Bell makes his first start at first base

Third baseman has been working with infield coach Randolph to increase chances of making team; O's agree to terms with 22 players

March 03, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — — It certainly wasn't a tough sell when the Orioles asked young third baseman Josh Bell to move across the diamond and start getting some work at first base this spring.

"Playing any other position, it doesn't matter," Bell said. "I just want to be in the lineup and hit, so whatever I have to do to make the team, whatever I have to do to contribute, that's what I want to do."

Bell, who hasn't played first base since entering pro ball, has been getting a crash course on the position during workouts from bench and infield coach Willie Randolph, and he started his first game there today in the Orioles' 2-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

After making two routine putouts, Bell started a 3-6-1 double play in the fifth inning against Twins catcher Drew Butera, making one of the toughest plays for a first baseman look rather easy. If there were one blemish to his day, he was unable to catch Josh Rupe's low throw on Alexi Casilla's bunt attempt in the sixth, but it certainly wasn't an easy play.

"He looks pretty comfortable," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "This isn't something we just pulled out of the air. We've been talking a little bit about it. You look at common attributes of guys who can go over there and play a little bit. He's got them. It would be a pretty easy transition for him if we ever had to go in that direction."

A day earlier, Showalter said that Bell could "potentially" be used at first more in Grapefruit League games, and today was a good opportunity for that as first baseman Derrek Lee is expected to join the lineup soon. But Showalter said that if the 24-year-old starts the season at Triple-A Norfolk, which is expected with Mark Reynolds and Lee entrenched at the corner infield spots, he'll play primarily third base.

Still, Bell said he plans to continue to get some work in at first because it will only add to his versatility and give him a better opportunity to both make and stick on the major league club.

"Whatever they want me to be," Bell said. "I like first. It's something new, it's something to work towards. It's exciting. But I like playing third, too."

Weiner visits camp after meeting

A day after the players union had its first formal bargaining session with the ownership bargaining team, union head Michael Weiner stopped by Ed Smith Stadium in his latest stop in the union's annual tour through spring training.

One of the prominent topics concerned the collective bargaining agreement, which expires in December.

"We are prepared as we've ever been to engage in bargaining," Weiner said. "The commissioner's office and the owners have gotten prepared as well. … I don't want to say optimistic, pessimistic, but I'm looking forward to the bargaining."

Wednesday's bargaining session was held in Tampa, Fla., and several players attended, including starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, who is the Orioles' player representative.

Asked to characterize Wednesday's talks, Weiner said: "It was a productive session. We had a very strong showing of players there. We had a good dialogue. It was introductory. We had a good dialogue with the owners' representatives and good contributions from the players themselves."

Weiner said the two sides could meet later this month when the union spring training tour moves to Arizona.

O's agree to terms with 22

The Orioles announced today that they have agreed to terms with 22 players, including reliever Jason Berken, whose contract was renewed for a second straight season.

The other 21 signed voluntarily. That list included Robert Andino, Matt Angle, Jake Arrieta, Bell, Brad Bergesen, Zach Britton, Brandon Erbe, Pedro Florimon Jr., Jake Fox, Luis Lebron, Joe Mahoney, Troy Patton, Nolan Reimold, Adrian Rosario, Alfredo Simon, Brandon Snyder, Chorye Spoone, Craig Tatum, Chris Tillman, Rick VandenHurk, Pedro Viola and Matt Wieters.

Last spring, the Orioles renewed four players — Berken, Wieters, Reimold and Adam Jones — after negotiations failed to produce agreement on their 2010 salaries.

The union contract allows a team to pay its "zero-to-three" players (players with less than three years of major league service) any amount as long as it does not tender a contract for less than the major league minimum salary or cut a player's previous salary more than 20 percent.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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