy. He understands how it works. He knows that good players are mentioned this time of year and he’s a good player, a real good player,” Showalter said.
“It’s really an honor to have those types of things being said. I’m making plans for him to be on our team right now.”
Beckham also has talked to Showalter about potential changes to the infield. Beckham could stay at shortstop, move to third or assume more of a super-utility role.
“We’re down that road, if that’s the case,” Showalter said. “I’m not saying it is. I think I’ve positioned us to maneuver regardless of what happens between now and the season starting.”
Meanwhile, the roster still screams out for another left-handed bat.
“In a perfect world,” Showalter said. “It certainly was a challenge for us last year. And just adding one, it’s still going to be a challenge. But I’d rather have nine good right-handed hitters than a left-handed hitter who wasn’t very good.
“You can find a lot of left-handed bats, but can they defend and do they fit on your club? Obviously, we don’t need a left-handed hitting DH. That’s the one thing when you’re going through this time of year and maybe there’s going to be a lot of free agents looking for jobs and you think you might get a real good deal, but does it fit your club? So when you find something that really fits your club, you’ve got to act.”
Pedro Álvarez has signed minor league deals with the Orioles in March 2016 and 2017. He’s on the market again, but defensive shortcomings work against another reunion.
“I would never say ‘eliminated,’ ” Showalter said, leaving the door cracked every so slightly. “I like Pete. If our roster was constructed a little different, he’d be a really good fit for us. Somebody needs to give him a chance. I think he’s really come a long way. He’s turned into a great teammate, good kid. But how many teams are carrying pure DHs anymore?
“People don’t look for, ‘OK, who’s going to DH for us this year?’ They look at their roster and then they kind of say, ‘OK, we can move this around.’ But I’m going to look to try to find a left-handed bat from within. If somebody else shows up ... but they’ve got to be able to defend and not just adequately. They have to be a good defender. Maybe it’s (Jaycob) Brugman. I don’t know him that well.”
Outfielder Craig Gentry, a right-handed hitter, remains on Showalter’s camp board. Just in case.
“I haven’t heard yet, but I know we have some interest in bringing him back,” Showalter said. “He did a good job for us.”
Speaking of reunions, there remains mutual interest in Chris Tillman signing with the Orioles. He’s working out at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
“Sure, yeah,” Showalter said. “Chris is capable of better. We know, we’ve seen it first-hand.”
Dariel Álvarez, converting to pitcher following his Tommy John surgery, played catch on flat ground and seemed to be in good spirits.
“Dariel was really upbeat,” Showalter said. “I thought it was important to get him here. He’s kind of been on the outside looking in and let him know he’s very much still on the radar and we still think a lot of him as a pitcher. This is a guy that could, if he’s healthy and gets this surgery behind him, I think he could be a fast mover. But that’s a lot of ifs.”
Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr., Jimmy Yacabonis and left-hander Richard Bleier were the only pitchers who threw bullpen sessions this morning. Hunter Harvey could get a turn later this week before minicamp ends Wednesday afternoon.
“I know Hunter was probably as happy a guy to just be here as a normal pitcher,” Showalter said. “He’s ready to go. If anything, we’re going to have to caution ourselves with him.”
Asked what a good year from Harvey would look like, Showalter paused and said, “Healthy.”
“I don’t have much doubt he’ll be productive if healthy,” Showalter added. “I think he’s got the worst behind him. I remember the first time that we suspected something was going on was back there on these fields. He’s never had a command issue and that’s usually one of the tell-tale signs is the feel of the baseball and he was throwing the ball all over the place, and he wasn’t really feeling any pain.
“I think it’s been shown that some of these parameters of Tommy John surgery guys, I think you take each case as it comes. I’m hoping that we get to the point in the spring that we think it’s going to be sooner rather than later. I think we’ll have a pretty good feel for where he is in the spring. He’ll get some innings here.”
The Orioles stashed Dylan Bundy in the bullpen while breaking camp in 2016, but he was out of minor league options. They have the freedom to send out Harvey at some point in spring training.
“If he didn’t have options, he might not go down,” Showalter said. “I think he’d be capable of handling that. But I think in a perfect world ... I don’t know if we’re going to have that luxury of carrying somebody like that in the bullpen. It’s not in his best interest to be in the bullpen if you can help it, but let’s just see how it progresses.
“I’m not coming in with any binders on him. He’s a normal, regular pitcher in the spring and we’re going to treat him as such. He’s been through everything he needs to be. He’s where he needs to be. I think you’ll see he and Dylan really, they already do, but I think you’ll see them have a pretty close relationship. They have a lot of things in common.”
Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12 and the roster is filled with uncertainties. Only two confirmed starters, scant left-handed bats, questions behind the plate and at utility infielder, another bullpen spot open with closer Zach Britton recovering from Achilles surgery.
“I think every year is a little different because of the dynamics of how our industry works and you have a different number and different quality of guys who are free agents and people who come out. And it looks like it’s going to play a lot slower, but that could change in a week’s time. I don’t know,” Showalter said.
“Right now I’m spending my time with the guys that we have coming to camp and the people in the system and say, ‘OK, what would we do today if the season opened up today?’ Well, it doesn’t and we’ve got a lot of people who are pulling for us not to sign anybody, not to trade for anybody. I guarantee if you go and talk to Mike Wright, he’s hoping we don’t. So there’s a lot of guys like that. There’s some unknown there. But the industry doesn’t always cooperate with your timeframe, so your timeframe has to be adjusted.”
Miguel Castro and Tanner Scott run to warm up for the first workout of Orioles minicamp.
Pitchers stretch before the first workout of minicamp.
Buck Showalter and Roger McDowell watch Cortes throw off a mound.
Showalter observes the first workout of Orioles minicamp.