SARASOTA, Fla. — It was obvious to Orioles manager Dave Trembley in the way Kam Mickolio looked when he arrived at the Ed Smith Stadium complex early last week, in the way he popped the catcher's mitt in a bullpen session a couple of days later, and even in the way he performed the post workout running drills Saturday.
"I just see a guy with the mind-set this spring where I think he knows what's on the table for him," Trembley said.
It is impossible to draw any conclusions from the first week of spring training, when the action is essentially limited to bullpen sessions and pitchers' fielding practice. However, that hasn't stopped Mickolio, the 6-foot-9 right-handed reliever who was part of the Orioles' five-player return from the Seattle Mariners for Erik Bedard, from making a strong impression on the coaching staff.
He remains one of the front-runners for the two or three available bullpen spots.
"We had three conversations on the phone, and I told him this is his year," Trembley said. "I watched him run today, and he couldn't run like that last year in spring training. I think for what he could bring to us, I would be very, very surprised if he doesn't do what we think he can do. I think he can be the guy. But he's got to show it. We got to see him in games and he's got to stay healthy and he's got to be able to handle the workload and all that."
Mickolio, who is 0-3 with a 3.80 ERA in 20 appearances with the Orioles over the past two seasons, changed his offseason routine after he was shut down for a second straight year with right shoulder inflammation. He moved from Montana and spent the offseason in Norfolk, Va., working out with the Triple-A Tides staff. He has lost 12 pounds and reported to Florida about two weeks early to begin throwing bullpen sessions.
"I feel really, really fresh," Mickolio said. "I haven't felt this way for a while coming into spring training. I threw more bullpens before spring training this year than I have any other year. I feel a little more dialed in, I guess. This year has a little different feeling to it. It just feels like that there are a couple of [spots] there for the taking. But it's not my call. I just have to do what I can."
New haircut, same old swing
A cleanly shaven and sheared Nick Markakis faced live pitching for the first time since the end of last season, and he looked like he had never left the batter's box. During an impressive round of batting practice, Markakis, who was taking his hacks against minor league coach Mike Bordick, sent ball after ball over the right-field wall, several crashing onto the roof of the indoor batting cages, well over 415 feet away. "He was swinging effortlessly and hitting them in the trees out there, and you wonder, 'How the [heck] do you do that the first day?" Trembley said. "A special talent."
Markakis, who was a frequent visitor to offseason workouts at Camden Yards, said he traditionally has not felt comfortable with his swing early in spring training.
"I was very surprised compared to spring trainings in the past," Markakis said. "I just didn't feel comfortable. I don't know what it was this year, but I felt like I left off where I was."
Around the horn
Trembley said he expects all his position players to arrive by Monday's reporting date. First base prospect Brandon Snyder became the latest to arrive yesterday. ... Right-hander Brad Bergesen (sprained shoulder) is hoping he will be able to throw off a mound by late next week, but said nothing has been planned yet. ... Pitching coach Rick Kranitz reminded nonroster reliever Will Ohman two different times twice during his bullpen session Saturday to relax and not try to overthrow. Ohman, one of the contenders for the situational left-hander spot in the bullpen, is known as a high-energy guy. ... Trembley met with righty reliever Jim Johnson Saturday and told him that he would return to the eighth-inning role.