Talking about opportunity, Hardy's nickname and championship rings

SARASOTA, Fla. - Has the Orioles' organization become a land of opportunity for the fringe major league player?

The answer may well be yes.

The 2012 playoff Orioles used 52 players and made a whopping 178 roster moves. That was just the second time in club history an Orioles team had used 50 or more players and was the most since the 1955 team used 54 players.

The 2013 Orioles matched that 1955 squad by using 54 players and made 176 roster moves. So only three times in club history have the Orioles used 50 or players in a season and it has now happened in back-to-back years.

Manager Buck Showalter said the club has proven it will give players the chance to make the team in spring training. Then they have proven they'll make plenty of roster moves during the season. That is big for a fringe player that needs time on the field during the spring to show what they can do.

"We keep track of plate appearances and innings played and we keep up with it," Showalter said. "We do a lot of work in the offseason, trying to bring in people who fit who we are and how they might fit with a need we have.

"Some guys may initially be surprised by the (spring training) playing time they get here, but it helps us make better decisions on them. It's helped us acquire players in the offseason. There is nothing like word of mouth with the players.

"The one thing we can compete with anyone on is opportunity. We try to out-opportunity teams. The guys know exactly what they are competing for. There is a real morale from guys knowing we are going to look within. When guys get sent down (to the minors) they don't like it, but they know that is where we are going."

Showalter has said several times that the Orioles pretty much look at the players from Double-A Bowie on up as players available to the big league roster.

"We look at this like a 75-man roster counting Bowie," he said. "There is a real morale that builds off that in our minor league system. We'll go to Bowie if it's not in Norfolk. It doesn't matter if it's roster or non-roster, we'll make the room for you and we have."

When J.J. Hardy makes a good play in the field - and that happens a lot - he may hear a teammate yell out, "Textbook."

That is because Hardy makes, as they say, textbook-like plays. He does it the way it should be done in textbook fundamental fashion. No flash, but plenty of substance.

When did his teammates start calling him "textbook?"

"It just started probably in the last couple years," Hardy said. "I mean when we're doing infield-outfield I'll hear people yelling, 'Textbook' whenever I field a groundball and throw it to first. It's a funny thing. I don't know how much of a nickname it is, it's just kind of starting to catch on maybe."

Eight young Orioles players will get championship rings tonight during a pregame presentation at Ed Smith Stadium before the Orioles face the Twins at 7:05 p.m.

The eight were on the Surprise Saguaros team that won the Arizona Fall League championship in November. A league official from the AFL will be on hand for the presentation.

The eight that played on that team are pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez, Tim Berry, Branden Kline and Jason Gurka, and position players Henry Urrutia, Dariel Alvarez, Jonathan Schoop and Michael Ohlman. Also getting rings tonight will be Double-A Bowie manager Gary Kendall, who managed the Surprise team and Single-A Delmarva pitching coach Alan Mills who was one of the two pitching coaches for that team.

For Schoop, it will be his second championship ring as an Oriole. He got his first when Schoop, Manny Machado and the Single-A Frederick Keys won the 2011 Carolina League title.

"It was a lot of fun playing with those guys (in the AFL) and against such good competition," Schoop said. "I learned a lot. Getting a ring, it's an honor. We were excited to win that championship. We won and we got better as players."

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