Orioles will hold instructional league at Camden Yards in September

Notebook

Scaled-down program will give coaches a chance to work with young players, including top draft pick Manny Machado

August 24, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

CHICAGO —

With the ongoing renovations at Ed Smith Stadium and Twin Lakes Park, the Orioles are looking to move their instructional league a lot closer to home.

Team officials are planning a scaled-down version of the instructional program for next month at Camden Yards. While the logistics are still being worked out, the plan is for several of the organization's young minor leaguers, including this year's first-round pick, shortstop Manny Machado, to spend two weeks going through hitting and fielding drills and working with Orioles coaches.

"There was a feeling that there was overkill in the past [with the instructional league]. That we had to have so much pitching down there just to get through it," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said.

So for two weeks in September at Camden Yards, the Orioles will host a "hybrid camp that will focus on position players," MacPhail said.

"We're going to have a mini instructional league at Camden Yards for a very few guys that came on board late, like Machado and [fifth-round pick and fellow shortstop Connor] Narron and those guys," MacPhail said. "We'd like to take a look at them, see them play some and see how that works out. It's something we are excited about."

Much of the instruction would go on in the morning, allowing manager Buck Showalter and other team officials to get a look at some of the organization's newest additions. Some of the program would occur while the Orioles are on the road, but there would be "a little overlap" with the big league team at home, according to MacPhail.

"It's great that the organization is willing to do that," Showalter said. "I think it's more of a familiarity thing than anything else. I know that Andy is talking about some [organizational] meetings that we might have. … He's not doing it for me. He's doing it for the players. You signed some of the talent we signed, [you want] to give them everything you can do before the season starts next year so they are that much further ahead. It's also good to kind of let them see what the carrot is, too."

Normally, about 35 players are invited to instructional league, but the Orioles would have nowhere near that number. MacPhail said players in rehabilitation programs would remain at the team's spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla. Other players who might have been candidates for instructional league are still expected to play some type of winter ball.

Fall instructional league typically takes place from mid-September to late October, and it allows young players — many of them recently drafted or in the lower levels of the minor leagues, or in some cases, players changing positions — to get detailed, one-on-one instruction on specific skills without the pressure of a sanctioned-game environment.

Berken to stick with rehab

After a consultation Tuesday with New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek, Orioles reliever Jason Berken has decided to stay the course and rehabilitate the torn labrum in his right shoulder rather than have surgery.

He's still expected to miss the rest of this season, but Showalter said the reliever will be ready to go for spring training in February.

"He'll just continue down the path that we were going to go with him," Showalter said. "We'll continue with the rehab. You could actually push that envelope if you wanted to. We just think it's proven wise to not push him physically. We think with the rehab and the things that he's doing, he should be available and ready to go next year."

Berken, 26, went 3-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 41 appearances and was the Orioles' most effective reliever for the first half of the season. However, after the All-Star break, Berken had a 7.71 ERA in nine appearances before he was placed on the disabled list Aug. 13 with right shoulder inflammation.

The right-hander saw Orioles team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens last week, and a magnetic resonance imaging confirmed the labrum tear. However, he was told that surgery wasn't necessary, an opinion that was seconded by Altchek.

Johnson takes another step

Rehabbing reliever Jim Johnson threw two innings in Double-A Bowie's 1-0 victory over Akron on Tuesday, allowing one hit and striking out two. The Orioles will give the right-hander two days off and could activate him in time for Friday's series opener against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif.

"I'll probably have a little more definitive idea about it [Wednesday]," Showalter said. "Even though things went well today, we want to know how things feel tomorrow before we get ahead of ourselves."

The Orioles will need to find a 40-man and 25-man roster spot for Johnson, who hasn't pitched in the big leagues since April 30. The 40-man won't be difficult, as they could simply transfer Berken to the 60-day disabled list. Reliever Armando Gabino is the top candidate to lose his 25-man roster spot when Johnson returns.

Around the horn

Second baseman Brian Roberts raised $224,380 for the University of Maryland Children's Hospital during his "Brian's Bash" charity event Sunday. … Machado is scheduled to make his debut Friday for the Gulf Coast League Orioles. He's expected to serve as the designated hitter. … Parker Bridwell, a right-handed pitcher who was the Orioles' ninth-round pick in this year's draft, made his debut for the GCL Orioles on Tuesday, allowing one run on a hit and two walks while striking out two over two-thirds of an inning.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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