There was a great crowd Saturday at FanFest. We could hear you often from behind the main stage where the media spent most of the day interviewing O’s players and coaches, past and present.
Here are a few quotes and notes worth passing along:
* Pitcher Troy Patton will miss the season’s first 25 games after testing positive for an amphetamine in violation of Major League Baseball’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. He said he took an Adderall pill, not to enhance his performance, but to improve his energy and alertness.
He called it a stupid mistake and mentioned that if it happens again, he would face an 80-game suspension. He can be at spring training, but will miss those first 25 games of the regular season.
“It’s going to be real frustrating,” Patton said. “My goal every year is to run down the orange carpet - that kind of means I made it again another year with the team. Missing those first games at home will hurt real bad. And it did hurt. It was a brutal couple-week process when we were finding out what was going to happen.”
Did he let the team down?
“Yes. But hopefully I pick them back up for the rest of the season,” he said. “Those 25 games, there are probably going to be 12, 13 situations in those 25 games where I would be pitching, so yes, I let the team down for those innings.”
* Brian Matusz wants to be a starting pitcher again and the O’s have said he’ll get that chance in Florida. But Patton’s suspension could impact Matusz. If he were to start, then two lefties from the bullpen last year - Patton and Matusz combined to pitch in 121 games last season - would not be available for those first few weeks.
Does Patton’s suspension hurt Matusz’s chance to break north in the rotation?
“To be honest that is really out of my control. Haven’t thought about it,” Matusz said Saturday. “That is Buck (Showalter) and (Dan Duquette’s) decision. For me, I’m just doing what I can to prepare to be a starter. I feel like that is something I can do to help this team win and that is all I can control.”
* New Oriole David Lough talked about his opportunity to win the club’s starting left field job. Lough finished eighth in the American League Rookie of the Year vote after batting .286/.311/.413 in 96 games for Kansas City in 2013. He led AL rookies in wins above replacement (WAR), according to both Baseball-Reference.com (2.7) and FanGraphs (2.4, tied with Tampa Bay’s Wil Myers).
But he is known also as a very good defensive player and that part of his game - as much as his bat - could win him that left field job come opening day.
“Defense is definitely a big aspect of this game,” Lough said. “I feel that getting into the big leagues and getting my feet wet last year will help at the plate. But defense is important and I’ve always taken it seriously coming up through the minor leagues. I’m willing to work hard and fill that role.”
* Many former Orioles were at FanFest, including Larry Sheets. He was drafted by the Orioles in Round 2 of the 1978 draft and played for the club from 1984-89. In 1987, he had his best year, batting .316 with 31 homers, 94 RBIs and a .921 OPS.
What is his best memory from being an Oriole?
“You know what, I’ve asked myself that question a lot,” Sheets said. “If I did not have the opportunity to play for Earl Weaver, I don’t feel like I’d have been a part of Orioles history. Just having that opportunity and seeing how he went about it, that was huge for me.
“One thing I learned from Earl is there is no doghouse. If you are the right person for the job, you were in the game. I played for some managers where the doghouse was deep and you may not get out of it.”
Could there be another Sheets in the O’s future? His son Gavin plays for the Gilman School in Baltimore and is a senior. An outfielder and first baseman, the younger lefty-hitting Sheets has a college commitment to Wake Forest. He was recently named by Max Preps as the No. 1 player in the state and will likely be drafted by someone come June. No doubt the O’s are very aware of the Gavin Sheets and his talents at this point.
* Guess what Tommy Hunter was asked about? Yep, his shot to be the club’s closer and taking over for Jim Johnson.
“It’s not my decision, it’s not up to me,” Hunter said. “I’d like my hat to be thrown into the mix. If I get a chance, I’ll try to live up to it and take it and run. It’s something I’d like to do.
“Jim was the guy at the end of the game that everyone looked to. Someone has to fill the void. Somebody is going to do it. Somebody is going to step up. It’s going to be one of us here.”
* Michael Ohlman is the club’s 23-year-old catching prospect that had a big year at bat in 2013 at Single-A Frederick. He hit .313 to win the Carolina League batting title with 29 doubles, 13 homers and 53 RBIs in 100 games. He was added to the 40-man roster in November and was at his first FanFest Saturday.
It was an exciting experience for the young player.
“This is awesome,” Ohlman said. “Everyone has been super nice and made it fun. Seeing season ticket holders you see all the time coming through the minors. Some came especially to see me and that is so nice.”
Ohlman actually referred to some fans by name that saw him play at Delmarva and Frederick and showed up to say hello Saturday. Now he heads to his first big league spring training. He got into one major league spring game last March, but never got an at bat. That should change in a few weeks.