Determining a manager’s value to the on-field success of a team is anything but a quantifiable science, but Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com points out one easily identifiable advantage that Buck Showalter has given the Orioles. Showalter, since day one, has “demanded” that his pitchers control the running game by learning to hold runners and quickening their time to home plate in order to give the team’s catchers a chance. “When Buck came I focused on it,” Chris Tillman told Kubatko. “Before I didn’t really pay all that much attention to it. … But once he put the video in front of us and the stats in front of us about runners advancing another 90 feet, as a pitcher that’s everything.” Tillman is perhaps the most extreme example of success in Showalter’s mandate; he’s allowed just two steals in 13 attempts over the past two seasons.
A bit more from Kubatko and more on the Orioles in general…
- If the Orioles are going to add another utility infield option or another relief arm to their Major League Spring Training camp, it’s got to happen within the next few days, Kubatko points out. GM Dan Duquette listed both as items on his wish list on Jan. 31, and pitchers and catchers will report for the Orioles on Thursday of this week.
- The Orioles and Alejandro De Aza seem destined for an arbitration hearing, but there’s little risk for either side in this scenario, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. As Encina notes, the $650K gap — a similar gap to the one that separated the O’s and Ryan Flaherty — means less to De Aza than it would to a player like Flaherty, who had filed at $1.6MM (De Aza filed at $5.65MM to the team’s $5MM). As for the Orioles, they can take some solace in knowing that they’re 9-1 over their past 10 arb hearings under owner Peter Angelos, including 7-0 since hiring general counsel H. Russell Smouse to lead their arbitration proceedings. Encina also writes that in today’s game, players are more used to seeing criticism and having their flaws highlighted — likely referring to the rise of web content and players’ accessibility to potentially negative reports on their game — so there’s lesser risk that a player hearing about his negative traits will be affected in terms of on-field performance.
- Also over at MASNsports.com, Steve Melweski takes a look at Baltimore’s roster questions heading into Spring Training. Though Ubaldo Jimenez can’t be simply handed a rotation spot due to his salary, that salary also means he cannot be written off entirely and does need a fair chance at the rotation. Melewski also opines that J.P. Arencibia and Ryan Lavarnway were brought in for more than the opportunity to compete for the backup job; either could break camp with the team in a larger role, in the event that Matt Wieters needs to open the season on the disabled list. Of Baltimore’s two injured stars, Melewski notes that Manny Machado is more likely to be ready for the opener than Wieters.