Ortiz on importance of conditioning and tonight’s start

Rookie right-hander Luis Ortiz takes the mound tonight for his first major league start still trying to slay a couple of early impressions that he’s left since joining the Orioles.

He won’t be able to drop significant weight in the last few weeks, so cross that one off the list. This is how he’s built and the Orioles won’t be the first team to suggest improvements in conditioning over the winter. To come up with some sort of plan to assist in the undertaking.

Then again, the other teams don’t have Brady Anderson, who’s probably got a nutrition chart and workout schedule already created for Ortiz. Maybe his own blender. But I’m certain that attempts were made in the past while Ortiz was employed by the Rangers and Brewers. He didn’t avoid a scale or uniform sizing before joining the Orioles.

His new team will be happy to hear that Ortiz has his winter priorities in order.

“One is probably going to be my weight,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest key for me this year. The thing has always been my weight, so a big key for me going into this offseason, and the way I look at it, and a couple of the strength coaches and everybody here, is going to be my weight, and to go after it. Cut some weight and come back healthier.

“They haven’t made out a plan for me yet, but when we get toward the end of the season, I’m pretty sure we’re going to sit down again and then go over the whole plan, what they’ve got for me.”

Ortiz is listed at 6 foot 3 and 230 pounds. He’s shorter and probably closer to 250. Certain habits will have to be broken. It’s a lifestyle change.

“No target weight in mind,” he said. “Right now, just eating right and smarter than I’m eating right now.”

I don’t really care how Ortiz looks if he can pitch and field his position. If he can peel a banana without breaking out in a heavy sweat. The determining factors for whether he makes the rotation next spring won’t include a swimsuit competition. But he turns 23 on Sept. 22 and it’s only going to get more difficult to shed the pounds as he gets older.

(I’m not a professional athlete, but I’ve discovered over the last decade that I can say “cheese” during a photo shoot and add belly fat.)

It’s also about his life away from the field. Reducing the odds of any health complications down the road. But Ortiz isn’t going to melt away. He won’t be borrowing Luis SardiƱas’ pants.

“I felt like I was always going to be a big guy, but I think at this weight it’s a little too much,” Ortiz said. “I think I let it get out of hand and to a point where I’m not comfortable with myself. A big key for me is just shedding some of this weight, will be perfect for me going into next year.”

camden-field-view-sidebar.jpgWhat Ortiz can achieve tonight is hitting his target more often than he did in his debut last Friday night at Tropicana Field. Brought out of the bullpen to face the Rays, Ortiz was charged with three runs in two-thirds of an inning while walking two batters and throwing only 11 of 24 pitches for strikes.

Speaking of free passes, Ortiz gets one because he was making the biggest jump in sports and thrust into the middle of a 14-2 blowout against a team that still hasn’t mastered the art of tanking.

He knows that he’s getting the ball tonight with a clean slate. The front office, manager Buck Showalter and his coaching staff aren’t making a final judgement based on one or two appearances.

“I’m looking forward to this opportunity,” he said. “Been waiting for this my whole life and it’s awesome to get back out there again.”

What happens if Ortiz scuffles again tonight? He probably gets another start as long as he hasn’t reached an innings limit for the summer. Showalter is challenged to fill out his rotation based on the health and limits of other pitchers. The schedule includes only one more off-day unless the weather intervenes. Ortiz is needed.

Also, it’s the same reason why DJ Stewart should stay in the lineup. Use the remaining games to evaluate players who could be part of the picture in 2019 and beyond. Just don’t fall for the foolers.

“I spoke to (Andrew) Cashner my first day here and he basically told me to be me and go out there,” Ortiz said. “There’s a lot of opportunities, and just go out there and just do what you have to do.”

Ortiz has to make sure that his failures at The Trop don’t follow him to Baltimore.

“It gave me a lot of looks at it and facing a team that’s really hot right now. It helped me,” he said.

“I got over it. It happened, but looking forward to this start and seeing what happens.”

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