Clubhouse favorite Izturis happy to be back with O's

Utility infielder welcomes Hardy, who will take over at shortstop

February 18, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — On the day he re-signed with the Orioles, Cesar Izturis' phone started buzzing and never stopped.

"When I signed, I got like 25 calls from the players. I told my wife, 'Look at my phone,'" Izturis said. "It was exciting. It really felt good. I'm here, and I'm happy. It's going to be great."

Izturis, the club's starting shortstop the past two seasons, has been one of the most popular Orioles among his teammates for his quiet leadership, steadiness and unselfishness. Those qualities were on display after Izturis reported to Ed Smith Stadium on Friday.

He went around the clubhouse hugging teammates, sat and had a lengthy discussion with Vladimir Guerrero, and then talked about what a great addition shortstop J.J. Hardy was to the club. The acquisition of Hardy from the Minnesota Twins pushes Izturis to a utility role.

"I've played against him," Izturis said of Hardy. "I think he's a great guy, a quiet guy. It's going to be good for the team playing with him, and him being around. … I think it's going to be different, but I'll make an adjustment. I've been taking ground balls [at second base] and working out, even at third. Whatever they want me to do, I'm going to do it."

Izturis, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal, was signed to be the primary backup to Brian Roberts at second base and Hardy at shortstop, along with possibly playing some third base.

"Like I said before, the organization has been great for me the two years that I have played here, and [president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and manager Buck Showalter], they were talking to me the whole time, saying they needed me here," Izturis said. "I like the club, I like the people. There were a lot of teams interested in me, but nothing to play every day, so why go somewhere else? My family, they are happy in Baltimore. You have to consider that with them, too. They were excited."

Bell looks as advertised

Young third baseman Josh Bell doesn't think his weight and conditioning had anything to do with his struggles on the big league level in 2010. But nevertheless, the 24-year-old reported to camp Friday about 20 pounds lighter after an offseason spent working out with former Oriole Brady Anderson. Team officials, including Showalter, met with Bell late last season and urged him to improve his conditioning.

"I really didn't want this spring to be about my weight or anything. It's about performance at this point," said Bell, whose weight ballooned to 242 pounds at the end of last season. "I didn't feel like my weight was a problem last year. Coming in this year, I just have to perform. I really don't want to it to be about my weight or coming in and looking for a fresh start or anything. I just want to perform."

Bell, the organization's top position prospect entering last season, batted .214 with three homers and 12 RBIs, striking out 53 times in 159 at-bats over 53 games. Once believed to be the organization's third baseman of the future, Bell now looks to be headed to Triple-A Norfolk after the acquisition of Mark Reynolds. However, Showalter has said Bell still has a chance to make the club.

"For the most part, baseball is just experience and learning from all the mistakes and all the things that you go through," Bell said. "Last year was a great learning experience. Now it's time to turn it up."

Simon on restricted list

Needing to make room for Guerrero on the 40-man roster, the Orioles placed reliever Alfredo Simon on the restricted list. Simon, 29, remains in a Dominican Republic prison as the prime suspect in a fatal New Year's Day shooting.

The restricted list is for players unable to perform baseball duties for reasons other than injury. While on the restricted list, a player does not get paid or accrue major league service time. Simon, who went 4-2 with a 4.93 ERA and 17 saves in 49 appearances in 2010, also will not be accounted for on the Orioles' 40-man roster.

The move was expected as it had become clear that Simon, who has been denied bail, wasn't going to be able to get to Sarasota by Feb. 26, major league baseball's mandatory reporting date.

Hobgood to stay the course

After getting the results of a magnetic resonance imaging taken Thursday on Matt Hobgood's shoulder, the Orioles have decided to keep the pitching prospect on a rehabilitation and therapy program for the next four to six weeks.

Hobgood, the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, will be re-evaluated after the program and could start a throwing program after that. But even if he has no setbacks, he's probably 10 to 12 weeks away from throwing in a minor league game.

"Our objective and goal is to get Matt fully healthy," said John Stockstill, the Orioles' director of player development.

Around the horn

Brad Bergesen, who has been under the weather, was sent home from Friday's workout with flu-like symptoms. … Nolan Reimold, Felix Pie, Nick Green and Randy Winn also reported to camp Friday. The only Orioles position players who haven't shown up in advance of next Saturday's required report date are Derrek Lee, Nick Markakis, Luke Scott, Ryan Adams and Pedro Florimon. Markakis was expected to arrive Friday night. … Nonroster pitcher Mitch Atkins remained sidelined with a left oblique strain.

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