Guerrero makes early appearance at spring training

New designated hitter causes stir among teammates

February 16, 2011|By Peter Schmuck and Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — — Though the results of new designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero's physical examination won't be available until at least Thursday and his contract won't be finalized until those results are in, his arrival in the clubhouse at the Ed Smith Stadium complex Wednesday morning created quite a buzz.

"God, it's good to see him,'' said pitcher Chris Tillman, who gained some SportsCenter fame when he bounced a pitch in front of Guerrero a couple of years ago and it still cost him a base hit. "I probably saw the replay of that 60 times during the postseason. Where do you throw it? You want to have a game plan, but there's really no game plan."

Every pitcher seems to have a Guerrero story. The guy is one all the all-time great free swingers, which means that the ball doesn't have to be in the strike zone to disappear from the ballpark. That makes him a popular guy among the pitchers — on his own team.

"Everyone is a Vlad fan because he can hit a pitch wherever it is pitched,'' said left-hander Brian Matusz. "I think he's got two or three home runs off me. Two last year. One was on a changeup right around the knees or a little below the knees, but to a guy like Vladimir, that's a strike."

The hitters are pretty stoked, too. Center fielder Adam Jones checked in Wednesday morning and quickly got acquainted with his potential Hall of Fame teammate. He's happy for the offensive help, and not just from Guerrero.

"I think all the guys we signed impact the lineup,'' Jones said. "He's the cleanup hitter, I would assume. His track record, you can pencil him into the cleanup spot. I think that throws away a lot of question marks and makes things easier."

Jones isn't planning to adopt Guerrero's hitting style, but he is looking forward to the opportunity to learn from a player who has 436 career home runs and a .320 career batting average.

"I think it's more that you can learn because he's been a winner and he's been successful,'' Jones said. "Anyone who's been successful, I think you can pick their brain in some aspect. I'm not going to ask him about everything he's ever learned, but I'm definitely going to pick his brain because he's a winner. I want to get that winning mentality that he has."

Guerrero showed up with a goatee, which may have to go under the club's restrictive facial-hair policy.

When he unpacked his Texas Rangers duffel bag, the first thing that came out was a Superman T-shirt.

Orioles fans can only hope.

Bell can stick

Though it has been widely assumed that the acquisition of Mark Reynolds to play third base would push young Josh Bell back to the Triple-A level this season, manager Buck Showalter said after Wednesday's workout that Bell does have a chance to make the club as a backup at first and third base.

"I think Josh is going to have a really good spring,'' Showalter said. "I know [Orioles president of baseball operations] Andy [MacPhail] and I talked with Josh at the end of the season [about his conditioning]. He took a couple of weeks off and really started getting after it. If FanFest is any indication, I expect Josh to come in here and be impressive."

Showalter said that he likely would not keep Bell up at the major league level unless he is sure he can get him enough at-bats to aid in his development, but he doesn't want Bell thinking in those terms.

"Obviously, I don't want to put that in his head,'' Showalter said. "There is a way he can make this club if I can find enough at-bats for him."

Hardy healthy

When he picked up a bat again in January and took his first couple of swings, new Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy admitted that he was a little nervous. He still felt some minor discomfort in his left wrist, which he bruised last season, limiting him to 101 games.

"The wrist just needed to rest, I think," said Hardy, who reported to the Ed Smith Stadium complex Wednesday. "This offseason, I rested it for like two months. I started hitting in early January and I still felt it a little bit. But it just kind of went away after first couple of swings. I feel 100 percent."

The Orioles acquired Hardy, along with utility infielder Brendan Harris, from the Minnesota Twins in December for minor league relievers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson. That was one of the first moves of a busy offseason that included the additions of Guerrero, Reynolds, Kevin Gregg and Justin Duchscherer.

"It's awesome," Hardy said. "It just shows you that they want to win and they're willing to do what it takes to do that. I'm real excited to be a part of it. I know this whole division has made a ton of moves this offseason, but I feel real confident with what we've done."

Reynolds rocks

Reynolds was peppering the parking lot with balls during batting practice Wednesday. There's no questioning the new Orioles third baseman's power. He has averaged 30 homers per year through his first four major league seasons, and he cleared the fence at least once to each during Wednesday's session.

Showalter purposely does not spend a lot of time watching batting practice, but he was aware that Reynolds was rocking.

"I didn't see it,'' he said, "but I heard it."

Around the horn

Duchscherer and Rule 5 draftee Adrian Rosario were both sent back to their spring homes before Wednesday's workout because of virus symptoms. Showalter said they probably could have taken part in the drills, but the doctors in camp thought it would be better to isolate them from their teammates until the symptoms subside. … Showalter won't rule out working Nolan Reimold at first base this spring, but probably not until the roster has been reduced, if at all. The Orioles want him to concentrate on the outfield for now.

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