Notes from the Orioles' holiday party

The Orioles concluded their annual holiday party at Dave & Busters in the Arundel Mills Mall, this year hosting 80 outpatients from the University of Maryland Children's Hospital. The chicken nuggets, mini pizzas and fries were a huge hit, especially when plated by Darren O'Day, Caleb Joseph, Tyler Wilson and former Orioles Scott McGregor, Al Bumbry and Larry Bigbie.

Wilson-Skeeball-Kids-O's-Party-Sidebar.jpgChris Davis handled the drinks at the bar. Punch and lemonade for everyone.

The Orioles announced earlier in the day that the Davis family will serve as ambassadors for UMCH.

"We went there during the season last year and just kind of introduced ourselves to the crew," Davis said. "Just kind of sat down with them and talked about what our expectations were for the upcoming years and kind of our involvement and where we wanted to go with our partnership and got to know them a little better. Obviously took a tour and sat down and heard what their plans for the future are. We decided it was a good fit.

"We wanted to get involved in several ways with the city. There were a number of organizations that we've already partnered with throughout the years that we're going to continue to work with. We wanted to do something that was a little closer to home for Jill, something that she could have a little bit more involvement with. We just kind of fell in love with the hospital, with the people who work there, the things that they're doing, where they want to go. We're all in on that and decided to come up here this offseason and do some things to kind of get involved in and show our faces even though we're kind of here and there.

"It's good to come up here and kind of see everybody, get some colder weather in our skins, not really. (Not) her cup of tea, but it doesn't really affect me with the beard much."

Ah, yes, the beard. The offseason can get hairy for Davis and O'Day.

Being a parent has changed Davis' perspective over the years. The usual transformation.

"I felt like I always had a soft spot in my heart for kids," Davis said. "Jill obviously worked at the children's hospital in Dallas when we were dating. That was kind of something that really meant a lot to her, and being a dad now and seeing some of these kids and what they're going through, it definitely affects you differently. You want to give back any way that you can.

"You see how these kids approach every day and to know what they're going through and to see how upbeat they are and how really inspiring they are even if they're not meaning to be, it just makes you want to do anything you can to help them."

With a big contract comes big responsibility.

"A lot of it went into our decision that we (didn't want) to go somewhere else and kind of start over," Davis said. "We had a lot of organizations that we worked with in the past here that we really wanted to continue to work with and we really didn't want to start over anywhere else. We felt like we had some good roots planted here, but we wanted to keep going.

"After we agreed to the contract and knew that we were going to be here for the foreseeable future that we wanted to really put ourselves out there and do everything that we could within the city. There are some things we do that are kind of outside the city. It was important to us to be involved in things inside the city."

Dr. Vicki Tepper, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, expressed her appreciation today for the Davises lending so much more than just money.

"This year, they've made donations to our NICU in order to do things that will improve the quality of life for the kids that are in there with their moms, which has really been an impressive thing," Tepper said. "We're looking forward to the next year, where we're going to have this partnership that will really help us to do more things for kids in Baltimore.

"For Chris and Jill to be involved really brings us more recognition because they do such amazing things in the community and he does amazing things on the field, so they will be able to highlight us and with that partnership hopefully bring more attention to the life-saving work we do every day."

O'Day received his new contract last winter, with the Orioles forking over $31 million for four years. It's a mere pittance compared to the contracts signed by Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon. Totally different neighborhoods.

"Yeah, those guys, the market is changing," O'Day said. "It seems like good teams are starting to emphasize bullpens more. Personally, I think it's awesome.

"I think it started about three years ago. It's good for the players, it's good for the guys, the high-end closers. It trickles down to the middle (relief) guys and the setup guys. It's great and it's good to see. Guys who have traditionally been valued as just another arm are getting their due."

O'Day made two stops on the disabled list this season with hamstring and shoulder injuries, limiting him to 34 games and bringing endless amounts of frustration. He doesn't expect a repeat in 2017.

"It's the same pattern that happened to me in the 2011," he said. "I hurt my lower body, came back and hurt my shoulder. And then if you look at 2012 through 2015, I was healthy for four years, so let's hope that's the same thing.

"I feel awesome. Everything feels good. I feel awesome, so I'm excited to get back. I don't see anything dragging into next season."

That includes negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The sides reached agreement a few days before the Winter Meetings. O'Day was in the thick of it as the Orioles' union representative.

"Without getting into specifics, there were things that we were talking to them about that they knew and we knew were grounds for us not reaching an agreement by the time, by the deadline," O'Day said.

"Luckily, both sides came to a compromise at the last minute, with a few founding tenants that the union is based upon and founded for. It was something we believed in strongly. It was cool to be there for the meeting and it was neat to see all the inning workings and hear the minute to minute updates. Luckily, we got it done. It was good for everybody."

O'Day can relate to both sides of the argument regarding the Orioles bullpen and whether they should be open to trading closer Zach Britton or one of their setup men to improve in other areas. He'd prefer to keep the unit intact, of course, but he knows the return for someone as dominant as Britton, especially in today's market.

"These are good friends of mine, so I don't want to see any of them go, but I understand they're trying to run a business," he said. "You're seeing what teams are willing to pay and give up for these high-end relievers and it's crazy. It's awesome. I understand that.

"The bullpen is our strength and you can look at it through both lenses. It's an advantage because we already have it. We don't have to go out and spend for it or trade for it, so if we keep it together we already have what all these teams are trying to put together. We can shorten games and we're ahead of other teams in that facet."

O'Day remains hopeful that the Orioles can re-sign catcher Matt Wieters, one of his closest friends on the team, as well as slugger Mark Trumbo, who led the majors with 47 home runs. But again, it's a business. He gets it.

"I've known Matt my whole time here and I was roommates with Mark when we were with the Angels. I consider them both good friends," he said.

"In terms of their contract negotiations, I haven't talked to them about it. I saw Matt this past weekend. We spent most of the time just catching up and having two kids and playing man-to-man defense versus zone defense on your kids. We didn't talk about his contract much at all.

"To be honest, when you're a free agent, it kind of dominates your thoughts most times of the day. You're trying to figure out where you're going to be. You're trying to figure out big life decisions. You don't really want to talk about it when you're trying to relax and just be friends with anybody."

Santa-Orioles-Holiday-Party-Sidebar.jpgJoseph is enjoying his offseason in Tennessee as "a professional dad."

"Taking a lot of trips to McDonald's, playing in the playpens," he said. "Getting ready for Christmas, getting jacked up. Trying to find various John Deere trucks and stuff to buy the little guy. This year's going to be fun because he can finally enjoy some toys instead of just not really understanding what's going on, so we're getting excited."

Joseph also is keeping track of the Orioles' offseason rumors and how they impact him. He knows they're searching for a veteran catcher, with Welington Castillo, Nick Hundley and Chris Ionetta bringing various levels of interest.

"Yeah, sure, of course we pay attention," he said. "It probably takes a backseat to my Nashville Predators, but no, we definitely pay attention. It's our team. It's something we look forward to, we anticipate.

"Mainly, we're excited about the guys we still have and are retaining. Of course, we'd like to see Mark back and Wiety back and Pedro (Alvarez) and everybody. We believe in our guys, but guys have to make decisions. But yeah, we pay attention."

It's most important for Joseph because Wieters' return would significantly cut into his playing time again. And he's perfectly fine with it.

"Sure, it will affect me either way, but not to the point of anything that you're concerned about," he said. "You have to go in and prepare like you're going to play 130 games, the same way that (Francisco) Pena will and the same way that everybody in the organization that catches will. And If you're name's called you've got to be ready.

"But look, we made the playoffs last year. We made it in 2014 and I just want to get back to the playoffs. It was not fun watching the other teams in there knowing we were really close. Playing October baseball is just super special and I want to be a part of that. Whatever role that is, I'm willing to suit up and go with it."

Joseph has spoken to Wieters, a free agent who may not sign until the holidays have passed. The Orioles must decide whether they can remain that patient or move more aggressively on another catcher, with Castillo still their preference.

"I don't want to bother him, but, yeah, I've talked to him, hoping everything goes well," Joseph said. "It's a decision he needs to make for his family, but we also have feelings, too. We selfishly want him back. It's hard to imagine what it would be like without him. He's been here really since I got drafted.

"He's going to have to make a decision based on his situation, his circumstances. Would love to see him in the Orioles uniform for sure."

Note: The Orioles re-signed Double-A Bowie infielder Garabez Rosa, according to Baseball America.

Rosa hit .303/.326/.412 in 110 games with Bowie after manager Buck Showalter kept bringing him over from minor league camp for spring training games.

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