SARASOTA, Fla. - The one off-day of spring training is here, with the Orioles closing the Ed Smith Stadium complex and being reintroduced to the concept of sleep.
No games, no workouts, no media access. Some guys golf or fish. Others race to the airport to spend a day at home with their families or make plans for Disney World. The beach may beckon. A couple of players may need treatment for injuries, but it won’t take up much of their morning.
Chris Davis is shut down with a tender right forearm, throwing the biggest scare into the team in camp. The MRI had to feel ominous, the mere mention of the words “flexor mass” leading to speculation about Tommy John surgery. But it came back clean.
Davis arrived at the complex yesterday at 8:45 a.m., the exact time that the media was leaving the clubhouse. He headed out as we were interviewing Gabriel Ynoa outside the baseball operations center, carrying a bag in his right hand, if that’s any indication of his recovery.
Craig Gentry should be cleared to play Tuesday against the Twins, his reward for recovering from a hamstring injury being a bus ride to Fort Myers.
“It’s good,” he said yesterday. “I’m probably playing on Tuesday, so everything’s great.”
Outfielder Austin Hays has been swinging a bat, but he still isn’t allowed to throw after receiving a cortisone injection behind his right shoulder. His return will come later this week.
Gentry and Hays are competing for a spot as the platoon right fielder and/or backup at all three spots. Joey Rickard is 2-for-19, but he’s healthy. Switch-hitting Anthony Santander doesn’t play center field and the Orioles are evaluating him in the corners.
Danny Valencia can play the corners, but not center field. And if the Orioles are adamant about improving their outfield defense, Valencia wouldn’t be part of a regular platoon. But the bat against left-handed pitching could entice them - if he actually makes the team.
We know he isn’t going to the minors.
Still no word on Andrew Cashner’s first exhibition start. His second simulated game takes place Tuesday and will cover three innings.
“He looked really good the other day,” Trumbo said. “Broke a lot of bats. And he had a really nice breaking ball working. I think he did some things possibly in the offseason. He was really working on some of his pitches and I think it showed and translated.
“I’ve had a lot of history with him playing against him with the Padres and Diamondbacks and we faced him last year with the Rangers and he was as good as I’ve ever seen him in the few at-bats that I had.”
Witnesses said Cashner’s competitive side really came out. He wasn’t treating it like live batting practice.
“He’s a bulldog out there and he’s competing,” Gentry said. “It was like a real game to him. He’s working on stuff, but I thought he looked great. He had good movement, he was hitting his spots and that’s all you can ask for.”
Hunter Harvey gets his second start Tuesday afternoon against the Twins after allowing one run and striking out three batters in two innings against the Rays.
Manager Buck Showalter must spend another spring talking about a potential innings limit and how to handle with care a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery. Except this time it isn’t Dylan Bundy.
He can read from the same script.
“Yeah, to a point,” Showalter said. “There’s no real basis for it. There’s no concrete plan for those things. Everybody tells you to really rely on your eyes, the feel, the players, what they say. The trainers.
“There’s no blueprint for exactly how you handle it. I wish there was. The baseline is pretty wide-ranging. I think a lot of people are going to be using some of the things with Dylan as they go forward, because everyone is looking for when and how much and nobody really has the data to support anything.”
The parallels between Bundy and Harvey are inescapable, other than the latter having minor league options and little to no chance of heading north with the team, no matter the temptations.
“I think that’s why they have a certain connection,” Showalter said. “I know Dylan will be telling him the right things.”
Ryan Mountcastle committed another error yesterday after entering the game in the top of the sixth inning. First batter and first ball hit led to a bobble and a high throw. But the Orioles will keep working with him at third base while also taking him to the back fields and hitting him fly balls.
Tzu-Wei Lin led off the eighth with a sharp grounder that Mountcastle couldn’t corral, but it was scored a hit.
The outfield would be a third option for Mountcastle after shortstop and third base. The bat will force him onto the roster at some point, but Trumbo is the designated hitter. Also, Mountcastle is only 21. No need to hang the DH label on him already.
His first major league spring training has been “a great experience.”
“Learning from these guys, just picking up bits and pieces,” he said. “Starting to feel good, getting ready for the season.”
I asked Mountcastle whether he’s received much feedback from Showalter or his staff.
“I mean, nothing much so far,” he said. “I’m just trying to play my game and I haven’t heard anything bad, so I guess that’s a good sign.”
While the Orioles remain open to signing another starter, continuing to check on Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, they’ve been happy with the early showings of Mike Wright Jr. and Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr. They’re eager to get Miguel Castro into an actual game now that his knees and back aren’t barking.
They’ll always look in-house for rotation, bullpen and lineup upgrades, with the understanding that the free agent market remains open for business.
“Some of the pitching has been encouraging,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette. “Some of the young pitchers are throwing strikes and they look like they’re going to be capable pitchers for us. The pitchers have been pretty good. (David) Hess looked pretty good, Yefry Ramirez looked pretty good, and Michael Kelly. They each have a couple of major league pitches, so when given the opportunity they did pretty well.
“Cortes is throwing the ball well. (Pedro) Araujo looks pretty good. Araujo has shown a couple of pitches. He’s pitched three times and he’s looked pretty good each time, so he looks like he’s determined to make the major league club.
“Some of the young guys have looked pretty good swinging the bat, too. (Chance) Sisco, (DJ) Stewart, Mountcastle, Hays. (Manny) Machado looks pretty good. Those are our slugging leaders.”
Machado is on another planet right now. He’s 9-for-14 with three doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs in six games.
Yes, I know it’s spring training and the stats don’t count, as some of the more aggressive types on Twitter felt the need to bellow yesterday after I passed them along and a few national media types retweeted. But they’d be shouting from the rooftops if he had gone 0-for-14 with 10 strikeouts.