The Orioles continue to piece together their camp roster, which apparently won’t exceed 59 players. They’ve settled on their invites from inside the organization and may add someone else from outside.
I’m told that the current head count includes outfielder Nolan Reimold, though he may not sign his contract until arriving in Sarasota.
The more I check, the more I’m certain that the Orioles are headed to an arbitration hearing with outfielder Alejandro De Aza. I keep getting confirmation. No one is disputing it.
The hearing will take place on Feb. 20 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
De Aza submitted $5.65 million and the Orioles countered at $5 million. He made $4.25 million last season.
The Orioles haven’t gone to a hearing since beating Brad Bergesen in 2012. They’re 7-0 in cases led by general counsel H. Russell Smouse.
Meanwhile, the arrival of a new hitting coach in Baltimore raises the same old questions. What is Scott Coolbaugh’s philosophy and how might it apply to Adam Jones and others who bring a bat and an aggressive approach to the plate?
Coolbaugh, hired on Dec. 19 as Jim Presley’s replacement, describes himself as “an aggressive-type guy,” so he should fit in nicely. But there’s more to it.
“I think at the plate, a moving bat is a dangerous bat,” Coolbaugh said earlier this week on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “But it’s cliched to go up there and say, ‘You’ve got to get a good pitch to hit and stay in the middle and get on base,’ all those things. I think those are just normal things that pertain to being a hitting coach.
“For me, my style is more about being invested in the player, getting to know how they think, what goes on in their minds in the box during the game to be able to make those adjustments throughout the year, and getting them to perform at the ultimate level. For me, some of them are going to be a little bit more aggressive than others, and some of them are not going to be. It’s just a matter of knowing what works best for each individual player and kind of go from there.
“It will take some time during spring training to get to know these guys and really try to develop that relationship with them and build that trust.”
Fans use Jones as the poster child for being too aggressive. He chases sliders in the dirt, heads back to the dugout and quietly scolds himself. He’s also known to joke about it with manager Buck Showalter, who returns the friendly fire.
Showalter recently shared a story from last season when Jones sat on the bench after striking out and asked, “Have you ever seen a worse at-bat than that one?”
“Yes,” Showalter replied, “I saw one that was even worse last night.”
Jones checked to make certain that Showalter still “loved” him. No worries.
The bottom line is the Orioles don’t want to take away that aggression to the point where Jones’ run production suffers while his walk total increases.
In parts of nine major league seasons, Jones is averaging a .280/.320/.461 slash line with 30 doubles, four triples, 25 home runs, 85 RBIs, 29 walks and 128 strikeouts in 658 plate appearances. He drew 19 walks and struck out 133 times in 682 plate appearances last season.
“I think there are some things you can work with,” Coolbaugh said. “The first thing is you really have to get into Adam’s mind and try to figure out what goes through his mind in some of those at-bats. Maybe there’s some things that he’s doing from the mental side that can help slow him down. It could be a possibility of maybe even just eliminating a certain pitch that he tries to hit. But one thing about Adam is he is aggressive, he’s able to hit some pitches that probably other guys can’t just because he has that aggressiveness and he’s a super talent, and that’s why a lot of times his numbers are what they are.
“You really don’t want to take away anything that makes him comfortable. Just try to maybe eliminate and take away some anxiety sometimes so you can eliminate some of those bad at-bats and keep the consistency going, because if we can do that, maybe there’s a few more walks that get thrown in there. Strikeouts are part of the game. I understand it. But at the same time, you don’t want to have a situation where you just throw away an at-bat during the game. And it’s going to happen. Nobody’s perfect, but if there’s some things that I can add to that as far as maybe eliminating a pitch or slowing the game down in some capacity, I think that will help.”
The Orioles had five players with 100 or more strikeouts last season, but also seven who hit 10 or more home runs. Could stressing better contact lead to a power outage?
“I think the ones that you kind of look at are somebody like a Jonathan Schoop that you want to cut down and you want to make the walks-to-strikeouts a little bit better. Guys like that,” Coolbaugh said.
In his rookie season, Schoop batted .209/.244/.354 with 18 doubles, 16 home runs, 45 RBIs, 13 walks and 122 strikeouts in 481 plate appearances.
“Maybe there are some of the guys at the bottom of the order who may have higher strikeouts and you want to be able to turn the order over a little bit more by putting the ball in play and getting on base. Those are some of the things I’ll be looking at,” Coolbaugh said.
“As far as the rest of the club, the guys that do what they do, the three-run homer and the three-run inning gives you, I think it’s a 70 percent-plus chance of winning the ballgame. Those are big innings. It kind of goes back to the old Earl Weaver style of baseball, the three-run homer, but it really is true that if you can get three runs in an inning it puts a lot of pressure on the other clubs, so you don’t want to take any of that away. I just think add some things to maybe the bottom of the order, guys who aren’t really prolific home run hitters, and try to get them to put the ball in play a little bit and get that order turned over.”
Coolbaugh said he enjoyed his first FanFest with the Orioles.
“It was surreal,” he said. “You usually go to those things and you never know what to expect, but the fans were tremendous. It was a great setting. I got to integrate with a lot of the kids, and getting around to meet some different people and signing autographs. Just to be around the atmosphere and see how much the fans here appreciate what the Orioles did last year, it was amazing.”
Don’t try to find Coolbaugh on Twitter or any other social media. He’s not into it.
“You know what? I’ve never done Twitter, I’ve never been on Facebook,” he said. “It’s something that I probably should get a little bit more involved in, but I’ve never really dabbled in it. I’ve kind of been one of those guys who kept to myself a little bit. I’m not a big promoter. I know it’s a great way to interact with the fans and people who are interested in asking about different things, so I’m definitely looking into it.”