Kemp settles in with new team, reunited with Irvin

Infielder Tony Kemp didn’t have a team to play for Sunday and decided to join a close friend at a baby shower in Indiana. Hang out for a while. Take his mind away from being in professional limbo after the Reds granted his release and put him back on the free agent market.

Kemp was headed to the party destination when his agent called to notify him of the Orioles’ interest, that the sides had engaged in talks. A deal seemed imminent.

“Once we heard about it, we were pretty excited,” he said.

The Orioles have signed Kemp to a major league contract that pays $1 million, and he’s at this evening’s workout at Camden Yards.

“Just being in the situation right here, it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “This team has a lot of good value to them, a lot of young talent, and especially playing against these guys you can kind of understand the direction that they’re going in, and I’m excited to be a part of the club that is going for a championship.”

The final Opening Day roster hasn’t been announced but Kemp certainly appears to be on it, given his deal and how there’s no locker with Tyler Nevin’s nameplate above it.

The desire over the winter to find a left-handed hitting second baseman has led the Orioles to Kemp, who also can play left field and steal some bases – 26 in 31 attempts over the past two seasons with the Athletics.

“I haven’t really talked with (Brandon) Hyde much, but I feel like my role is just to, whenever my name’s called, be ready. There’s a bunch of talent in this room and I’m excited just to fit in anywhere I can and also help this team win some ballgames.

“I think it’s exciting, kind of reminds me of when I was with the Astros and all those times that we were going to the playoffs and winning championships. It kind of reminds me of that kind of core group. So, I feel like I thrive in that role. Whatever they ask of me, I’ll be ready.”

Kemp is reunited with former Oakland teammate Cole Irvin, another nice perk to joining his new team.

“He came in and gave me a big bear hug today,” Kemp said. “He’s one of those guys who, you can see that his career’s kind of been able to take off. Once he was in Oakland, playing behind him, obviously he would always pitch on the Sunday getaway days and he works with some good pace and some good rhythm, so I always loved playing behind Cole.”

“Great clubhouse guy, fans are gonna love him,” Irvin said. “I know the Oakland fans adored him. We’re lucky to have him in our clubhouse. He’s a great camaraderie guy. There is nothing bad you can say about Tony Kemp because he’s going to play his butt off, any opportunity he gets. He’s here for the boys, he’s here for the guys, he’s here for the fans. He enjoys every aspect about our game. I’m stoked that he’s in our clubhouse.

“I gave him the biggest hug. I hadn’t seen him since we were last in Oakland. Gave him a big ol’ hug. There was just a bunch of excitement going between both of our conversations, so it was good, it was exciting. We couldn’t have asked for a better guy in our clubhouse.”

Kemp has gone from playing for a team that lost 112 games last season, owners of the worst record in baseball, to one that posted 101 victories and the best record in the American League. And he became familiar with Camden Yards long before reaching the majors.

“When I was around 4 years old, this was actually the first ballpark that I ever visited,” he said. “I think one of my first players was Brady Anderson that I used to track. I was in Sykesville for a little bit. So, kind of familiar with the area a little bit, a little west of here. There’s some history with this ballpark, so anytime I was a visitor I used to love playing here.

“There’s a lot of good, positive atmosphere that’s going on here in this clubhouse, and obviously it’s a blessing to be a part of it. Once we start winning games and seeing what this vibe and this energy is like, I feel like I’ll be able to thrive.”

The workout began with Dean Kremer facing hitters and breaking a couple of bats. Kremer is the No. 4 starter and set to face the Royals Monday at Camden Yards.

The Orioles also are doing infield drills, with pitchers covering first base.

Fans had been invited to attend the workout and a question-and-answer session with Hyde and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, but the Orioles canceled it after the horrific early-morning collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge.

“Just heartbroken,” said Gunnar Henderson. “Condolences go out to everybody affected by it. I agree with the team, just allowing the first responders to be at more important matters on this day. My heart goes with them.”

“Just waking up to the news, it was kind of hard to fathom it at that point, just watching the videos that I saw,” said Cedric Mullins. “Still processing what I saw. Just hoping for the best outcome.

“I agree with (no fans). It kind of, in a sense, gets people out of the way. That takes priority over what we have going on and I hope people understand that. I’m pretty sure the fans do.”

“Woke up to the news,” said Grayson Rodriguez. “It’s pretty heartbreaking. There’s families out there who are looking for loved ones. I really couldn’t imagine if that was me. I couldn’t imagine if I lost any of my family members. So, really just thinking about them, praying for them. It’s heartbreaking.”

“That’s tragic,” said reliever Jacob Webb. “I don’t know too much about it. I just heard it from the meeting we had a little bit ago. Hopefully, they get it all figured out and the people who are missing can be helped.”

Kemp didn’t answer the first question from a reporter until expressing his sympathies for the missing workers and their concerned relatives.

“First off, my heart goes out to the families that were affected by the bridge collapsing last night. That was a tough scene to see,” he said.

“I know a lot of people are hurting right now, so I just want to say that my family’s thoughts and prayers are going out to the families affected.”

* Austin Hays said his bruised right shoulder didn’t bother him after Sunday’s game.

“Shockingly, I actually felt pretty good the following day,” he said. “I thought I was going to be a lot more sore. I made a couple throws in that game, a quick turnaround from a night game to a day game. Really, once I started moving around, I totally forgot about it. It’s pretty healed up now. Nothing underlying there. Just a bruise and it feels a lot better now.”

* Left-hander John Means will begin a rehab assignment shortly with Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles say he’s going to make several rehab starts for the Tides.

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Orioles sign Kemp to major league deal

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