SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles will be challenged to carry a Rule 5 pick this season with Joey Rickard and Craig Gentry emerging as favorites to platoon in the outfield corners. A four-man bench also needs a utility infielder and backup catcher.
Manager Buck Showalter has challenged reporters to figure out how the Orioles can include Trey Mancini, who’s 12-for-35 (.343) and trying to learn how to play the outfield. Rule 5 outfielders Aneury Tavárez and Anthony Santander just seem to be blocked.
Santander may be a moot point now that he’s undergoing an MRI arthrogram on his right elbow today. We’ll know more about the severity of his condition later tonight or Friday morning.
Tavárez impresses with his speed - the kid can fly - but he’s still learning how to take full advantage of it. He’s 9-for-29 (.310).
“Every look we can get is another tool you put in your pocket,” Showalter said. “You’ve heard me say many times about spring being such a fooler. You’re just trying to develop a trust factor. We felt like we developed a pretty good trust factor with Joey last year and (T.J.) McFarland and (Ryan) Flaherty. We’ve got enough reps here that we got a feel if you’re really watching. That’s really what you’re looking for.
“It’s kind of tough with Santander because we haven’t been able to see him out in the field. You’re not going to be able to carry somebody, Rule 5, that can’t handle themselves defensively. It just won’t work. So that’s kind of with Tavárez, you’re trying to see how much you can trust him to bring some of the skills that made him so draftable.”
Tavárez is raw in the outfield, one example being how he chased a fly ball in foul territory in left during a recent home game and overran it.
“Some real good (things),” Showalter said. “His talent is going to allow him to get some balls that other people won’t. Will the lack of experience get in the way of completing the plays? You see the long ball that he ran a long way and overran. He’s probably one of the few guys in camp that could get to that ball, but the experience of breaking down, knowing that you’re going to run right by that and you’ve got to get under control, that’s what you’re looking for.
“That skill and that tool don’t play unless you can finish the play and break it down. Throwing arm, all the things that in the big leagues they’ll exploit if you don’t have it. You see the footspeed, then you see the stolen base totals, so you can tell there’s some instinctual things that he’s still working with because you’ll see the footspeed here and you’d expect him to have 40, 50, 60 stolen bases somewhere. And that hasn’t come yet. But it will. It’s got a chance to.”
Showalter said Triple-A outfielder Mike Yastrzemski is cleared for full baseball activities and can play in games at the minor league camp. He underwent sports hernia surgery.
Though Showalter would prefer having all of his players in camp, he’s been watching the World Baseball Classic to track Adam Jones and Mychal Givens with Team USA, Manny Machado and Welington Castillo with the Dominican Republic and Jonathan Schoop with Team Netherlands.
Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens played for Showalter with the Yankees and has stayed in touch during the WBC. It keeps Showalter from feeling so detached.
“Hensley Meulens left me a nice message yesterday,” Showalter said. “I hear from him a lot. That’s the only manager I’ve talked to. He updated me on Jonathan, how everything’s going with that and I really appreciate it. I expect that from a guy who’s played for me. He’s got a chance to manage one day.
“He said (Schoop) is doing well. Early on trying to do a little too much. Said he’s been really good for them defensively, got a lot of big hits for them. Wanted to know if he could keep him, take him to San Francisco with him. I said, ‘No. If you want to send (Buster) Posey and that (Madison) Bumgarner guy our way, we can talk.’”
Jones hit a game-tying solo home run last night in the eighth inning and Team USA defeated Venezuela 4-2.
What was Showalter’s reaction to Jones’ home run?
“You should have been in my house,” he replied. “I was excited about it. I loved the way he handled himself after the game, I’m proud of him. He’s engaged.
“I love how engaged how he and Manny and Jonathan and Castillo and Mychal, they’re really competing. Kind of rev that down and then rev it back up again when they get here. Looks like they have a chance to continue down that road and it might be a while.
“Adam was texting with (Wayne Kirby), wanted to know how J.J. (Hardy) doing, how (Chris) Tillman’s doing.”