Lee thinks he'll be ready to hit sooner than expected

First baseman continues recovery from thumb surgery; Tillman, Bergesen to pitch in first exhibition game

February 21, 2011|By Peter Schmuck, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — When the Orioles' position players gathered around the cage for their first live batting practice Monday afternoon, new first baseman Derrek Lee looked like he was going to sneak in and take some hacks.

He didn't, of course, because he's still recovering from surgery on his right thumb and has been restricted to hitting soft toss in the indoor cages.

"It's hard to sit and watch,'' Lee said, "but [hitting coach] Jim [Presley] and [manager] Buck [Showalter] keep telling me to be smart, so I'll be smart."

Early on, Showalter projected that it might be a couple of weeks before Lee is cleared to hit live pitching, but Lee said he's progressing well and doesn't think it will be that long.

"I don't think it is going to be a couple of weeks,'' he said. "I think I might surprise some people with that."

Showalter was happy to hear that.

"Everything is progressing right on schedule,'' he said. "In fact, he's ahead of schedule. I'm not going to say, 'On Thursday, he's going to do this and on Friday he should be able to do this.' Let's take it each day, see how far he is tomorrow. He knows it better than anybody. He's the one who dealt with it last year."

Bergesen, Tillman up first

Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman will be the first two pitchers to take the mound in the Grapefruit League opener Monday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton. Showalter said each of them will pitch two or three innings.

The Orioles will play their only intrasquad game Sunday on the practice field that mirrors the dimensions of Oriole Park. Showalter indicated that he will largely use relievers to pitch that game.

Armed and ready

Likely Opening Day starter Jeremy Guthrie was one of several key pitchers who threw live batting practice for the first time Monday, an important early step in the conditioning process.

"The most important part of it is building arm strength, being able to throw more pitches and hopefully increase the velocity each time so hopefully by April 1, you can be ready to go,'' Guthrie said. "That's the most important part of it.

"I felt really good today. I was able to locate, throw all my pitches. I was able to throw it where I was trying to for the most part, so it was a good outing."

Guthrie threw all his pitches, but said he is bringing his slider into the mix more gradually than his other three pitches.

"I threw sliders for a second time today,'' he said. "I threw a couple in my last bullpen on Friday. I threw six or seven more today. It was better today. That's always the last pitch I work on. It requires the most hand speed and arm strength to do it properly. I usually wait till later on to mix it in.

Brady on Bell

Former Orioles star Brady Anderson helped third base prospect Josh Bell trim down dramatically over the winter, and he isn't worried that it will be difficult for Bell to stay on his program during the regular season.

"He knows what he's doing,'' Anderson said. "He's in shape. There are a lof people who look like they're in shape. He is."

Anderson used to say during his playing days that he had a harder time staying in shape during the season than during the offseason, but he won't let that be an issue for Bell.

"I'll be talking to him the whole season,'' Anderson said. "I'm not going away."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

    Baltimore Sun Articles
    |
    |
    |
    Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.