Orioles pregame notes on Norby, Henderson, Kimbrel, Guzmán, upcoming starters and more

BRADENTON, Fla. – Second baseman Connor Norby downplayed the soreness in his left side that caused the Orioles to shut him down, and he planned on swinging a bat today to test it.

Norby said he felt some discomfort four or five days ago and wanted to remain active, but the club obviously chose to be careful with him.

“It’s not bad at all,” he said this morning. “I begged and pleaded with him (manager Brandon Hyde) not to stop my workload pretty much and just lower it, but they were pretty persistent on not rushing me right now.

“I’ve been throwing, I’ve been doing everything else as everyone and I feel fine.”

The discomfort surfaced after a round of batting practice.

“It almost felt like a knot but it wasn’t,” he said. “I’d kind of be messing with it after. I said something, that I had felt it, but it wasn’t anything crazy, and that’s when they made the decision to give me a couple days.”

Hyde said the Orioles don’t regard Norby’s injury as serious.

“But whenever it’s a side or an oblique, you definitely err on the side of caution,” he said. “And it’s still so early in camp. We just want to make sure that he’s not going to feel anything before we play in any games. But he’s getting better every day and I don’t think it’s going to be much longer.”

Gunnar Henderson also stayed back in Sarasota this morning while the Orioles made the short trek to LECOM Park in Bradenton. Henderson had some soreness in his left oblique last month and wasn’t cleared for full baseball activities.

Hyde said Henderson might play later this week.

“He’s ramping it up a little more today,” Hyde said. “He’s been hitting and throwing every day. I’m not in a hurry to get him out there until he’s fully ready, and the training staff isn’t either, but he’s getting his work in right now and he’s going to have plenty of time to get ready for the season.”

The level of concern also is low with closer Craig Kimbel’s quadriceps soreness. Kimbrel shortened yesterday’s live batting practice session by about five pitches as a precaution but expects to throw again on Monday.

“I’m not worried about it at all,” Hyde said. “He just felt a little sore in his quad and today I think he feels a little bit better. Tomorrow, he’s got a side or a live BP scheduled. We’ll see how that goes, if he does that tomorrow or maybe pushes it back a day. But I’m not worried about that at all.”

Kyle Bradish said his elbow felt good after yesterday’s throwing session from 90 feet, and he’s scheduled to play catch again on Monday.

* Ronald Guzmán finally made it to camp after experiencing visa issues. He can resume his quest to become a full-time pitcher after reaching the majors as a first baseman with the Rangers in 2018.

“It was a long way, but I’m finally here and I’m ready,” he said. “I’m very excited to be here, for sure.”

Guzmán spent four seasons with the Rangers, hitting 31 homers and driving in 104 runs in 243 games. He appeared in three games with the Yankees in 2022, signed a minor league deal with the Giants last winter and couldn’t pitch due to a forearm injury after revealing his plans to switch.

“In the pandemic year I was on the taxi squad for a while,” he said. “The Rangers were trying something with me, trying to pitch, and that stuck in the back of my head after I missed the (2023) season when I got hurt. So I had a long time to think about it.

“Now I think it’s time to focus on pitching and try to make it to the big leagues as a pitcher.”

Guzmán gets right to the point when asked about his strengths.

“I mean, I can throw the ball really hard,” he said.

“Being a hitter my whole entire career is an advantage for me and I feel very comfortable throwing different pitches. I think it’s challenging, it’s something new.”

Guzmán wanted to be a two-way player but conceded that pitching required his full attention and devotion. He admitted to missing his at-bats as a first baseman, but now he’s hoping to miss bats.

“I had a short career as a hitter,” he said. “I felt like I had a lot more in me defensively and offensively, and that’s something that took me a little bit to let go. … It is what it is. I feel confident in my pitching, also.”

The majors aren’t a distant reality in Guzmán’s mind. He says that he’s “pretty far along,” having worked out as a pitcher during the offseason and eager to tackle the program laid out by the Orioles.

“I can’t tell you how long it’s going to take me,” he said, “but I feel like the stuff is there and I’ve just got to try to work and stay healthy and get the strength to be a reliever and throw every day.”

Five pitches are in Guzmán’s arsenal – four-seam and two-seam fastballs, changeup, slider and curveball. The Orioles may do some editing after evaluating him.

“In the beginning when I first started pitching, I felt more comfortable with the slider, changeup, four-seam, but last year I started throwing more curveballs. I didn’t feel comfortable with it. In spring training I didn’t throw many curveballs, but now, working on it in the offseason, I feel pretty good about it.”

Hyde hasn’t seen Guzmán throw, but it’s coming.

“I remember him as a first baseman in Texas,” Hyde said, “but our reports are that he’s got a great arm. I saw some video on it. I think we’re just taking a long look at a guy that’s got a great arm from the left side.”

The bullpen competition is wide open, though it’s too soon for Guzmán to make a bid for the Opening Day roster.

“We have four guys that I think would be in the frontrunning right now, but besides that, the last two or three spots are definitely open for grabs, and take a long look at a lot of guys.” 

Hyde said right-hander Mike Baumann, who retired the side in order yesterday, was clocked at 97-98 mph.

“He looks great,” Hyde said. “It looks like he’s got a little more rhythm in his delivery. Mike could be huge for us if he continues to progress the way he was last year.”

* The Orioles are listing Keegan Akin, Bryan Baker, Wadisson Charles, Tucker Davidson and Luis González as available pitchers today behind starter Cole Irvin.

The travel roster includes infielders Errol Robinson, Carter Young and Collin Burns, outfielders Enrique Bradfield Jr., John Rhodes and Billy Cook, and pitchers Logan Rinehart, Nolan Hoffman, Kade Strowd, Houston Roth, Keagan Gillies and Ryan Long.

Seth Johnson starts Monday afternoon’s split-squad game against the Braves in North Port. Cade Povich faces the Rays in Sarasota. Atlanta is starting Max Fried and Tampa Bay is starting Trevor Martin.

Grayson Rodriguez starts Tuesday afternoon against the Tigers in Sarasota. Detroit is sending Matt Manning to the mound.

Dean Kremer is expected to start Wednesday afternoon against the Twins in Fort Myers. Minnesota is starting Pablo López.

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