MLB realignment discussed at annual players meeting

March 25, 2010|By Dan Connolly | | Baltimore Sun reporter

SARASOTA, Fla. — Realignment in major league baseball, which potentially could move the Orioles out of the hyper-competitive American League East one day, was touched on during the players annual spring meeting with their union head on Thursday.

But because it is only conceptual, not a lot of time was dedicated to it, according to new union chief Michael Weiner, who spent nearly two hours with the Orioles' players.

"On-field issues are very important to the players, so we mentioned a number of those issues. My understanding is that realignment is not a front-burner issue," said Weiner, the union's former general counsel who took over as executive director from Don Fehr last year. "We're trying to deal with the postseason schedule and some other things that are a little bit more timely. There have been some discussions about realignment, but more about some other on-field issues."

A special committee on baseball issues reportedly has discussed the possibility of a "floating realignment" that would allow teams to switch divisions from year to year based on variables such as payroll and ability to contend. However, commissioner Bud Selig has said that there are no set plans for realignment right now.

"There's competitive considerations, there's revenue considerations, there's schedule and travel and player considerations," Weiner said. "There's an awful lot that goes into those issues and in some ways it may be easier for players to form a consensus on those issues than the owners ... It's a particularly hard issue to predict where it might go."

Some other topics addressed by Weiner in the closed-door meeting were:

Blood tests for human growth hormone: "hGH is banned under our program. No question about the commitment in that regard. Once we have a [blood] test that is scientifically valid, that can be safely administered, that can be administered to the players without interfering with their job, then we'll have a test. And I'd be surprised if the commissioner's office would tell you anything different."

A new collective bargaining agreement. The current deal expires in December 2011 and Weiner expects negotiations to begin about this time next year.

"Everybody on both sides would love to be in position to complete a deal without the threat of a (work) stoppage."

Roberts to make spring debut

Second baseman Brian Roberts who hasn't played this spring due to a herniated disk in his back, will start Friday night against the Twins, according to Orioles manager Dave Trembley.

Trembley wouldn't specify how long Roberts will play or if he will play in consecutive games this week as he attempts to get ready for Opening Day.

" I'd like to take it one day at a time with him, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself and come out and say he is going to play the next three or four days in a row," Trembley said. "What I am saying today is that he is going to play [Friday] and then we'll take it where we are at and see where we are at."

Arrieta asks for demotion

Right-handed prospect Jake Arrieta was sent to minor league camp Thursday, something he requested so he could get more work in.

"They really wanted me (in big league camp) and I could probably still be over there today if I didn't say anything," said Arrieta, who was named by Baseball America as the organization's fourth best prospect. "But I felt like it was time for me to say something and get my innings in and prepare for the season.

Arrieta, 24, threw a total of five innings in four Grapefruit League games this spring. He allowed seven hits, four walks and three runs while striking out nine. He will start the season at Triple-A Norfolk.

"We were doing him a disservice keeping him here and not finding innings for him to pitch. He is going to pitch, I believe, on Friday, get his pitch count up," Trembley said. "[He's] the kind of guy we are looking for in this organization. Great worker, special talent, very good arm, but we have run out of innings for him here."

More cuts are expected soon, with a few other Triple-A players, such as Brandon Snyder, Josh Bell and Rhyne Hughes, being sent to minor league camp.

MASN adds new announcers

MASN has officially added four more former Orioles to their 2010 lineup to help with in-game, pre-game and post-game TV duties and occasional radio broadcasts. Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, former outfielder Brady Anderson and former pitchers Mike Boddicker and Ben McDonald, at various times, will join play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne and analysts Jim Palmer or Mike Flanagan in a three-man booth. Anderson will be the first to join the group for the April 23-25 broadcasts in Boston.

Around the horn

Reliever Koji Uehara (hamstring) threw long toss from 120 feet Thursday. There is still no timetable as to when he returns to an exhibition game. ... In what might be his last game for a while at second base, Ty Wigginton made three nice plays in the field including an over-the-shoulder catch. ... Rita Drabowsky, the widow of former Oriole pitcher Moe Drabowsky, who died in 2006, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Plate umpire John Hirschbeck was hit by a foul tip off the bat of New York's Alex Rodriguez and left before the bottom of the fourth. He was replaced behind the plate by Tim Welke, and umpire Jason Cookson joined the crew. ... The Orioles hadn't hosted the Yankees for a spring training game since 1992 at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. That was a split-squad game.

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