SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles catcher Matt Wieters increased his throwing to 120 feet today, the fourth distance he’s covered since starting his program in late November.
“In the whole progression of step things, it’s not a big day, but this is a step day,” said manager Buck Showalter.
Wieters started a light throwing program immediately after Thanksgiving, heading outdoors every other day to play catch with physical therapist Lloyd Van Pamelen in Atlanta. The distance started at 45 feet and increased to 60 and 90 feet before today.
Wieters is recovering from ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. He’s hoping to be ready on opening day.
Showalter said he wants to bring seven catchers to spring training, a group that could include Ryan Lavarnway if he clears waivers. The Orioles should find out Wednesday.
Showalter was impressed with Garcia, 22, a Rule 5 pick.
“That’s a pretty good delivery there, boys. That’s one thing we liked about him. He’s got a clean delivery. It’s effortless,” Showalter said.
“I wanted to see if the delivery was as clean as it was on tape. That’s a pretty good arm right there. It’s going to be fun to watch him.”
Garcia, 22, was cleared to throw after sustaining two concussions in the span of two weeks in November.
“The first one was a car accident I had,” Garcia said. “I pulled into a gas station and a guy hit me head-on. And the second one was, I was hiking and I had my dogs and they got me crossed up and I took a pretty nasty fall down a hill.”
A cab ran into Garcia’s car as he drove in Greenville, S.C.
“Later on in the day, I started to feel really funky, so I went to the hospital,” Garcia said. “They said it wasn’t anything major, but the next couple days passed and it started to get a little worse. I saw a specialist and he told me to take it easy for the next couple of weeks and it went away. Tomorrow I’m seeing a balance specialist to help things, but everything is pretty much fine now.”
Hendrickson played catch for a few weeks to get his arm ready for today’s side session. He expects to throw again on Wednesday while attempting to earn an invitation to spring training.
Hendrickson, 40, became a grandfather two weeks ago and is using it as further motivation to return to the majors for the first time since making eight relief appearances with the Orioles in 2011. He wonders how many active pitchers have been grandfathers.
Showalter convinced Hendrickson to lower his arm slot and now refers to him as a “tweener” - somewhere between sidearm and submarine style.
“He’s in no-man’s land,” Showalter said.
“Either you’re there or get back up here,” Showalter said, providing a demonstration for the media. “When you get in here (straight sidearm), everything flattens out. The ball is going this way, staying on a plane. When you get down here, you can change planes. When you get up here, you can change planes.
“I don’t even know if we’ll bring him to camp or not. We’ll see. I’ll sit down with Dom (Chiti) and Dave (Wallace) when it’s over and see what they think and also see what our roster invite list looks like.”
Henry Urrutia has been working out in Sarasota for a significant portion of the offseason and it shows in his increased muscle mass.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that wants it more than him,” Showalter said.
The decision to bring reliever Ryan Webb to minicamp was made a couple of days ago. The club needed to check on his left shoulder following surgery.
“There had been some concern over range of motion, but he’s gotten that back and should be OK,” Showalter said. “That’s why he’s here.”
Left-hander T.J. McFarland will report to minicamp later today.
Hunter Harvey, shut down in late July with a strained flexor mass, played catch today and said his arm feels good.
“I started throwing a couple weeks ago, so I’m ready to get going,” he said.
Harvey underwent another MRI in the middle of December.
“It was all cleared out,” he said. “It was just soreness. It got a little tight and they wanted to take precautions.”
Harvey, 20, understands the benefits of attending a minicamp.
“It’s a good opportunity to come down here and see everybody. Being around all these guys is pretty special,” he said.
“That’s a huge opportunity, to be able to come down here in front of a big league pitching coach and a head coach and being around some of these other guys.”
Harvey was 7-5 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 starts at Single-A Delmarva, and the Orioles believe he could move quickly through the system.
“I didn’t get to pitch that last month, but development-wise, I thought last year went pretty good,” he said. “I learned a lot of new things. I can work off what I did last year and keep going.”
Chris Tillman reported to the Ed Smith Stadium complex instead of waiting for Wallace and Chiti to visit him in California. He’s pretty much done with the West Coast.
“I wanted to get out of California, get out of the area,” he said. “When I started training, I didn’t really know there was a minicamp, but when I found out I figured it would be a good time to come out. I’ve been training in California and figured why not do it here?
“I’m thinking of buying a place here. Miguel (Gonzalez) just bought a house, (Wei-Yin) Chen has a house, Zach (Britton) is looking around. All the guys I work out with might as well all come together.”
Wallace and Chiti will head to California after the Sarasota portion of the minicamp ends on Wednesday.
“They texted me and said, ‘We’ll see you in a week.’ I said, ‘No you won’t,’ ” Tillman said.
Tillman wanted to throw today, but he was told to wait.
“I saw Dom and Dave and they said hold back,” Tillman said. “I’ve always been early to the point where we throw in California and get ready, we build up and then we come out here and we’re only allowed to throw three or five minutes. You feel like you’re way ahead and you feel like you have to step back and get over the hump again. It’s just something you learn. I feel like I’m late starting today, but they said wait it out. We’ll sit down, kind of plan it out and go from there.”
Tillman must adjust to a clubhouse that no longer includes Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz.
“It’s tough to see those guys go, especially Nicky,” he said. “I’ve been with him since spring 2008, around him since 2009. You’re not only losing a good player, but probably one of the best players you can ask for. I was actually in Paris at Manny (Machado’s) wedding. Someone texted me, ‘Did you hear it?’ No, I didn’t hear it. It was tough, but I think we’re more than capable of moving on from this. It’s baseball. It happens with every team, I think.”
Asked whether he’s confident in the current group of Orioles, Tillman replied, “Yeah, absolutely. I think we have a good team. We had a good team before with Nicky and Nelly out there. We had a great team, but at the same time I think we’re capable of doing some special things without them. Would it be easier with them? Probably. It’s baseball, it happens with everybody. No one’s going to feel bad for us.”
Reliever Tommy Hunter isn’t worried about the roster subtractions, which also include left-hander Andrew Miller.
“I think we had a pretty damn good bullpen before Miller got there,” Hunter said. “I think we had a pretty damn good team before Nelson got here. It’s just going to take guys stepping up. When one door opens, there’s probably going to be three or four people wanting to put their foot in the door, especially here. It’s a competition. It’s been brought up that way and everybody knows that they have a chance to play baseball here. Losing guys like that just means it’s going to give an opportunity for other guys. I think Buck says that quote quite a bit, actually.
“Having CD (Chris) come back, Wieters come back, Manny come back, they weren’t there for the whole year. You lose somebody, you gain somebody else. I don’t know. I think we’ve got a pretty good squad still. I think the squad that we have right now, minus Markakis, is the same one that took us to the playoffs in ‘12. Gave us a pretty good team in ‘13, a competitive team at least.
“We’re going to have to have somebody hit 56 home runs between the two of them, whatever it was, and 170 RBIs. Somebody’s going to have to pick it up. If they need me, I’ve done it before. Give me a bat, see what happens.”
Hunter could take on more of a leadership role this season.
“I think it’s just something that comes with baseball,” he said. “The longer you stick around, the more you know what’s going on. I think more of what those guys do is set an example, and people follow it. I think there’s been an example set here (since Showalter arrived). There was a bar set and guys have to reach it. If you don’t reach it, somebody else is going to. I think that’s the standard around here.
“Minicamp’s going on, there’s guys out here playing ball and guys want to be a part of something. If you get enough guys on the same page, you’re going to create something pretty good. I think we’ve got quite a few guys outside of the 25-man, outside of the 40-man. You’re talking about a good program to be a part of right now. Guys are here.”