Competition should be fierce for Orioles' final bench spot

Andino, Green, Harris among many players that will battle for roster spot

February 17, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec and Peter Schmuck, The Baltimore Sun

Orioles position players won't have their first full workout until Monday, but manager Buck Showalter is already looking forward to the competition for the final bench spot.

"The bullpen and the bench, if we stay healthy, I hope it will be real tough on us," Showalter said.

Barring injuries, three of the four bench spots appear to be set or close to it. Cesar Izturis will be the team's primary utility infielder, while Felix Pie or Nolan Reimold will serve as the fourth outfielder. Craig Tatum and Jake Fox will duel to serve as Matt Wieters' backup behind the plate. That will leave a host of players competing for the final bench spot, including Fox (if he doesn't beat out Tatum for the backup catcher job) and utility infielders Robert Andino, Nick Green and Brendan Harris. Showalter also won't rule out young third baseman Josh Bell or taking a fifth outfielder, which could be good news for well-traveled veteran Randy Winn.

Asked what he is looking for in that final spot, Showalter said: "You'd like to think they could run out in the field some, and potentially [be] a guy that could run a little bit. Obviously, as Fox is concerned, with his catching background, it gives him another notch. But it doesn't put him ahead of anybody, that's for sure."

Showalter also acknowledged that player options could factor in the decision. Andino, Fox and Pie are out of options, meaning they would have to be exposed to waivers before being sent to Triple-A Norfolk. Tatum, Reimold and Bell have minor league options remaining, while Green, Harris and Winn aren't on the 40-man roster, so options do not apply.

Joseph happier after the fall

Caleb Joseph's time in the Arizona Fall League this past offseason gave the catching prospect a chance to refine his catching and hitting skills in a more instructional environment. However, he also learned something very important from the 2010 minor league season.

"That the sun rises the next day," he said. "I'm more prepared with my skills. Nobody's swing is slump-proof, but I'm in a much better place mentally."

Joseph, who was the Orioles' 10th-ranked prospect according to Baseball America heading into the 2010 season, hit just .235 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs in 106 games for Double-A Bowie. He compounded those struggles by letting them weigh heavily on his mind.

"It was terrible," he said. "I regressed. I had a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure things out. I was not prepared [mentally] for that kind of struggle."

Joseph, 24, did perform well offensively in the fall league, batting .421 with one homer and six RBIs in 11 games.

"I'm just trying to build on what I did in the fall league," he said. "I learned a whole lot down there. I gained a lot of knowledge and experience and just want to put it into play."

Patton to stay with team

Pitcher Troy Patton isn't commenting about his arrest on suspicion of DWI last month, but he confirmed Thursday that he won't need to leave the team to attend a hearing that was originally scheduled for next Friday.

Patton, who was arrested Jan. 23 after his vehicle ran over a curb on a Houston city street, was able to get the hearing reset for the time after spring training and before the major or minor league season begins. He's considered a long shot to make the Orioles out of spring training.

Guerrero present again; announcement waits

Vladimir Guerrero, who agreed to terms with the Orioles on a one-year, $8 million deal this month, was in the clubhouse a second straight day to finish his physical with the club. Assuming there are no issues with the physical and the deal becomes official, Guerrero will speak at a news conference Friday afternoon at Ed Smith Stadium.

Showalter said he spoke to Ron Washington, Guerrero's manager with the Texas Rangers last year, on Wednesday to get a better understanding of the slugger.

"I haven't had a chance with all that's gone on with the physicals to talk to him," Showalter said of Guerrero. "I know that he wants to do every drill, he wants to do the bunting drills. He wants to be put in the flow, do everything."

Showalter did say it's unlikely he uses Guerrero in the outfield in the Grapefruit League.

Around the horn

Right-handed pitcher Mitch Atkins, a nonroster invitee, has been limited with a left oblique strain. … Rule 5 pick Adrian Rosario was sent home for a second consecutive day because of an illness. Starter Justin Duchscherer, who was sent home with a virus Wednesday, returned Thursday and got through a bullpen session. … Luis Lebron, who had Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery on his elbow in May, threw a second bullpen session Thursday, and it was much improved from his first. … Showalter again praised the bullpen session of David Riske, the veteran reliever who was a nonroster invitee. … The Orioles' workout was shorter than normal as players and coaches participated in the inaugural Birdland Golf Classic at The Founders Club in Sarasota. The event, put together by Orioles reliever and Sarasota resident Jim Johnson, benefited the Miracle League of Manasota.

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