The start of spring training (updated)

SARASOTA, Fla. - I can say that spring training has officially started because my rental car is parked at Ed Smith Stadium and I’ve already walked through the clubhouse once this morning.

I saw a bunch of empty lockers.

I also saw a huge crane outside the stadium as the renovations continue at the complex. The finishing touches are being applied to the back fields, which should be ready for tomorrow’s first workout for pitchers and catchers. Some of the stadium work could continue until the first home exhibition game March 1.

The clubhouse looks exactly the same. Those renovations won’t begin until the Orioles head to St. Petersburg for the opening series of the 2011 season.

For now, the media is setting up in the players’ dining room. We’ll move into one of the offices tomorrow. Our workroom will be located on the third level of the stadium once we’re allowed inside.

It’s quite a change from the trailers that we’ve called home the last few springs.

I’ll walk around the complex later, but there’s quite a buzz. People are beyond excited. We’re not talking cosmetic surgery here. It’s a complete overhaul. If you caught some games last year, you won’t recognize the place.

Koji Uehara and his interpreter, Jiwon Bang, are in town. I ate breakfast a few tables away from them about an hour ago.

It looks like Uehara has trimmed his sideburns, though I’ll get a closer look later. They’re still long, but they don’t wrap around his face anymore.

You’ve waited all winter for your first spring training report, and it involves Uehara’s sideburns.

And here’s your first spring training update:
Upon further review and closer inspection, Uehara’s sideburns still meet under his chin. He’s basically sporting a goatee, which will be shaved before his physical. But he’s keeping the sideburns long.

You’re welcome.

Speaking through his interpreter, Uehara said he feels fine physically. “Everything is good,” he said.

That includes the hamstrings, which have sidelined him the last two springs.

I asked whether he’s taking any special precautions to avoid a relapse.

“I’m thinking not to push too much during spring training,” he said. “That’s going to be my approach.”

Though the Orioles signed Kevin Gregg, Uehara isn’t conceding the closer’s job to anyone.

“I’m here to compete for that role,” he said. “The first priority would be to compete for the role, but if the role doesn’t come up, I’m still in the major leagues and I’ll pitch there and that will be awesome.”

More players have arrived, including Troy Patton, who was arrested and charged with a DWI last month in Houston. He has a court date scheduled later this month which will force him to leave camp.

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