Here is a story from extended spring training that may not resonate much with the average fan, but when O’s manager Buck Showalter was told about it, I heard he was quite pleased.
The story was relayed by new Aberdeen IronBirds manager Matt Merullo Saturday at Ripken Stadium during a fan Q and A session on Fan Day in Aberdeen. Merullo, who is currently running the O’s extended spring training program in Florida, was asked about the games being played in Sarasota at extended spring.
He told the fans a story about last Thursday, when after heavy rain the night before, how the O’s players still got their work in while the Red Sox players did not.
It turns out the Orioles recently purchased some new tarps for the fields at the Ed Smith complex and their fields in Sarasota were playable last Thursday while most other teams had to cancel games and workouts.
That day, not only could the Red Sox not host the O’s extended spring team for a scheduled game in Ft. Myers, but when the O’s said just come up and play at our place, the Sox couldn’t do that either. But the Orioles players took the field that day whether the Sox showed up to play or not.
“It was made very clear to me that we wanted to utilize that tarp and we wanted to get the work in,” Merullo said. “It was important to Buck to make sure those players down at extended got their work in. With the unpredictable weather we have there, that can be a challenge.
“Around 8 o’clock in the morning (last Thursday) the Red Sox called and said their fields were not playable and also that they didn’t have a bus to bring their team there (to Sarasota), so we are going to cancel the game. I had two lineups made up and we wound up playing a nine-inning intrasquad game on the Ed Smith main field that was in great shape once we got the tarp off.
“To see the energy level of our kids even though no one was there was impressive. They were competing against each other, playing hard and having fun and ribbing each other some. We had some good pitching, some strong plays in the field and it carried over the next day to a victory over Tampa Bay.
“Brian (Graham, director of player development) mentioned to me that Buck was aware we got our game in and utilized the new tarp the team had paid for so it was good and a great reminder that our management is on top of everything we do.”
“It was all the result of the investment made in the extended spring program by Peter Angelos and the work ethic instilled by Buck Showalter,” Merullo said. “I heard this all got to the highest levels and they appreciated what we are doing there. It makes you feel part of one big family and can’t help but want to make you do your job better.”
Under Showalter and Dan Duquette all things - no matter how small they may seem - are important. You look to gain any edge you can on your competition and for one day at extended spring training last week, the O’s had the edge on the Red Sox.
In the minors: Henry Urrutia’s bat stayed hot last night for Double-A Bowie when he had a three-run double in their loss to Richmond. Over his last four games, Urrutia is 8-for-16 with five doubles and seven RBIs. In 14 games since joining the team, the Cuban-born outfielder is batting .339 with eight doubles, two homers, 15 RBIs and a .993 OPS.
Triple-A Norfolk won again last night, 8-3 at Buffalo, as Steve Johnson gave up two runs over 5 2/3 to get the win and Travis Ishikawa homered twice to extend his batting streak to nine games. Norfolk is 10-1 over its last 11 games and, since starting the year 1-4, the Tides are 20-6.
Single-A Frederick has now won four in a row and moved into sole possession of first place with a 10-3 win over Winston-Salem as Zane Chavez drove in four and winning pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez improved to 3-2 with an ERA of 4.00 over six starts.
In Single-A Delmarva’s loss Monday, first baseman Christian Walker had his second straight three-hit game. The O’s fourth-round pick last June out of the University of South Carolina is 6-for-9 over those two games with two RBIs and is now batting .366 to lead all O’s minor leaguers. Walker is batting .409 with an OPS of 1.026 against right-handed pitching.