Tigers catcher Alex Avila (13) is congratulated at home plate… (Joy R. Absalon / US PRESSWIRE…)
The Orioles added four hitters this offseason who have combined to bash 950 career home runs, but the slugger they originally targeted in November got away.
This week, Victor Martinez is on the visitors' side at Camden Yards, starting at designated hitter and occasionally catching and playing first for the Detroit Tigers.
When free agency began in November, the Orioles made Martinez their No. 1 target and, were uncharacteristically aggressive, making the switch hitter a four-year, $48 million offer almost immediately. The club's front office felt confident that it had a chance at landing Martinez, but it was trumped by the Tigers, who offered a four-year, $50 million deal.
Martinez said Wednesday that the Orioles were a legitimate suitor.
"Seriously, yes. I really appreciated the amount of interest the Orioles had in me," Martinez said. "It was a pretty tough decision."
One advantage the Orioles had was that Baltimore is closer to Martinez's offseason home in Orlando, Fla. But the Tigers train in Lakeland, Fla., roughly an hour from his home.
The Tigers were attractive for other reasons, too. They offered more money and an opportunity to catch about a third of the time, and had three established veterans from Martinez's Venezuelan homeland: Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen.
Ultimately, Martinez said, the Tigers were the best fit.
"My wife, my family, we were looking for a place where we were going to be the next four years," Martinez said. "We thought [Baltimore] was closer to home and all that, and they have put a really good team together, but we were just looking for the place that would be more like home."
There's also the obvious difference between the two teams. The Tigers have finished .500 or better and in second or third place in the American League Central in four of the past five seasons. The Orioles haven't had a winning season since 1997 and are in the competitive American League East.
Martinez, who played with the Boston Red Sox for parts of the past two seasons, acknowledged that the opportunity to win was important, but he also didn't write off the Orioles, who began the season 4-0 while the Tigers started 1-3.
"We definitely have a team here to compete. And I have played in that division the last year and a half, in the East, and it is tough competition," Martinez said. "But you can't take anything for granted. They have put a great team together, that's a great team out there competing. And that's all you can ask."
Guthrie out of hospital; Jakubauskas could start Sunday
Starter Jeremy Guthrie, who had been in the hospital for two days with a form of pneumonia, was released Wednesday around noon. Guthrie came to the park and met with a team doctor briefly before being sent home.
Guthrie, on his Twitter account wrote, "I'm free," in the afternoon and later tweeted that he's been cleared by team doctors to play catch.
"Will take things slowly this week and see how body reacts," Guthrie wrote.
The Orioles still hope that he will make Sunday's start against the Texas Rangers. If he can't, the club would dip into the minors for a starter, with the most obvious candidate being right-hander Chris Jakubauskas, who would be on regular rest after pitching Tuesday for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides in an exhibition against Norfolk State.
"That's still tentative at this point, until we get an idea of what we're dealing with the next couple of days," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who wouldn't confirm who would get the call. "We've got a contingency plan in place if Jeremy is not able to go."
Jakubauskas, 32, didn't allow a run in 61/3 innings this spring. He is 9-12 with a 5.48 ERA in 54 career games with the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Simon's case still muddied
Right-handed reliever Alfredo Simon is working out at the Orioles' minor league complex in Florida, but according to a report, he is still in jeopardy of being charged in the New Year's Day shooting death of his cousin in the Dominican Republic.
According to CNN, the lead prosecutor in the case believes a forensics investigation has provided his office "enough to proceed" with charges, and they could come as early as this week. One of Simon's Dominican attorneys, however, told CNN that the forensics reports favor Simon and that the prosecutor's office is being pressured by the Dominican media to press charges.
Simon, his American agents and the Orioles are not commenting on the case. Simon, 29, is currently on baseball's restricted list.
Attendance falls from opener
Despite the buzz after the Opening Day sellout and the Orioles' hot 4-0 start, the announced attendance at Camden Yards on Wednesday night against the Tigers was 12,451. That is, however, a 20 percent increase from the first Wednesday night game in 2010, when the announced crowd was 10,248.
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