SARASOTA, Fla. — — Realignment in Major League Baseball, which could move the Orioles out of the American League East one day, was touched on Thursday during the players' annual spring meeting with their union chief.
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.
"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 bit more timely."
A committee 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.
"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."
Other topics addressed by Weiner in the closed-door meeting included:
•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 debut
Second baseman Brian Roberts
,who hasn't played this spring because of a herniated disk in his back, will start tonight against the Twins, according to Orioles manager Dave Trembley
Trembley wouldn't specify how long Roberts will play or whether 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.
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 added four more former Orioles to its lineup to help with in-game, pre-game and post-game TV duties and radio broadcasts. Hall of Famer Eddie Murray
, former outfielder Brady Anderson
and ex-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 is first, joining the April 23-25 broadcasts in Boston.
Around the horn
Reliever Koji Uehara
(hamstring) threw long toss Thursday. There is no timetable for his return. ... In what might be his last game for a while at second base, Ty Wigginton
made three nice plays, including an over-the-shoulder catch. ... Rita Drabowsky
, widow of former Oriole pitcher Moe Drabowsky
, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Thursday's game against the New York Yankees. ... Plate umpire John Hirschbeck
was hit by a foul tip off the bat of Alex Rodriguez
and left before the bottom of the fourth. He was replaced by Tim Welke
,and Jason Cookson
joined the crew. ... The Orioles hadn't played host to the Yankees in spring training since a 1992 split-squad game at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla.