NEW YORK - Orioles manager Buck Showalter found out about first baseman/outfielder Conor Jackson's retirement today during a text exchange with Triple-A Norfolk manager Ron Johnson.
"He loved being with the organization and all that, but he's at the stage of his life where it wasn't something he wanted to continue to do," Showalter said. "I know a little bit more than that, but that's something that should come from Conor. He's just at the stage of his life where he wanted to move on and I respect him for it. It's tough.
"I just wanted to know whether there was something he was unhappy about. It wasn't at all. He had been thinking about it for a little while and just didn't enjoy going to the park like he used to. I don't think it had anything to do with Norfolk."
Jackson, 30, nearly made the club out of spring training, which added another element of surprise to his retirement.
"He gave a great effort and really competed this spring," Showalter said. "He made it down to the last cut. He should be very proud of that. Part of me hates to see him go, but I want him to be happy, too.
"He's got a lot of things going for him. He's a smart, well-educated guy who can do other things in his life than play in Norfolk, and I respect that."
Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland has pitched once in the first 11 games, shutting out the Minnesota Twins on one hit over 3 1/3 innings on April. 6. The club is making sure that he stays sharp while he waits for another opportunity to take the mound.
"He'll tell you it's a better role than being in Columbus, Ohio," Showalter said. "We throw him down in the bullpen, keep the ball in his hand. There will come a time this season, I hope, where it's not always saving him for long relief.
"If we had scored two more runs last night, he would have pitched, because with a left-handed starter (Wei-Yin Chen) tonight... I still may bring him in, depending on what the score is. But he'll get plenty of chances. You can't bury a guy in the American League East.
"It's not like we're trying to hide him or keep him from pitching. It's just that he serves a very important role here."
The Orioles are playing their first ESPN "Sunday Night Baseball" game since Sept. 21, 2008 - the final game at the old Yankee Stadium.
"I'm sure it's probably more about showcasing the Yankees, but we're glad to be a part of it," Showalter said. "We haven't had much experience at this. The Yankees, I have a lot of respect for them. They've had this for quite a while, where they've been playing these games. I'm sure it's been a challenge for them traveling and sleep habits and stuff, and they seem to handle it real well. I'm glad we've got a semi-off day tomorrow."
The Orioles have played only three games in Baltimore through the first two weeks of the season. Factor in the weeks spent at spring training, and it's understandable why they're eager to get back home.
How big of a challenge has the schedule presented to the Orioles?
"I try not to look at it through my eyes," Showalter said. "I'm 56 years old. If you ask Manny (Machado) that question... It's like the guy who you say, 'Is your shoulder hurting?' 'No.' You ask them seven times and after a while they go, 'I guess my shoulder's supposed to hurt because he's asked me seven times.'
"I think just getting on a schedule and on a clock has been a challenge. With the WBC and all the things that have kind of been a little discombobulated along with the schedule, but it's a great way to earn a living and that's part of the price you pay. It requires a lot of discipline with your sleep habits and your ability to monitor your time. But I'm not good to ask because I don't have to play. It's not near as challenging for me as it is our players. But that doesn't mean you're going to go home and play better or worse. It's just getting your life in order a little bit. Unpacking.
"I think everybody's looking forward to getting on some type of schedule, if there's such a thing in baseball. I don't hear our guys complaining about it. It's just part of their job description.
"We get through with his (homestand), we're going to head out to the West Coast with no off day. What are you going to do? Quit? It's tough. It's one of the separators that's different about our game than any other. You're in the entertainment business, if you really cut down to it. Some nights it's not very entertaining. You assume the position and get after it."
Steve Johnson is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Monday and could be sent out on an injury rehab assignment later in the week. He threw three innings Saturday in an extended spring training game.
Showalter said Dylan Bundy still hasn't thrown since Thursday.