Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- Esteban Yan didn't return to the Orioles because he was feeling nostalgic or wanted to relive some fond memories. The right-hander examined all of his other options and realized that he had none.
"I'd like to get an opportunity again," he said, "and Baltimore was the only team that would give me a chance."
Yan, 32, broke into the majors with the Orioles in 1996. He appeared in seven games and totaled 19 innings over two seasons before the Tampa Bay Devil Rays chose him in the expansion draft.
Unable to find a job last year, Yan pitched for the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League. This might be his final attempt to return to the majors.
"I need to come back to Baltimore and show what I can do," said Yan, who is 33-39 with a 5.14 ERA in 11 seasons spent with seven teams.
Though Yan has 51 career saves, including 22 with Tampa Bay in 2001, his best chance to stay with the Orioles might come in middle relief or a setup role. He was a starter in Japan, so he has been stretched out enough to go multiple innings. And at this stage of his professional life, mop-up duty isn't beneath him.
"Right now, what I've seen so far, I think they're looking for young kids," he said. "I'm putting in my mind to be ready and take advantage of the opportunity given to you and do the best you can.
"I don't know if I have an opportunity here [to close]. I don't know if I have a shot at starting or long reliever. I don't know. The key right now is I'm trying to get a job. I can be a starter, long man, closer, setup man, whatever. I'm looking for a job."
Yan would prefer to start, but he's not regarded as a candidate for the fifth spot in the Orioles' rotation. He's made 23 starts in the majors, but none since 2000.
"That's in the hands of the manager, but I'd like to," he said.
Yan estimated he has put on 33 pounds since his first stint with the Orioles, when he weighed in at 225. A fastball that touched 99 mph now tops out at 94 on a good day.
"In the past, I was throwing a lot of fastballs. Now, I have to mix in other pitches," he said. "Everybody used to sit on the fastball, but now I can throw a breaking pitch. I feel more comfortable with the pitches I have now."
Sarfate stands out
Manager Dave Trembley and his coaching staff continue to rave about Dennis Sarfate, the hard-throwing reliever obtained in the Miguel Tejada trade.
Sarfate has a good chance to make the club because he's out of minor league options and there are plenty of jobs open. But he's also made a favorable impression early in camp, which can't hurt.
"I didn't know a lot about Sarfate. He's looked very good in his bullpen sessions," Trembley said.
"I certainly like his demeanor. I like the way the ball comes out of his hand. He's all business. He's really kind of stood out for me. He's been impressive with the way he goes about things. And he's a power arm."
Sarfate most likely would be used in the seventh and eighth innings, but he could evolve into the closer.
"He may find himself being `the guy' late in the game," Trembley said.
Ray targets August return
Chris Ray made another 25 throws yesterday as part of his program and says this is the best his arm has felt in a long time.
Ray, who underwent ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, wants to be pitching again by August. Trembley appreciates the enthusiasm, but he isn't convinced it will happen.
"Everyone will tell us when he's ready," Trembley said.
"I think it's great that he has that goal in mind, and I think it says a lot about him, but with all due respect, he has a ways to go and we're going to have to be very careful with him. But I've got no problem with him setting a goal. I think that's great. It gives him something to shoot for. That's good for him and good for the club.
"It's just nice to see him out here throwing."
Around the horn
Reliever Danys Baez has left the team and will continue rehabilitating his right elbow at a Miami facility. He's also expected to begin his throwing program there before rejoining the club. ... Utility player Freddie Bynum reported to camp. ... Trembley had the catchers bunting and doing base-running drills on the back fields. Pitchers Adam Loewen and Jeremy Guthrie worked on their pickoff moves. ... The Orioles haven't been notified that any of their position players are experiencing problems obtaining visas.