Spring Training Primer: What's happened so far in Sarasota, and what's on the horizon - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Spring Training Primer: What’s happened so far in Sarasota, and what’s on the horizon

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

What’s happening: Three key Orioles, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton and J.J. Hardy, have yet to play this spring. The good news is that all three could be playing within the next week.

Tillman, who had a platelet rich plasma injection in December, won’t be ready to pitch Opening Day, but could be ready to start shortly after that. He may be able to pitch in an exhibition game by March 17.

Britton, whom the Orioles have been cautious with after he reported oblique discomfort, could be ready to pitch in the next several days.

Hardy, who has been slowed by a back spasm, is ramping up activities and could be ready to play by the beginning of next week.

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Michael Bourn hasn’t played because of a broken finger, and he won’t be ready to start the season.

The biggest questions for the second half of spring training are: 1) Who is going to be the leadoff hitter? 2) Who will be the reserve outfielders? 3) Who will be the roster’s final two relievers?

What’s happened: Six Orioles are currently at the World Baseball Classic: Welington Castillo, Mychal Givens, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Vidal Nuno and Jonathan Schoop.

The Orioles acquired two left-handed pitchers earlier in spring training: Nuno and Richard Bleier, who is considering a bid to play for Team Israel in the second round. They also signed two veteran outfielders, Bourn and Craig Gentry.

Gentry has a solid chance to make the ballclub as an extra outfielder, especially if the Orioles begin the season with 11 pitchers and 14 position players. There are three off days in the schedule’s first eight days, which means the club may be able to get by with fewer pitchers than usual.

In the first 13 games of Grapefruit League play, the Orioles are pitching well (3.79 ERA), but aren’t hitting (.209 batting average).

What’s up with: Seth Smith. Set to be the starting right fielder, Smith is batting just .091, getting his first hit in his fifth Grapefruit League game.

Smith is an outside possibility to bat leadoff. Manager Buck Showalter is also considering Jones, who was the leadoff batter for most of last season, and Hyun Soo Kim.

Kim got his first hit against a left-hander in Tuesday’s win over the Dominican Republic, but those stats don’t count in the Grapefruit League.

The first controversy of camp erupted when the team reported on Feb. 13. Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette said that ESPN analyst and former major league center fielder Doug Glanville thought that Jones should play deeper in center field. And Duquette seemingly agreed.

Jones had suggested at FanFest on Jan. 28 that the Orioles needed to improve their outfield defense – but he meant personnel and not positioning.

What they’re saying: “What’s too honest, telling the truth? I think that shows that I care. I’m here for one reason. I’m not here to be friends with anybody. I’m here to win, and, at the end of the day, I think that’s what we’re all here for.” — Jones on Feb. 18, discussing the club’s need to upgrade its outfield defense.

What’s the number? 8 – That’s how many stolen bases the Orioles have in 13 games so far this spring. They had 19 in 162 games last season.

What’s the record? 7-5-1 — Ubaldo Jimenez starts against Boston’s Kyle Kendrick tonight as the Orioles play the Red Sox in Fort Myers at 6:05.

Rich Dubroff covers the Orioles for PressBoxOnline.com. You can read his stories here.

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