O's set to enjoy day of rest today

Break from routine gives team chance to relax

March 20, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER | CHILDS WALKER,SUN REPORTER

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. -- Here's the thing about spring training, a fact you may not grasp if you come to sit in the nice weather for a few days and collect some autographs.

It's boring.

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo will tell you.

"Spring training is a lot of fun early," he said, "but it becomes a dead period where everybody is kind of tired, it's boring and everything is kind of monotonous."

That's not to say all those mornings catching pop-ups or pitching on the side aren't important. It's just that the same old, same old every day for six weeks becomes, well, old.

Today is different. It's the only day off all spring for the players, coaches and support staff. And they've been talking about it all week.

"When you first look at the spring training schedule, you look for that day off," outfielder Jay Gibbons said. "I mean, you're doing the same thing every day for 40 days straight, so that day off is huge. We live for that."

The players know they have fun jobs for which they're fantastically compensated. But sometimes, they just want a free day like anybody else.

Spring training presents a unique challenge to their constitution. They're night owls during the regular season but not here. Most Orioles rise just after the Florida sun. They hit the training complex in Fort Lauderdale around 8 a.m., do drills all morning and play in the afternoon. And there's none of the adrenaline associated with games that count.

This spring has been more chaotic than some, with players coming and going because of the World Baseball Classic and star second baseman Brian Roberts rehabbing a potentially catastrophic injury. But routine still rules.

"It's completely different than the regular season," said veteran reliever Ricky Bottalico. "You get up at 6:30, 7 in the morning to get to the park. And then you don't play until 1. It gets monotonous, and you don't get weekends off like with a regular job."

At least Bottalico and the other pitchers don't make as many road trips as the position players. A trip such as yesterday's to play the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers can mean 12 hours of toil on a Sunday.

"Hell, yes," said utility infielder Chris Gomez when asked if he had been anticipating the off day.

Gomez is entering his 14th big league season and doesn't dismiss the value of spring training.

"We've got to prepare," he said. "But it's pretty long. For the pitchers, they seem to have it timed so that they're ready at just the right point, but for the position players, it's a little long."

The spring can never fully simulate the real thing for Gomez.

"There's just that little edge that's kind of missing because you know it's spring training," he said. "You want to come out and go like it's any other game, but you don't want to burn yourself out. You want to work toward the season."

Pitchers say they may need more of spring training to warm up but "we don't want it to be any longer," long reliever Eric DuBose said with a laugh.

"I think everybody needs it," Kevin Millar said of the break. "We've been out here grinding for a month."

So what to do with this idyllic free time? Not much. Fishing and golf represent the active side of the spectrum.

"Mine's going to be boring," Millar said. "I have to take my family to the airport and do the family stuff you don't get to do down here."

"I'm going to take my family down to Miami and go to South Beach, do some clubbing with my kids," Gomez joked.

Gibbons, who actually hasn't been playing because of a pulled hamstring, said he usually just lounges by the pool.

"For me, it's just time to do nothing," he said.

That sounded about right to Perlozzo.

"It hasn't rained down here all spring," he said. "If it rains tomorrow, we'll have problems."

Perlozzo said the day off delineates the tiresome middle of spring camp from the final burst leading to Opening Day. He thinks his team will return fresher and ready to say, "All right, let's get kickin'."

DuBose agreed but said he'll relish today's downtime.

"It'll probably be the quickest day of the whole spring," he said.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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