With clubhouse and other improvements complete, Delmarva preps for its 20th season

As they get ready to begin their 20th season, the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds have made some upgrades to Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, Md.

The changes won’t actually be seen by the fans, but they will be very appreciated by the players.

“This offseason, the Shorebirds - along with our partners from Wicomico County, Md., that own the stadium - took on an improvement project,” Shorebirds general manager Chris Bitters said. “We had a major renovation and update of the locker room facilities on the home and visiting side, as well as updating the batting tunnel and walkway that leads out to the field for the players.

shorebirds-clubhouse-1.jpg“We also hope to have some other significant improvements over the next 12 to 24 months. But I think the Orioles are excited about the locker room changes. They needed to be updated and refreshed. Now that the dust has settled, some things are shiny and new there.”

The players will get their first look at the new digs next week. The Shorebirds will host Salisbury University next Tuesday night in an exhibition game and open a new South Atlantic League season at home on April 9 against Greensboro.

Now the longest-tenured GM in club history, Bitters is beginning his ninth season with the Shorebirds. He said the locker rooms were not physically altered, but were certainly freshened up for the new season.

“There was no moving of walls,” he said. “We added a new carpet and new whirlpool area. Some cabinets were added for the trainer. We updated the bathrooms and shower areas and lighting there. There are new fixtures and new paint everywhere.

“Players that have never been here before will walk in and say, ‘This is a very nice locker room.’ We’ve always had a nice one in terms of the size and structure, but it just got a little dated with 19 years of use.”

Manager Ryan Minor will probably appreciate the upgrading to the shower area in his office and his new flat-screen television.

The underground batting cages were also reworked and redone.

“We are also building an indoor mound now in the batting cage,” Bitters said. “We are modifying it from having two separate cages to one cage. A lot of things that happened on the home side are also happening on the visiting side, but you might say we gave special treatment to the home side. There is orange and black striping around the locker room. It has come out really nice and the county did a great job.

shorebirds-batting-cage-2.jpg“It is something the fans generally won’t see, but the players will really appreciate, especially guys that have been here before.”

In the next phase of upgrades over the next year or two, some structural work to the stadium is planned. The club will also look to add some additional fan amenities and possibly upgrade the outfield lights.

The Orioles certainly had input and were kept up to date on the upgrades. The work was mostly done over the last several weeks and months.

“We have a tremendous relationship with the Orioles and there is constant communication, which is great with Kent Qualls (director of minor league operations) and Brian Graham (director of player development),” Bitters said. “We are always talking about things that both parties would like to see. That part of this has been wonderful with Brian and Kent and the whole organization.”

Now the Shorebirds are ready for special days ahead as they play their 20th season. Their first year was 1996 and the Shorebirds won league championships in 1997 and 2000.

“We have a fun year planned. The staff worked hard in the offseason to plan some nights to coincide with our 20th anniversary,” Bitters said.

shorebirds-minors-office-1.jpg“Every homestand - and we have about 11 this year - we’ve picked a year or two to reflect back on. Opening week, it is 1996 and ‘97. That first Sunday game, we actually have Calvin Pickering coming back to town to greet fans. He was a big part of that ‘97 team along with our manager, Ryan Minor. Have a lot planned throughout the year.

“Later in the year, we are doing a bobblehead of Manny Machado to commemorate our 2011 season. We hosted the All-Star Game that year and the bobblehead is of Manny in his All-Star game jersey from that year.”

Former Shorebirds pitching coach Troy Mattes, a member of the first Delmarva team in 1996, will be on hand on opening night.

Rotation rankings: I think the Orioles have a decent, maybe even quite good starting rotation. I really do. But at FanGraphs, not so much. They rank the Orioles rotation No. 27 in the majors heading into the 2015 season. They used computers to come to this result and say the rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team. Well, we know how it turns for the Orioles when computers rather than humans do the rankings. Usually not well.

Here is the listing of the top 15 teams. Here are the teams rated Nos. 16-30.

My take on this? They need a do-over and this is not a very good endorsement of the WAR stat, projected or otherwise.

Player releases: The Orioles have cut eight players from their minor league camp in the latest group of player releases from Twin Lakes Park.

They released infielders Jerome Pena, Joel Hutter, Federico Castagnini and Clint Harwick, outfielders Crede Simpson, Lucas Herbst and Anthony Vega and left-handed pitcher Augey Bill.

Pena was selected in round 38 of 2011, Hutter in round 10 of 2012, Castagnini in round 30 of 2013, Simpson in round 25 of 2012, Herbst in round 26 of 2012, Vega in round 30 of 2012 and Bill in round 39 of 2013.

O’s minor league players will begin to head north this weekend after exhibition games on Saturday. The minor league season begins next Thursday.

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