New Orioles left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada says one of the biggest differences between baseball in Japan and the U.S. is that the game is "more power generated" here. He's referring to both the batters and the pitchers.
He's not going to blow the ball past anyone, but it sounds like he's a left-handed version of Koji Uehara - excellent control and a wide assortment of pitches.
Hopefully, he's got better stamina.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette said he's hoping that the minor league staffs are completed by the first of the year.
We're still not sure who's managing at each affiliate, except that former Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson will manage Triple-A Norfolk and Gary Allenson is expected to take over short-season Single-A Aberdeen.
Rick Peterson has interviewed twice for the position of minor league pitching coordinator. He's the frontrunner until someone else passes him.
The Orioles also would like to hire a minor league hitting coordinator, a position that's remained vacant since Julio Vinas left the organization. Denny Walling is a roving hitting instructor, but that's not the same thing.
I told you earlier this week that former Orioles outfielder and minor league coach Mike Devereaux had taken a job as hitting coach at Single-A Asheville in the Colorado Rockies' organization. The Orioles hadn't offered him a contract for 2012 and he was advised to seek other opportunities.
"They didn't tell me one way or the other. They just said they weren't sure what was going to happen. And with new management, anything can happen," Devereaux said.
"I loved my time with the Orioles. I was hoping that I'd stay on with the Orioles. I love the area. The Orioles are a big part of my life. But sometimes things don't work out that way. And I honestly believe it's worked out for the best.
"When I was told that the Orioles weren't quite sure which route they were going to take, I started to pursue other opportunities. I was told to do that. I made some calls. Obviously, I've been in the game for a while. Baseball is like a family, a huge family. I know people throughout the game. I'm fortunate enough to have colleagues in the game who let me know there were openings."
Devereaux grew concerned that it might be too late to find another position.
"People are filling jobs in other organizations, but I'm as happy as I can be," he said. "This is probably the best way it could have worked out. This seems to be one of the better organizations in the (South Atlantic) League right now, so I can't be any happier. I'm excited for spring training to start."
Here's what pitcher Jake Arrieta thinks about all the turnover in the Orioles' front office:
"I've paid a little bit of attention," he said. "I hear most of the moves from friends and family. Everybody kind of close to me keeps track of the Orioles and what's going on in the front office, what's going on with player moves and trades and things like that. It's very encouraging that we're taking steps in the right direction to continue the rebuilding process of the organization, and I just look forward to continuing to be a part of that and getting this team to where everyone's trying to go, and that's a winning direction. We all know that.
"I've heard some things that people want us to be a .500 team at least next year, but I don't think going in that's the right goal to set. Obviously, at the start of the season, everyone's trying to win a championship, and I don't think there's any reason why that's not a possibility for us in 2012. I think the pieces of the puzzle are there. The front office is obviously doing its job, trying to get the right players here.
"I'm just very fortunate to be here and I'm looking forward to 2012."
Arrieta is aware of all the rumors about Jeremy Guthrie being a prime trade candidate.
"I'd hate to see Jeremy go, just because I've been able to work with him and be a teammate of his for the past couple of years, and I continue to watch how he goes about his business and carries himself as a professional on and off the field," Arrieta said. "He's continued to put up numbers every year. He's a guy all of us can learn from. Not only the young guys, but the older guys, as well, because he's an established big league pitcher and he's the kind of guy that I'm trying to be myself.
"It would be sad to see him go, but if that were to happen, I'd wish him well and hope for all the best for him in his career."
Zach Britton got married Nov. 25 in Newport Beach, Cal. His wife is still in law school at SMU, so "we can' t really do anything," he said, when I asked how he's spent his offseason. "We can't really go on vacation or anything like that, because she's busy with school."
So what does he think about the new front office?
"I got to meet Dan (Duquette) at the Winter Meetings and he seemed like a great guy," Britton said. "It was more about trying to get to know each other. It seems like he's going to add some pieces, which is what we need, so I'm just kind of waiting for that to happen. And really, I'm trying to avoid it as much as possible, not reading a whole lot of stuff, because this is the time of year when everybody is saying, 'This is going to happen,' and 'This is going to happen.' I'm waiting to see what happens and then spring training rolls around and I'll get ready for that."
Asked how he feels about the trade rumors involving Guthrie and Adam Jones, he said, "You kind of just take it with a grain of salt a little bit. Obviously, you know that if the right deal comes along, they're willing to move anybody. That's just the way it works, the business side of it, so you hear it, but until it happens, you kind of just say, 'OK.'
"Everyone's name is getting thrown around. You don't know who the GMs are discussing up in the rooms or on the phone, so you hear it, but you kind of blow it off until it's official."
Does Britton go to spring training assuming that he has a spot waiting for him in the rotation, or is he competing for one?
"I think the best thing to do is go in there and act like you don't have a spot and compete for it," he replied. "If you go in complacent and acting like, 'Well, as long as I don't screw up, I have a spot,' I think that's when it comes back to bite you. I really think that no one is really deserving of a spot. It can go a lot of different ways. I don't know what Buck and them are looking for. I think they just want to see improvement, that we've made adjustments in the off-season and that we're ready now to take that next step from being a guy who's developing to a guy who can go out there every five days and really give the team a chance to win and compete in the games. Not a guy who goes out there every five days and you don't know what you're going to get."
Can all of the young guys take that next step forward?
"Yeah, definitely," Britton said. "If you break the season down, I think everyone took a step forward at times, and then everyone took a step back at times. I think we learned a lot this season with what we all went through. Jake was able to win 10 games while being out for a long time, which I think shows a lot. We were able to win some games. It's just that maybe some of the other numbers weren't as pretty as we wanted them to be. But I think we learned a lot and we're ready to take a step forward, and that's what we need to do.
"I know that everyone's working hard this off-season to improve on what they need to. It's not drastic changes. It's more about just being consistent, and there's ways to work on that."
Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis and his wife, Christina, will help to make a deserving Baltimore family's Christmas brighter with a holiday shopping outing at the Target store in Cockeysville on Monday, Dec. 19, at 11 a.m. They'll also donate winter coats to the Boys and Girls Club of Callaway Elementary School in Baltimore for 21 deserving students.
For the shopping trip, Nicole Sewell and her three children will be picked up from their home in a limousine and meet the Markakis family at Target. The family was selected with help from the Baltimore City Public Schools' "School Everyday" program that assists families in need.
The shopping outing was coordinated through OriolesREACH and the Right Side Foundation, the non-profit organization established by the Markakis family in 2009 to help improve the lives of distressed children in Maryland.