FORT MYERS, Fla. — It has been pretty obvious for the past few weeks, but it only recently became official.
The Orioles are now allowed to wear a little hair on their chins.
Manager Buck Showalter confirmed Monday that he has gotten approval from ownership to relax the team's facial hair policy — to a limited extent — but there is a caveat.
"It's kind of 'Can they keep it presentable?'" Showalter said. "They're going to police themselves."
Showalter and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail approached owner Peter Angelos after the club brought in two veterans — Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero — who have long worn goatees.
"I asked Derrek how long he had that, and he said he couldn't remember when he didn't," Showalter said, "and he's one of the really good clubhouse-presence guys."
Showalter told the players early in camp that if having the option of wearing a well-trimmed beard was important to them, he would make an attempt to relax the policy, which has been in effect for most of the Angelos ownership era.
The facial hair policy also was a big issue when Kevin Millar signed with the club before the 2006 season. He had worn a beard or mustache for most of his career, and he was coming from a Boston Red Sox team that had Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and all their strange grooming incarnations. Millar started a "Beard for the Birds" campaign, but it did little to make a dent in the policy during his three seasons in Baltimore.
The important thing to remember, however, is that the facial hair policy remains at the discretion of ownership, and Showalter indicated that it could get tightened in a hurry if the Orioles start looking scruffy.
As for now, the Orioles players seem to be enjoying their new-found freedom. Luke Scott is sporting a beard. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are also wearing goatees.
"It's cool for me, and I have like 12 facial hairs," Jones said. "But some of these guys have had goatees their whole career. It's cool that our ownership has that flexibility."
Asked whether he was a fan of the new policy, Markakis smiled, pointed to his goatee and said, "Can't you tell?"
Duchscherer excited for test
When Justin Duchscherer takes the mound Tuesday and starts the Orioles' game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, it will be his first game action since April 29 last season.
That fact is not lost on the 33-year-old, whose Grapefruit League debut, scheduled for last week, was pushed back because of recurring hip soreness. Duchscherer has had three hip surgeries in his career.
"When I threw [batting practice], everything felt good," Duchscherer said. "I'm excited. It's been a while. It's been almost a year since I've pitched in a game. It's exciting for me. I just hope I can go out there and feel good physically because that's my biggest concern. I don't worry about stuffwise, resultswise. It's all about if my body feels good."
Duchscherer acknowledged that he will have some nerves.
"Anytime I pitch, I'm competitive, so I go out there with a little bit of heightened anxiety. I always want to do well," he said. "Midseason form is 100 percent for me, so no, I'm not there yet. At this point in spring training, I feel as good as I need to feel to go out and get ready for the season."
Former Orioles reliever Matt Albers is battling for a place in the Red Sox bullpen, and he has thrown the ball well in his two Grapefruit League appearances, pitching three shutout innings and striking out three batters.
"It's the same as in Baltimore,'' he said. "I'm trying for a middle-relief role — fighting for one of the last spots. If I do well, I hope to make the team, but I won't really know until the end of camp."
Former Orioles starter Rich Hill is also in Red Sox camp, trying to make the club as a situational left-hander.
Around the horn
With Derrek Lee still out of the lineup with the right wrist soreness, Scott got his first start at first base Monday night. … Brian Matusz will follow Duchscherer in Tuesday's game against the Phillies. Cole Hamels, Jose Contreras, former Oriole Danys Baez, Brad Lidge, Antonio Bastardo, Andrew Carpenter and Dan Meyer are scheduled to pitch for the Phillies … Steven Bumbry, one of the minor leaguers summoned to augment the team's roster during spring training, hit a single in the top of the ninth against the Red Sox, but he was denied a potential game-winning RBI when Matt Angle was thrown out at the plate. Bumbry is a Dulaney High graduate and the son of former Orioles outfielder Al Bumbry. … Reliever Jason Berken allowed one run on two hits and a walk against Boston, his ERA remaining at 9.00 through three outings.
Jeff Zrebiec reported from Sarasota, Fla.