SARASOTA, Fla. – The Orioles are traveling to Tropicana Field this morning to play the Rays, who can't use their spring facility in Port Charlotte due to the damage inflicted by Hurricane Ian.
The place will seem empty. As if that's an oddity. But it's still 72 degrees and dry inside and a great setup for visiting teams and the media. Don't be a hater.
I spent some time yesterday making sure that I didn't forget to share anything important, as the days meld together and the brain begins to fry. Or anything stupid. Let's not be elitist.
* Outfielder Kyle Stowers isn’t working out at first base.
I felt like I had to confirm it after speculating in Friday’s mailbag.
Stowers has some experience at first, including 18 games in the West Coast League in 2017, five in the Cape Cod League the following year and one at Stanford. None as a professional.
He’s willing to do it if told. Anything to make the club and contribute to it.
Same as Terrin Vavra, but without the catcher’s mitt in his locker.
* I shared that Grayson Rodriguez intends to switch his number from 85 to 30 if/when he’s with the Orioles on Opening Day. Because I was asked, of course, and I’m the messenger here.
Stowers is ditching No. 83 this season. The new digits are to be determined.
First, Stowers said, he has more important business to handle. He’s got to break camp with the team.
“For me, it’s just trying to take care of my business,” he said. “I’m very confident in my ability and I believe I can help this team win, but at the end of the day I’ve got to take care of my business and win a spot, but also be a good teammate and let the rest take care of itself.
“We’ve got a lot of good players out here, and so it’s a lot of fun and we’re all competitive.”
* For you hair enthusiasts, Stowers will let his blonde locks grow back out.
He gets them cut once a year.
* Orioles third base coach Tony Mansolino brought the lineup card to home plate yesterday. For a good reason.
The Braves sent out Tony’s father, Doug, a former major league coach who serves as the organization’s player development advisor.
The two men posed for a photo with the umpires and shook hands before heading to their dugouts.
I’m a sucker for a sweet family moment.
“I thought that was a nice touch,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “You can tell where Tony comes from. They’re like identical. But I’ve actually known of Doug Mansolino for a long time. He’s a baseball lifer, and Tony doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
* Jackson Holliday is attracting the normal attention in camp as a first-overall draft pick who’s only 19 years old and carrying more tools than a belt can hold.
Observers marvel at his athleticism, the hitting skills, the arm and range, and his maturity. But I’ve also heard a lot about how the muscular physique, thick across the shoulders and chest, is such a humorous contrast to his youthful face.
One of my favorite comments about it from an instructor:
“Put a hoodie on Holliday and look at his build, and you’d think he’s 25. Take off the hoodie and he’s 12.”
An exaggeration that made me chuckle.
* Is the Home Run Chain coming back in 2023?
Some veterans don’t seem to know.
One of them said “probably” and suggested that it might need to be purchased at the team store. I expressed my faith in the “fired up guy” to handle it.
(Hope that’s OK, @FiredUpGuy1)
* Non-roster invite Josh Lester is trying to win the backup job at first base. Going only by the offensive stats, he’s fallen behind Lewin Díaz, Ryan O’Hearn and Franchy Cordero.
O’Hearn had another hit yesterday and is 5-for-10. Díaz is 4-for-9 with two doubles and a home run. Cordero reached on an infield hit yesterday, his line drive up the middle ripping the glove off Braves starter Spencer Strider, and is 3-for-12 with a home run.
Lester came off the bench yesterday and went 0-for-2, striking out in the ninth with two runners on base and one out, and is 1-for-11. He’s also played third base and subbed for Stowers in right field yesterday.
Versatility is how Lester believes he can help this team. He just needs the bat to heat up.
“The last few years I played five or so positions, and some left-handed power,” he said recently. “I think that could play a role, especially in Baltimore with the short wall, hit some balls off of and over and hopefully drive in some runs and help the team win some games.”
Just stay away from the left field wall.
“I’ve heard it’s not fun anymore,” he said.
* Kevin Smith and Blaine Knight were extra pitchers brought over yesterday to Ed Smith Stadium. They were among the missing names from the camp invite list who really stood out.
Also, no Zac Lowther, and we haven’t seen him on the major league side or the travel roster.
From what I’m told, it was just a numbers thing with those three and some others, including infielders Adam Hall and Cadyn Grenier. The Orioles have 71 players in camp. There had to be a cutoff.
* Former second baseman Brian Roberts had plenty of observations about the young infielders in camp, marveling at their size and athleticism and the collective talent.
Roberts also favors the bigger bases, as you’d expect from someone who tied for the American League lead in steals with 50 in 2007.
“Those are bizarre, when I walked out there the first time,” he said. “I would have taken bigger bases, sure. That’s an advantage. Any six inches when you’re running or going down the line or steal or whatever is an advantage.”
Also mark down Roberts as a huge fan of the pitch clock. The media isn’t complaining, either, with none of the first eight games reaching the three-hour mark.
The 1-1 tie with the Pirates on Friday night was completed in 2 hours and 18 minutes. Made it back to my room for the start of “Fire Country.” Take the small wins.
“I love it,” Roberts said, referring to the pitch clock and not the CBS series. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure until I sat in the dugout. It was the sixth inning and I looked at my watch thinking it was probably 3:30 or 4, and it was like 2:30. I’m like, ‘Wow.’
“I think it’s great for everyone. I really do. I think the fans are going to enjoy it a lot. I really think the players are actually going to enjoy the pace of the game. As a defender, for sure. Not to throw Steve Trachsel under the bus, but you know, there are nights where it’s the fourth inning and you’re like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ And also hitters. You watched hitters, as well. They take longer and longer to get to the batter's box, they take longer and longer between pitches.
“I just think it’s gonna be great for the game all around. There will be some kinks to it and some things that guys won’t like, and maybe even us that we won’t like at first, but I think once everybody gets the feel of it and the hang of it, it’s going to be great.”
Yesterday's game was over in 2 hours and 21 minutes. I won't bore you with my gym plans, but ... sweet!
How will the clock impact concession sales? Shorter games, fewer food and beverage purchases.
By the way, I loved the Steve Trachsel reference. Some of the older scribes here, myself included, brought up his name this spring in relation to the clock.
I was yesterday years old when I discovered via a Baseball-Reference.com search that the Orioles re-signed Trachsel as a free agent after trading him to the Cubs in 2007. Totally forgot about it. And with good reason.
It took me less time to power up my laptop, look up his stats and type that paragraph than it did for him to throw a pitch. Seemed like a nice guy, though.