Minor league notes on extended spring training and more

While the Orioles have been playing games and their minor league affiliates have been doing the same, games have also been played by O's young players under the hot Florida sun.

We don't see any standings or stats from these games - they are not kept or reported, at least publicly. But important learning and development has been going on at the Orioles extended spring training program. The players face teams from other organizations in games and also play simulated games to get needed reps to improve.

The extended spring program will end on June 7 in Sarasota and some of the players will then move to play on short-season teams in the Gulf Coast League or with Aberdeen around the middle of June.

O's director of player development Brian Graham is pleased with how the O's extended spring program has gone this year.

"The program has been outstanding," Graham said. "I'm really pleased with the staff and what they've done there in getting reps for the players. Matt Merullo, Orlando Gomez, Milt May and Dave Schmidt with the pitching, really pleased with the way our extended program has gone."

Two young international players signed by the Orioles on Jan. 30 are playing daily at extended spring. They are third baseman Jomar Reyes and first baseman Carlos Diaz.

The 17-year-old Reyes is a right-handed hitter from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and is listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. The 17-year-old Diaz, a lefty batter from Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 200 pounds.

"They are both playing regularly," Graham said. "They are both making good strides. Reyes is probably ahead of Diaz right now. Reyes is a little bigger, stronger and a little more physically mature. Reyes is doing well."

Reyes could be assigned to the Gulf Coast League when play begins there June 20.

"There are tools," Graham said of Reyes. "He's a big strong kid with a good arm. There is raw power. His hands are good and there is some athleticism for a big kid.

"You know he's just young. He has to work on every aspect of the game, but there are definitely tools there."

During my trip to spring training in March, I interviewed both young players. You can read more about Reyes here and Diaz here.

There was some concern about O's 2009 first-round pick Matt Hobgood when the right-hander left a relief outing for Single-A Frederick on May 8 with what turned out to be minor shoulder inflammation.

But Hobgood is back after missing about two weeks. In two outings since coming off the Keys' disabled list, he has pitched five innings, giving up six hits and two runs.

"Yeah, he's been healthy, feels good and the velocity has been good. He's been 92, 94 (mph) and threw strikes his last outing, so he's been good," Graham said.

Hobgood is 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA in 10 games for Frederick. Over 21 innings, he has walked eight and fanned 17.

Meanwhile, Double-A Bowie right-hander Zach Davies is expected to start for the Baysox tonight as he re-enters that rotation. Davies last pitched in late April and already has been on the DL twice this year - once when he took a line drive off his forearm and once with shoulder tendinitis.

"He's healthy and everything is good," Graham said. "He went five innings and 75 pitches his last outing (at extended spring). He's healthy and doing well."

Davies, the O's No. 11 prospect according to Baseball America, is 1-1 with a 3.12 ERA in four starts. In his last outing on April 28, he gave up just two runs and struck out 10 over seven innings.

As the mid-point of the season approaches, some teams may look to promote minor league players around that time. Graham said he takes promotions on a case-by-case basis, rather than looking at a calender.

"There is no special mark of 50 games or anything. It's based on the player's performance and it is always in our mind, what is best for their development," he said. "But there is no time frame for promotions when you talk about development."

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