The first workout, De Aza’s hearing and Reimold’s return

SARASOTA, Fla. - Today marks the Orioles’ first official workout of spring training at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. It’s supposed to be pitchers and catchers, but the place is crawling with position players, too.

It’s such a common occurrence now, I didn’t question why shortstop J.J. Hardy was chatting with reporters at his locker yesterday morning. Or why outfielders Adam Jones and Alex Hassan were getting dressed just a few lockers apart. Or why third baseman Manny Machado was stretching and running on one of the practice fields after I headed outdoors.

Does the first workout really carry any special meaning with so many players already in camp?

It sure does to manager Buck Showalter.

“There’s some things I don’t know much,” he said. “I’m not going to name names, but there’s a guy I can’t wait to see move around and throw, take PFP (pitchers fielding practice). I do look at it as, you have precious days that you can’t waste down here because once the season starts you can’t go, ‘Gosh, I wish I had spent more time on that or made this a point of emphasis or I wish we got a better feel.’ I was telling guys in the meetings, every minute, day, hour that passes down here that we don’t use properly to make good decisions and be good, it’s our fault, so we do.

“The easiest thing is it should be on the players, and it is. They want to be here. And it’s not completely because of the facility. I think it’s because of the environment, I think it’s because of the way that it’s set up. The food’s great, it’s clean, it’s functional. Our last three or four years, it’s a huge thing for us since we moved over here. It’s a presentation, too, to our players and players that come in from other organizations. They talk about it.

“When they walk from there to hit in our cages on game day while we’re hitting, they see it. It’s branding. I think it’s important.”

Showalter remembers from his Yankees days when the Fort Lauderdale facility was considered among the finest in the Grapefruit League, but that wasn’t the case during the Orioles’ finals years there. He believes that the Sarasota complex gives the Orioles an edge, and that includes the annual minicamp that was moved here.

“Minicamp’s a big deal for us,” he said. “It’s not free, either. It’s comforting to be here. We’ve got a pretty good feel for where everybody is physically and what to expect.

“There are things that we spend money on that some people don’t. It’s kind of who we are and we’ve got to do it. Whether it’s rehab mounds, whether it’s the minicamp, we’ve got to do those things. Whether it’s spending a little bit more money on a six-year free agent than somebody else might to make sure we get them. But we haven’t had to do that the last couple of years. We’ve actually been able to out-opportunity some people.

“I think the players have come to expect a certain way. A lot of guys are moving down here because of the tax stuff.”

The list includes pitchers Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Tommy Hunter.

de-aza-fist-bump-gray-sidebar.jpgWhile the Orioles are working out in Sarasota, outfielder Alejandro De Aza will attend his arbitration hearing in St. Petersburg. The sides exchanged figures and it was a file to go. There never was a real chance of a settlement.

De Aza submitted $5.65 million and the Orioles countered at $5 million. It’s too late now to split the difference.

The Orioles have lost only once since Peter G. Angelos bought the team in 1993, and general counsel H. Russell Smouse is 7-0. The club is likely to focus on De Aza’s stats with the White Sox last season, when he batted .243/.309/.354 in 122 games.

Showalter expects De Aza’s attitude to be fine no matter the outcome.

“He’s getting ready to make more money than he ever has in his career,” Showalter said.

I interviewed outfielder Nolan Reimold earlier this month after he signed a minor league deal with the Orioles, but yesterday provided another opportunity to get caught up. Here’s a sampling:

Is he surprised to be back?

“In a way, yes, but like I said, it’s a pleasant surprise for me,” Reimold said. “I never wanted to leave in the first place, so obviously I’m happy to be back. I just think that this will be the best place for me and I need to go out and show that I can stay healthy and play. I think it will all work out.”

Why was this the best place?

“I guess there’s a lot of reasons that go into it, but I think the staff here, the management, everybody, I know them, I’m comfortable with them,” Reimold said. “I think they really have the player’s best interest at heart. For me, staying healthy, I’m a big fan and advocate of the strength program and things that have been done here, so I think that would be a big thing, too.

“It’s just a place where I feel comfortable and I feel a little sense of loyalty to the Orioles. If I’m going to have a career, this is where I want it to be.

“I had a little success in Toronto in the beginning, but that calf injury really screwed things up for me, because when I came back I didn’t play very much. But I got out there, I got a taste of how other organizations (work). Not that they’re bad organizations. I felt like even though I was DFA’d, I felt like I was wanted a lot more here, so hopefully things work out.”

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