CLEVELAND - The addition of outfielder John Andreoli earlier today on a waiver claim has filled the Orioles’ 40-man roster. They optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk.
Andreoli’s father, also named John, played linebacker for the NFL’s New England Patriots and USFL’s Boston Breakers in the 1980s. The younger Andreoli is cousins with former major league pitcher Daniel Bard.
Today’s game will begin after the Indians conclude their ceremony for Jim Thome that includes the retiring of his No. 25. First base coach Wayne Kirby and coach Einar Díaz are on the field as participants. Former Orioles manager Mike Hargrove received a warm ovation.
Still no sign of Albert Belle.
Thome finished his 22-year, Hall of Fame career by appearing in 28 games with the Orioles in 2012, giving Buck Showalter a chance to manage him and verify all the good that circulated through the industry.
What stands out about Thome?
“What doesn’t?” Showalter said during batting practice.
“There are a lot of things people don’t know about Jimmy. He’s one of the smartest, most common sense that you’ll ever be around. Just saw things through a pure lens.
“It’s funny, when people talk about Thome, they don’t talk that much about the player, what a great player he was. He made himself into a third baseman. And when they asked him to go to first base, he said, ‘Sure. What have you been waiting for? Does it help the team win? Let’s go.’ Or, ‘Hey, we want you to DH.’ ‘Sure, helps the team win. Let’s go.’ When you talk about Thome, people want to talk about that as much as they want to talk about the player.
“He was something. There’s an old saying, never let a star fall on you. I enjoyed Jimmy’s star coming our way. It was special and you realize what an honor it is. Same guy. Same guy that I’m sure the day he signed. His mom and dad did a great job with him. How would you like to have one of his kids in school? Really? Plus, you get to spend time with Jim. I’d have about 100 parent-teacher conferences. ‘Hey, can Mr. Thome come in?’”
It was a common sight to walk past Showalter’s office and find Thome sitting in a chair across from his desk.
“He’d come in and go, ‘Skip, you got some time?’ I’d go, ‘Yeah, what’s up.’ And he’d say, ‘Let’s talk some ball. Let’s talk about the first and third defense. Let’s talk about, how do you do cutoffs and relays down the left field line?’ He just loved to talk baseball,” Showalter said.
“And he was a watcher of the game. I remember him talking to the players about pitchers and what they were going to try to do. He was a big acquisition for us. He helped verify a lot of things. I can say it, a coach can say it, but when Jim Thome says the same thing ... he makes managing easy.
“Jimmy’s the same core. He’s never gotten away from those principles that he was brought up with. I love talking to (general manager) John Hart about the first time he say Jimmy and all the things that went on getting to this point. Jimmy was one of those guys who just kept hitting. He made you notice him. But it wasn’t like he was going, ‘Hey, look at me.’ Jimmy never had a look at me mentality. Hits a home run, puts his head down, gets in the dugout. His substance was his style. The style wasn’t the substance. And Jimmy in my mind had more style than anybody going at that time, just because of the way he presented himself.
“Is that enough? I could talk about him for hours.”
It was pure gold on a slow news day.
The Orioles picked up Thome from the Phillies on June 30, 2012 in exchange for pitcher Kyle Simon and catcher Gabriel Lino. Thome hit .257/.348/.396 with five doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs in 115 plate appearances. He spent time on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his neck.
Thome finished his career with 612 home runs, a .402 on-base percentage and a .554 slugging percentage. But he also built a reputation as one of the nicest, most genuine individuals in any sport.
“It’s one of those things where you see him from afar and you have so much respect, and then you get him and you go, ‘Ah,’ ” Showalter said. “It’s like somebody you idolize growing up as a kid and you meet them and they’re not that. It’s really depressing. So, when you get one who’s just like you think he is, you go, ‘OK, I get one right every once in a while.’”
The subject turned to Double-A Bowie outfielder Austin Hays, who’s finally healthy and batting .364 with four doubles, two home runs and 11 RBIs since coming off the disabled list.
You might have guessed that the reports on him are good.
Director of player development Brian Graham was in Bowie last night to check on infielder Steve Wilkerson, but he also provided Showalter with an update on Hays, the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2017.
“He made a point of bringing up Austin,” Showalter said.
“As tough a year as he’s had physically and a lot of things that he thought, we thought might be a little different this year, he’s really got it going right now. It would be great to see him finish strong like he is and see what next year could present.”
Hays could be called up in September. The possibility hasn’t been extinguished.
“That’s up to Dan (Duquette) and Brian,” Showalter said. “What do we have, two weeks? I would think that would be enough time to get a pretty good feel about what he could do and not do and whether it’s in his best interests. I would think that’s the case, but that would be a good question for them.”
Pitcher Gabriel Ynoa is conferring with doctors before deciding whether he should undergo surgery. I’d have to look up the injury.
Found it. Right shoulder inflammation.
An Indians beat writer asked Showalter whether he knew that Kirby delivered the winning RBI in the first game at Progressive Field, formerly known as Jacobs Field?
“What do you think?” Showalter quipped. “Do you know how long I’ve been with Wayne? Has he mentioned it today?”
Update: Jonathan Villar hit a three-run homer off Adam Plutko in the third inning to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead.
Update II: The Indians scored twice in the sixth on Francisco Lindor’s RBI single and Michael Brantley’s sacrifice fly to reduce the lead to 3-2. Alex Cobb had allowed only one hit through the fifth.
Update III: Cedric Mullins hit his first major league home run in the eighth inning to increase the lead to 4-2.