Orioles expect the unexpected at spring training

One of the rules that the Orioles need to implement by spring training goes something like this:

No surprises.

Hard-throwing reliever Zach Pop, a favorite of the previous regime, experienced such a pronounced loss of velocity that the Orioles immediately shut him down after one appearance.

Retiring all three batters, with one strikeout, didn’t ease the concerns.

Pop made eight appearances with Double-A Bowie, none of them after April 30, and allowed only one run with 11 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. He underwent Tommy John surgery before his 23rd birthday and will miss a significant chunk of the 2020 season.

Orthopedist specialist Dr. James Andrews handled the procedure on May 14 in Pensacola, Fla.

Pop was part of the return in the Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers and early projections had him as a potential late-inning weapon with the Orioles. He still can meet that expectation, just on a delayed basis.

Kremer-Throws-Team-Israel.jpgStarter Dean Kremer, also an important part of the Machado deal, never made it to the mound in Sarasota, Fla. He, too, surprised everyone by reporting with a strained left oblique.

Kremer sustained the injury two weeks prior while working out at home. The update that he provided at his locker included how he expected to “still be relevant in camp,” but he was optioned to Twin Lakes Park without pitching.

The rest of the story offered a lot of positives. Kremer, who led the minors in strikeouts in 2018, posted a 2.98 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 15 starts with Bowie and held opponents to a .239 average to earn a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk. He closed out the Eastern League portion of his minor league career by going 8-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 10 starts following the break.

The four-start sample size with the Tides didn’t produce the desired results, but Kremer gained experience at a higher level. And he’s been impressive in the Arizona Fall League with a 1.29 ERA and 0.71 WHIP in five games covering 14 innings.

Kremer has surrendered only two runs and six hits and struck out 17 batters. He shut out Peoria Tuesday on only one hit in four innings.

The Orioles probably will keep Kremer, 23, with Norfolk to open the 2020 season, but he could make his major league debut later in the summer.

As long as there are no surprises.

Pitcher Gregory Infante also offered an unexpected storyline by failing to report to camp due to a serious illness that initially kept him in Venezuela. He finally made it to Miami, where he received treatment from team physicians, but never got to Sarasota.

Infante is a minor league free agent after receiving his release on March 29. His Orioles career ended before it started.

* The changes that are rippling through the organization have reached the annual FanFest event.

I’m hearing that the Orioles won’t hold the event next year - it’s usually done in January - and are considering other ways for players to interact with fans. Nothing is planned at the moment.

There have been multiple changes on the business side that might have influenced the decision, with people evaluating ways to present a fresher approach, improve the experience and modernize the operation

Similar to how the new front office is implementing its own vision. See what works, what’s ineffective and redirect the resources.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find some other events set up that allow players and coaches to engage fans, but as I said, nothing has been set up on this date.

FanFest routinely has been held at the Baltimore Convention Center. The club announced last year’s attendance as 8,000, with the expectation that more people trickled into a facility later in the day.

There was controversy in 2018 with Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop skipping the event. Machado had an excused absence, according to former manager Buck Showalter. Schoop apparently took the advice of his agent and stayed home.

Pitchers Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner didn’t attend last year due to previous obligations.

Aubrey Huff wore an “I Heart Baltimore” T-shirt at the 2008 FanFest, held at Camden Yards, after he made disparaging remarks about Baltimore on a Tampa radio show. One of the all-time highlights.

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