JUPITER, Fla. - Orioles owner Peter Angelos confirmed the Orioles are planning to make a significant free-agent push when the team gets within range of contending for a playoff berth next winter or in advance of the 2011 season.
Angelos, who attended yesterday's game at Roger Dean Stadium and spoke briefly with reporters, also applauded the job Andy MacPhail has done since MacPhail took over as president of baseball operations.
"I think Andy has done a great job," Angelos said. "If we can maintain that impetus, things can be pretty good. I don't know about this year, but next year and the year after we have high hopes for."
Angelos stopped in Sarasota this weekend to look at the site for a proposed spring training complex before traveling across the state to attend the game against the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter. He said he also will visit City of Palms Park today when the Orioles travel to Fort Myers to play the Minnesota Twins.
The Orioles have begun negotiations with four possible locations, including the current Fort Lauderdale Stadium site. They had a tentative deal with Vero Beach for the vacated Dodgertown complex, but that fell through. Sarasota appears to be the most logical location for a new or refurbished facility because the Orioles' minor league operation is at nearby Twin Lakes Park.
Uehara offers change
Starter Koji Uehara faced hitters yesterday for the first time in nearly two weeks, throwing a 35-pitch batting practice session and unveiling a new pitch in the process.
Only about 15 minutes before the Japanese pitcher got on the mound at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, pitching coach Rick Kranitz showed Uehara the grip on a circle changeup. The right-hander experimented with the pitch during the session, in which he faced teammates Jolbert Cabrera, Justin Turner, Felix Pie and Lou Montanez.
"It was his first time ever throwing a changeup, and he took to it very well," Kranitz said. "Usually when you introduce somebody to a changeup, either they have it or they don't have it. He felt it right away. It looked very good. He's going to work on it, and we'll see. Maybe we'll have a few surprises down the road. You never know."
Uehara hasn't pitched in a game since straining his left hamstring March 9 during his outing against the New York Mets. He said through his interpreter, Jiwon Bang, that he will continue to practice throwing the pitch and would use it in games. However, he was more focused yesterday on getting comfortable and keeping his pitches down in the strike zone.
"Stamina-wise, I have no worries of that part," Uehara said. "More important, [the hamstring] is still something that has to heal. There's still a sense of fear remaining, a little bit. That has to go away."
If Uehara feels no discomfort today, Kranitz said he'll likely start tomorrow against the Washington Nationals at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. The Orioles still believe he'll be ready to start the season in the rotation.
"If he feels comfortable, I feel comfortable," Kranitz said. "He says he can get ready. Like I've said, he's pitched a long time. He knows his body better than I know his body, so I'll go with what he says. If he says he's ready to go, we're going to go."
Around the horn
George Sherrill, Dennis Sarfate, Chris Waters and David Pauley threw simulated games yesterday. ... There remains a possibility Jeremy Guthrie will return from Team USA in the World Baseball Classic in time to pitch today against the Twins. ... The Orioles have scheduled an intrasquad game for Wednesday. Rich Hill is scheduled to pitch. Manager Dave Trembley had hoped to give much of the team the day off, but he is altering his plans after rainouts Wednesday and Saturday cost the team too many innings.