SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles have announced their starters for Sunday’s intrasquad game at Ed Smith Stadium.
The game begins at 1 p.m. and is closed to the public.
Zach Britton, Ryan Webb, Mark Hendrickson, Tim Berry, Tyler Wilson and Chaz Roe are pitching for the home team. T.J. McFarland, Wesley Wright, Mike Wright, Jason Garcia, Logan Verrett and Hunter Harvey are pitching for the away team.
The Athletics claimed outfielder Alex Hassan off waivers from the Orioles. He was taken off the 40-man roster on Wednesday to make room for infielder Everth Cabrera.
The Orioles claimed Hassan from the A’s in November.
Most of manager Buck Showalter’s 30-minute media session today was devoted to the pop up drill. The topic will change on Saturday. We’ll stop obsessing over it.
“We got a complaint, a noise ordinance,” Showalter said. “I didn’t know there was a noise ordinance here. Somebody probably working nights. They’re really going to be mad when we do it before a night game. I was hoping it would excite the neighborhood and maybe get a few more people at the game.
“Maybe we’ll use it for the intrasquad game. I’m just hoping we play well enough where we can have that type of crowd.”
The simulated crowd noise served its purpose.
“It’s one of the real down periods of fundamentals you go through, because somebody’s got a machine and five minutes into it guys are going, ‘Really?’” Showalter said. “We try to simulate as many realistic things. You can do so many things on the back fields and you can hear me say, ‘I’ve got it,’ but the reality is it doesn’t happen in the season. It doesn’t happen. You can’t hear most of the time, and the crowd noise increases as the ball’s coming down and two guys are converging on it.
“I was talking to J.J. (Hardy) about it and he said, ‘Man, we’ve got to do that again because we had a couple realistic plays that came up.’ That’s what people miss. We teach in the minor leagues but very rarely can you simulate voice commands. In the playoffs, for instance, and times during the season I couldn’t hardly communicate with my bench coach standing right next to me. To follow the reads and fundamentals of it ...’I’ve got it’ or ‘you take it,’ doesn’t work. I know fans go, ‘Geez, communicate.’ Well, you can’t communicate when you can’t hear, as my wife tells me a lot.”
Showalter tapped his knuckles on the table, a superstitious gesture, as he continued.
“One of the keys for us is the infielder always stays high and the outfielder goes low. That’s why we haven’t had a collision in the last three or four years,” he said. “You teach the feet-first catch. There are so many balls that neither guy can commit that, ‘I can catch it,’ but you don’t want him to slow up. You want both guys to feel free to go full speed.
“We showed them the tape this morning of 25 plays last year where David Lough slides and catches it or J.J. continues and catches it with David sliding where you don’t have that head-to-head, body-to-body collision up top. So there’s hand signals involved so I can see that peripherally. My eyes don’t have to hear. And like Henry (Urrutia) one time kept running after a guy signaled for the catch. Well, you don’t want him to continue because if I’ve got a ball I’ve called and all of a sudden I feel this blur coming at me, that’s where you see the flinch and guys get away. There’s a lot of fundamentals to it. You see 10 times a year a ball falls.
“This thing that a pitcher never catches a pop up? B.S. Yes they do. We had I think six last year and all of them should have been. You get a jam shot where the ball doesn’t have much hang time. Bud Norris made a play last year next to the dugout where he’s the only one who could have made it, and one of the few pitchers that would have made it. Wei-Yin (Chen) is good at it. Our starting pitchers are good.”
The decibel level on the Ed Smith Stadium field was high despite the lack of speakers in the outfield.
“I’d love to do it at Camden,” Showalter said. “I had written it down during the playoffs because fly balls, you better have some rule to follow, otherwise you’re going to have collisions and you’re going to have balls falling.
“I don’t ever want to do something that they go, ‘This is just eye wash.’ It’s got to be practical. It’s got to be, ‘OK, this is going to help us win a baseball game.’ It’s not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything. You’re always trying to simulate the reality of a game as opposed to what might make you feel good after the work is done.”
It made sense to use the crowd reaction from Delmon Young’ s three-run double in the Division Series.
“That’s as loud as it will ever get,” Showalter said.
I wrote previously that Ubaldo Jimenez will start the first exhibition game against the Tigers on March 3 in Lakeland, Fla. Showalter was asked today about the difficulty of judging him in the spring.
“I think the two biggest foolers of the season are spring and fall, September call-ups. Be careful about judging guys,” Showalter said.
“There’s always hurdles that guys have to cross to gain that trust, but he’s got a track record. I’ve got a good feeling about him. I think the proof will be in the pudding when he’s got about 10 starts under his belt at some point.”
Jimenez figures to have the upper hand in early spring games if he’s got command.
“That woud be good to see,” Showalter said. “I do like the consistency of his pitchers early on here. He knows. He’s a smart young man, he’s a good young man. He’s got a good heart. Ubaldo is good people. It hurt watching a good guy go through some of that.
“I was talking to (former Rockies manager) Jim Tracy when we were talking about signing (Jimenez) and he said, ‘He was by far the best pitcher I’ve ever seen for two seasons.’ He said, ‘You could throw any name out there. You can go back as far as you want to go in baseball. He was the best pitcher I ever saw.’ It’s there. This is a well-condition, healthy guy. He’s been healthy. That’s one of the attractive things to him, his age (31) and his health. He’s a big man.
“He’s got a lot of want-to. It’s not a chip on his shoulder. You know how frustrating it must be to have done the things that he’s done as a pitcher and have some of the struggles he had last year. I can’t imagine how tough that is mentally.”
The Orioles tweaked Jimenez’s delivery in September, lowering his hands to eliminate some of the moving parts, but Showalter issued a warning about it.
“You’ve got to be careful about smoothing guys out too much,” he said. “It’s also part of his deception. He has a delivery you can’t simulate. It’s different. But there’s a couple absolutes he needs to get more consistent with. How he lands and different things. There’s probably some scouts that if he were 18 they would be very cautious about signing him because of the delivery, but he’s got such a track record, knock on wood, for health. For the number of innings he’s pitched and his health, it’s pretty impressive.”