To borrow another one of manager Buck Showalter’s favorite expressions, our curiosity will be satisfied in spring training.
I’m curious about a handful of the 56 players reporting to Orioles camp. For instance:
* Dylan Bundy: He’s going to be treated like any other pitcher in camp, according to Showalter. No reason to hold him back any longer. He’s healthy and on a regular schedule. No half-mounds for Bundy. Will his stuff be electric? It would be a shock - yes, you see what I did there - if he broke camp with the team because he’s ticketed for Double-A Bowie, but it’s nice to shift our focus away from his elbow surgery.
* Eddie Gamboa: He’s back in the organization and he continues to intrigue Showalter with his mix of a developing knuckler and low-90s fastball. I want to check the ratio of pitches thrown in a game and the hitters’ reaction to the varying speeds and movement. Gamboa would like to use his fastball more often, while the Orioles want him to get more comfortable with the knuckler. He’s the type of pitcher that Showalter could summon to make an emergency start, without worrying about days between outings, and send back down.
* Jason Garcia/Logan Verrett: They’re destined to be linked together throughout the spring due to their Rule 5 status. Hopefully, they get along. Garcia is the flamethrower, Verrett the more polished pitcher. The Orioles would like to keep at least one of them, which would require making room in a crowded bullpen. Keeping both of them seems like an impossible task, especially for a contender. It could evolve into a head-to-head competition.
* Ubaldo Jimenez: It’s dangerous to fall in love with spring numbers, but Jimenez needs to put up good ones. The Orioles tweaked his delivery in September, trying to make it more compact by lowering his hands and reducing the amount of moving parts. There’s nothing wrong with Jimenez’s stuff. He isn’t getting hit all over the ballpark. He just can’t locate home plate with any consistency. That’s got to change, starting in Sarasota. Oh, and about that decision to return home during the American League Championship Series ...
* Steve Johnson: How far along is Johnson in his recovery from shoulder surgery? How close is he to being a contributor in 2015? Johnson may be brought along slowly after re-signing with the Orioles. I’ll be quick to update his progress and pass along whether he’s going to start or come out of the bullpen at Triple-A Norfolk. Johnson is out of options, so the Orioles can’t put him on the 40-man roster and let him ride the shuttle to Norfolk unless he keeps clearing waivers.
* Wesley Wright: He wasn’t signed to be an Andrew Miller clone, but he’s supposed to fill at least some of the void. I saw him pitch once against the Orioles at Wrigley Field over the summer and I’d like to get a closer look this spring. Showalter won’t assign Wright a specific role, so we may have to figure it out on our own. Wright isn’t an imposing figure, as I discovered at FanFest. He’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, which might be generous.
* Dariel Alvarez: I’d fly down to Florida just to watch him make throws from right field. Showalter wonders why Alvarez doesn’t appear on more top prospect lists. The Orioles view him as one of the best-kept secrets in the minors. I view him as the a strong candidate to be the first rookie summoned to the majors this summer unless, for example, first baseman Christian Walker is kept on the roster for opening day while Davis serves the final game of his suspension.
* Chris Davis: Everything about him is a curiosity following his drastic drop in production and 25-game suspension. At least he’s already addressed the Adderall issue at FanFest. No need to surround his locker on the first day or push for the Orioles to make him available in the interview room. I just want to see whether he’s driving the ball to left and left-center field, which he couldn’t do while playing with an oblique injury.
* David Lough: Concussion symptoms slowed him down in spring training and may have contributed to his poor first half, when he hit .197/.271/.308 in 117 at-bats. Lough hit .351/.387/.544 in 57 at-bats after the break. Let’s find out whether that production carries over to this spring and beyond. The Orioles are counting on it, especially without a clear favorite to inherit the leadoff role.
* Manny Machado/Matt Wieters: Another spring duo. They’re going to be mentioned often in the same stories and conversations due to their respective returns from surgery. Machado is full-go and should be ready on opening day, but doubts surround Wieters. You’ll be buried in updates on both players. Head for higher ground.
* Rey Navarro: The Orioles gave him a major league deal, the first of his career, while other teams were offering minor league contracts. Let’s find out why the Orioles were so determined to sign him. Yeah, I’m curious.
* Nolan Reimold: How many outfielders can Reimold hurdle in his attempt to get back to the majors? How many pulled hamstring jokes must I be subjected to in the comments section of this blog? Reimold has worked his way back from a second fusion surgery and wants to reward the Orioles for having faith in him. Would it surprise me if he led the Orioles in home runs this spring? Not in the least.
* Jonathan Schoop: He’s slimmed down, though he remains an impressive physical specimen. Schoop belted 16 home runs as a rookie last season, but he batted .209/.244/.354 in 137 games and endured lengthy dry spells at the plate. Hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh will work with Schoop on putting the ball in play more consistently.
* Travis Snider: Can he pick up where he left off during the second half of the season with the Pirates, when he hit .288/.356/.524 with 13 doubles, nine home runs and 24 RBIs in 170 at-bats? Can he handle right field, a position that belonged to Nick Markakis since 2006? His blue collar style will appeal to Orioles fans, but he’s still the guy who’s wearing Nelson Cruz’s number and replacing Markakis in right. Good luck.
* Matt Tuiasosopo: I’m just curious how many times I’m going to misspell his last name.
* Henry Urrutia: No one works harder than Urrutia. He practically lives in the weight room and he spends countless hours taking fly balls and grounders in the outfield to improve his defense. And if you need a tour guide in Sarasota, Urrutia is your man. He’s been down there pretty much the entire winter. Urrutia turned 28 today and he needs to make the next big jump. I’m not sure if there’s a bigger one than defecting from Cuba, but you know what I mean. The Orioles didn’t sign him with the intention of only giving him a cup of coffee in the majors.