SARASOTA, Fla. - Infielder Rubén Tejada has reported to camp, leaving only a few position players marked absent. Everyone is required to be at the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Sunday, with the first full-squad workout held the following day.
“Did you see (Jake) Arrieta?” Showalter quipped. “Don’t keep looking.”
Showalter is organizing the annual team-building excursion Sunday evening in downtown Sarasota. A last-place team won’t bury the past in order to avoid repeating it.
“It’s kind of remind yourself what we have to do to make up the gap with the teams with the $200 million payrolls and endless Latin American imports and endless free agents and trades, but we can do it,” Showalter said.
“We just have to stay up on those other things, and that’s what’s tough when you get a lot of new people in here, how quickly you can make that come together. And we’ve got to get some of that trust back with each other and with our fans, because we didn’t intentionally get away from that, but I can tell you the things we weren’t as good at that showed up that we have to be relentless with it.”
A slippage in defense qualifies as one of the biggest irritants and will be a prime topic.
“It’s not perfect every night, but I can give you 20 examples and a number of games and they’ll hear that,” Showalter said. “This is not going to be a celebration of the 2017 season at this meeting Sunday night. Trust me. If people have thin skin, there’s going to be a problem. This is not a place for thin-skinned people.”
Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop reported to camp today, hit in the indoor cage, played long toss, took batting practice and performed infield drills. Their every movement was documented by cameras and video equipment. It was quite a scene.
Machado fielded ground balls at shortstop after Tim Beckham worked out at third base. Infield instructor Bobby Dickerson kept them busy.
The club is anticipating a big season from Machado at the plate and in the field, the expectation being that he’ll remain energized and engaged throughout the summer.
“Everything that could points that way,” Showalter said. “He’s finally getting back to his natural position after having J.J. (Hardy), and obviously Manny’s mature enough to know what this year means not only to him career-wise but to the Orioles. He’s going to bridge a gap with both of those. Sometimes, all the stars are aligned and it doesn’t work out. I don’t know. But I can tell you from one side of it, there’s a lot of things pointing up.
“I think the challenges of playing major league shortstop is up his alley for this year. He needs a new challenge, I think. I think he prospers off of that. I think he really is engaged. Not that he got bored at third base, but I feel good that he had a month or so for us at shortstop to really remind him, and Bobby’s showing him some of the tape and been talking to him about the total engagement you need to have at shortstop in order to play that position again.
“He was a shortstop that we moved to third base because we had one of the best shortstops in the game. I think anybody we play at third base is not going to be Manny. Nobody. I mean nobody, and I’ve seen them all. There’s some really good ones, but he’s the best one. Of course, I’m biased, but he has a chance to be that same guy at shortstop. He’s capable of making plays that nobody else will be able to make there.”
Though Showalter and Schoop spoke this morning, the second baseman’s absence from FanFest apparently didn’t leak into the conversation.
“I save that. You save it,” Showalter said, smiling. “He knows it’s coming, so I’m saving it. Bring it out when needed.
“Jon’s a great kid. I’d hate that anybody got some perception that’s not reality with him, and that’s kind of what happened. Jon loves the fans, he loves Baltimore. It creates the wrong perception of him. FanFest is not about contracts or anything like that. It’s just some bad advice that a young player got.”
Sarcasm did leak into the last part of Showalter’s comment.
“It really made a big difference in the arbitration,” he said, referring to Schoop settling at $8.5 million.
Showalter said he’s talked to first baseman Chris Davis “quite a bit the last couple of days.” A little more than usual.
The Orioles need Davis to revert back to his 2015 form after two poor seasons.
“It’s a big need without throwing it all on Chris’ plate,” Showalter said. “It’s because we all know what he’s capable of.
“Not letting everybody in on some private conversations. He’s certainly aware without stating the obvious. It’s more talking about this year and not last year. It’s kind of moving forward.
“I’ve said many times what it must be like to have that type of talent and power at your fingertips and not be able to get to it. But we’ve got some things. It’s not like we just didn’t try some things last year, but right now there’s a little bit different mentality with it. Chris has been receptive to it almost to a fault.”
The Orioles will play a four-inning instrasquad game Thursday afternoon on the Ed Smith Stadium field.
Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop head to the batting cages at Orioles spring training.