Early thoughts on spring training

The release of the spring training schedule this week made me flash back to past players who occupied so much space in this blog and never made it to Baltimore. There seems to be one every year.

I also celebrated how we’re making only one trip to Dunedin while lamenting the upcoming drives to Orlando and Lakeland, but I digress ...

There needs to be an award for whichever player is the big spring tease. Left-hander Jeff Beliveau (pronounced BELL-uh-voh) would have received it this year after signing with the Orioles on Dec. 5, 2015 as an injured free agent.

Beliveau was recovering from April labrum surgery that ended his season with the Rays and made him an easy acquisition for the Orioles. He made his spring debut on March 21 at Twin Lakes Park and the media reported it like Game 7 of the World Series.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. We were busy attending a Grapefruit League game, but it led every notebook and clogged Twitter timelines.

Up to that point, we made daily visits to his locker for shoulder updates while also pressing him for details of his throwing schedule. The first bullpen session, off a half mound, only fed the beast.

Ed-Smith-game-vs.-Red-Sox.jpgBeliveau answered every question with tremendous patience and kindness. How many times can a guy respond, ‘Like I said, I don’t know what’s next’ without exploding? We learned that he had a high tolerance.

So what happened to Beliveau? He spent most of the season at Single-A Frederick, appearing in 27 games before a late promotion to Double-A Bowie. Though he registered a 2.54 ERA for the season, he never was considered for the major league bullpen, the reports stating that he simply wasn’t ready.

Well, we’ll always have Sarasota.

Beliveau was just the latest on a long list that includes Tsuyoshi Wada, Suk-min Yoon, Justin Duchscherer, Mark Hendrickson (twice), Dontrelle Willis, Pat Neshek, Ryan Drese, Alfredo Aceves, Trayvon Robinson, Francisco Peguero, Jai Miller and Randy Winn. That’s just the tip of the wasted time iceberg.

Eddie Gamboa should be placed in a special category because he spent one day with the Orioles in 2015 without getting into a game. Small return for all the attention given to his conversion to knuckleballer.

I also think there should be a special category for Dexter Fowler, who never made it to the Ed Smith Stadium complex but still occupied way too much of our time and energy.

I’d also push for a special category for an agent who blames the media for the “confusion” despite his client contributing to it by texting an Oriole that he was heading to Sarasota. But again, I digress ...

It’s virtually impossible to list nominations for the 2017 award without the camp roster being set. However, I can start to predict the most repetitive questions.

Chris Tillman will be bombarded with contract negotiation questions if he isn’t re-signed by spring training, just as J.J. Hardy was back in 2014. Tillman is entering his free agent season.

So is Hardy, by the way, if his option doesn’t kick in. Lucky guy. He, too, will be asked about his status.

Manny Machado is under team control through the 2018 season, but the Orioles may re-open extension talks, which will bring the media to his locker in spring training.

Other possibilities include the following:

“So what’s it like to replace Matt Wieters?”

(This one only works if Wieters leaves as a free agent.)

“Do you feel any pressure to replace the major league leader in home runs?”

(This one only works if Mark Trumbo leaves as a free agent.)

“What’s it like to enter camp in the rotation?”

(This one has Dylan Bundy written all over it.)

“Feel any additional pressure to be perfect after not blowing a save last season?”

(Get ready for it, Zach Britton.)

“Disappointed that you didn’t win the Cy Young Award?”

(This one only works if Britton is denied.)

“Think you’ll get an RBI this season?”

(Sorry, Caleb Joseph. The local beat crew will broach the subject only once, but other media outlets will trickle into camp. Be ready for it.)

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