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2015 Orioles preview: Chris Tillman

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2015 Orioles preview: Chris Tillman

Posted on 10 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just under four weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

SP Chris Tillman

Opening Day age: 26

Contract status: Under club control through the 2017 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: 13-6, 3.34 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.5 K/IP, 21 HR, 207 1/3 innings

Why to be impressed: The 2013 All-Star selection solidified his status as the ace of the staff by posting a 2.38 ERA over his final 21 starts and allowing three or fewer earned runs in 20 straight outings from June 10 through his penultimate start of the 2014 regular season. He also allowed 12 fewer home runs than the 33 he allowed in 2013.

Why to be concerned: Tillman’s strikeouts per nine innings rate dropped from 7.8 in 2013 to 6.5 last season as the big right-hander doesn’t miss as many bats as you’d like from your No. 1 starter. Opposing hitters’ .268 batting average on balls in play is a reflection of the defense behind him but also indicates a greater amount of luck compared to the major league average of roughly .300.

2015 outlook: Based on opponents’ BAbip (see above) and his 4.01 FIP (fielding independent pitching) in 2014, two stats embraced by sabermetricians, Tillman has been a benefactor of luck and the Orioles’ sparkling defense, but a 3.42 ERA over his last 500 innings of work is too big a sample to dismiss the substantial progress he’s made since his first few seasons. Tillman should be good for another 200-inning season with an ERA closer to 3.50 than 4.00.

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Orioles release 2015 promotional schedule

Posted on 10 March 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles released Tuesday their 2015 promotional schedule highlighted by several new items, including Kids’ Opening Day, a BUCK SHOWALTER garden gnome, a J.J. HARDY replica jersey, and an Orioles hooded sweatshirt, along with several returning fan favorites.

Opening Weekend of the 2015 season will be filled with promotions, starting with an Orioles Schedule Fathead® Decal, presented by Pizza Boli’s, given to all fans at the club’s home opener on Friday, April 10 vs. the Blue Jays. The next night, the Orioles will commemorate their ninth AL East division title with a 2014 Orioles AL East Champions Wall Art for the first 20,000 fans 15 and older. On Sunday, April 12, the Orioles will celebrate their first ever Kids’ Opening Day, as the first 7,500 fans 14 and under will receive an Orioles Braided Necklace. A variety of unique activities will be offered throughout the day at Oriole Park for randomly selected children, such as delivering the line-up card before the game and guest public address announcing, while the popular Kids Run the Bases will take place post-game for all kids 14 and under.

A new item to this season’s promotional schedule, the first 25,000 fans 15 and older through the gates on June 27 will receive a garden gnome featuring 2014 AL Manager of the Year Buck Showalter.

Along with the garden gnome, the Orioles’ promotional calendar will include several new items such as an Orioles wristlet presented by PNC Bank (May 3), Orioles BBQ apron (May 25), Orioles Hawaiian shirt (July 12), J.J. Hardy orange replica jersey (August 15), Orioles high socks (August 21), Orioles pet leash (August 23), Orioles hooded sweatshirt (September 11), and a Birdland knit scarf (September 12).

Several fan favorites return in 2015, such as the popular Friday Fireworks Nights which will occur on five occasions, including Fan Appreciation Weekend on October 2, in addition to May 29, June 26, July 31, and August 14.

Two bobblehead giveaways will take place on two different weekend dates this season, including an Oriole Bird Bobblehead on Saturday, August 1 and the popular AT&T Fans’ Choice Bobblehead on Sunday, October 4.

This season will feature four different hat giveaways: an Orioles cap presented by DAP on June 28; an Orioles plaid floppy hat presented by Miller Lite on July 10; an Orioles trucker hat on August 22; and an Orioles knit bomber hat on October 3.

There are five total T-shirt giveaways for all fans in attendance, one per month beginning in May. Several kids-exclusive giveaways and events will also take place, including a CHRIS TILLMAN growth poster on August 16, as well as returning favorites such as Kids Run the Bases, held post-game on both April 12 and August 2. In addition, the Orioles will host three Little League Days for pre-registered little leaguers (April 26, May 3, and May 31) and Field Trip Day presented by MASN and WJZ-TV on May 21.

Also continuing in 2015 will be several season-long promotions, including Ollie’s Bargain Night, presented by Ollie’s Bargain Outlet (every Tuesday, all upper reserve tickets are $10) and AT&T Student Night (every Friday, all left field upper reserve tickets are $7 with valid photo ID).

A current list of 2015 promotions and ticket discount offers follows. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call 1-888-848-BIRD or visit www.orioles.com.

2015 ORIOLES PROMOTIONS

DATE OPP. ITEM/OFFER SPONSOR AGES

04/10 TOR 2015 Schedule Fathead® Decal Pizza Boli’s All Fans

04/11 TOR 2014 AL East Champions Wall Art 1st 20,000 Fans 15 & Over

04/12 TOR Kids’ Opening Day

Orioles Braided Necklace 1st 7,500 Fans 14 & Under

Kids Run the Bases (post-game) All Fans 14 & Under

04/26 BOS Little League Day #1 Pre-registered little leaguers

05/03 TB Orioles Wristlet PNC Bank 1st 10,000 Females 15 & Over

Little League Day #2 Pre-registered little leaguers

05/21 SEA Field Trip Day MASN & WJZ-TV Pre-registered school groups

05/25 HOU Orioles BBQ Apron 1st 20,000 Fans 15 & Over

05/29 TB Fireworks (post-game) All Fans

05/30 TB Orioles T-Shirt All Fans

05/31 TB Little League Day #3 Pre-registered little leaguers

06/12-14 NYY OriolesREACH Food & Funds Drive OneMain Financial

06/26 CLE Fireworks (post-game) All Fans

06/27 CLE Buck Showalter Garden Gnome 1st 25,000 Fans 15 & Over

06/28 CLE Orioles Cap DAP 1st 20,000 Fans 15 & Over

06/30 TEX Orioles T-Shirt All Fans

07/01 TEX Orioles Tote Bag MLB Network 1st 20,000 Fans 15 & Over

07/10 WAS Orioles Plaid Floppy Hat Miller Lite 1st 20,000 Fans 21 & Over

07/12 WAS Orioles Hawaiian Shirt 1st 20,000 Fans 15 & Over

07/30 DET Orioles T-Shirt All Fans

07/31 DET Fireworks (post-game) All Fans

08/01 DET Oriole Bird Bobblehead 1st 25,000 Fans 15 & Over

08/02 DET Kids Run the Bases (post-game) All Fans 14 & Under

08/14 OAK Fireworks (post-game) All Fans

08/15 OAK J.J. Hardy Orange Replica Jersey 1st 20,000 Fans 15 & Over

08/16 OAK Chris Tillman Growth Poster 1st 7,500 Fans 14 & Under

08/19 NYM Orioles T-Shirt All Fans

08/21 MIN Orioles High Socks 1st 20,000 Fans 15 & Over

08/22 MIN Orioles Trucker Hat 1st 20,000 Fans 15 & Over

08/23 MIN Orioles Pet Leash 1st 20,000 Fans 15 & Over

09/11 KC Orioles Hooded Sweatshirt 1st 25,000 Fans 15 & Over

09/12 KC Birdland Knit Scarf 1st 20,000 Fans 15 & Over

09/30 TOR Orioles T-Shirt All Fans

10/02-4 NYY Fan Appreciation Weekend

10/02 NYY Fireworks (post-game) All Fans

10/03 NYY Orioles Knit Bomber Hat 1st 20,000 Fans 15 & Over

10/04 NYY Fans’ Choice Bobblehead AT&T 1st 25,000 Fans 15 & Over

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2015 Orioles preview: Adam Jones

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2015 Orioles preview: Adam Jones

Posted on 09 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day only four weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

CF Adam Jones

Age: 29

Contract status: Signed through the 2018 season

Minor-league options remaining: Need player permission to option due to five years of major league experience

2014 stats: .281/.311/.469, 29 HR, 96 RBI, 88 R, 7 SB, 682 PA

Why to be impressed: The four-time All-Star selection posted a career-best 4.9 WAR (wins above replacement) in 2014 and remains one of the best outfielders in the American League as he brings consistent power and good defense to the table.

Why to be concerned: Even though Jones saw 3.62 pitches per plate appearance in 2014 — his highest number since 2010 — he walked a career-low 19 times and continues to go through spells in which he swings at too many bad pitches. With Nelson Cruz no longer hitting behind him, you hope Jones doesn’t feel the need to try to do too much at the plate.

2015 outlook: Jones’ aggressive approach probably won’t do him many favors when his bat speed begins decreasing when he reaches his 30s, but there were no signs of him slowing down a year ago as his 72.5 percent contact rate was the same as it was in 2013. You have to admire his durability as Jones has played in 159 or more games in each of the last three years. With Nick Markakis no longer in the clubhouse, Jones is now the elder statesman and he should be poised for another season approaching 30 homers.

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Orioles cut five players from major league camp

Posted on 09 March 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles today announced that they have optioned RHP OLIVER DRAKE to Triple-A Norfolk and reassigned INF MICHAEL ALMANZAR, RHP DANE DE LA ROSA, LHP CHRIS JONES, and CA BRIAN WARD to minor league camp.

With these moves, the Orioles now have 52 players at Major League Spring Training, including 12 non-roster invitees.

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Orioles individual tickets go on sale next Wednesday

Posted on 06 March 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

Individual tickets for Orioles regular season games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards will go on sale this Wednesday, March 11 at 10:00 a.m. It is recommended that fans purchase online.

Fans interested in individual game tickets or those wishing to receive additional Orioles ticket information may call the Orioles Fan Services Department at 1-888-848-BIRD.

Individual tickets for Orioles home games at Oriole Park may be purchased in the following ways:

INTERNET: Tickets can be purchased at the Orioles’ official website, www.orioles.com/tickets.

PHONE: Individual game tickets can be purchased by phone by calling 1-888-848-BIRD.

AT ORIOLE PARK: Individual game tickets can be purchased in person at the Oriole Park Box Office located at the north end of the Warehouse. The Orioles Main Box Office will be open on March 11 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Subsequently, box office hours will be Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon – 5:00 p.m.

OFFICIAL TEAM STORE: Tickets will also be available at the Orioles Official Team Store at the York Galleria in York, PA.

Additionally, Warehouse Wire subscribers will have the opportunity to participate in an exclusive online pre-sale on Tuesday, March 10. To register, fans should visit www.orioles.com/newsletter. The deadline for registration is Monday, March 9 at noon. Current subscribers do not need to re-apply. For more information about pre-sale opportunities, fans should visit www.orioles.com.

Opening Day tickets will not be included in the sale of individual game tickets, and the only way for fans to guarantee a ticket to Orioles Opening Day on April 10 vs. the Toronto Blue Jays is through the purchase of a Full or 29-game Season Plan. Purchasing a 13-game Season Plan will provide fans with a chance to buy Opening Day tickets through a separate pre-sale opportunity without a guarantee.

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Orioles part ways with South Korean pitcher Yoon

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Orioles part ways with South Korean pitcher Yoon

Posted on 05 March 2015 by Luke Jones

A little over a year after signing South Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon, the Orioles have parted ways with the right-hander.

Yoon signed a three-year, $5.575 million contract with the Orioles last February, but the 28-year-old struggled mightily with Triple-A Norfolk last season, going 4-8 with a 5.74 ERA in 95 2/3 innings. The writing was on the wall in how the organization had soured on him when he wasn’t invited to major league spring training, which prompted his request to be released in order to return to South Korea.

Instead of reporting for the start of minor-league camp, Yoon is instead returning to South Korea where he will re-join his former club, the Kia Tigers. He is a former Most Valuable Player of the Korea Baseball Organization as his best campaign came in 2011 when he was 17-5 with a 2.45 ERA in 23 starts and 27 appearances overall.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has tapped into the Asian market with mixed results over the last few years as Taiwanese left-hander Wei-Yin Chen has become one of the club’s most consistent starters over the last three years while Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada and Yoon never pitched for the Orioles at the major league level.

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Orioles name Ramon Martinez as special assignment pitching instructor

Posted on 04 March 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Wednesday that they have named Ramon Martinez as special assignment pitching instructor. Martinez will concentrate on developing Latin American pitchers throughout the organization.

Martinez, 46, pitched 14 seasons in the Major Leagues, spending time with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1988-98), Boston Red Sox (1999-00), and Pittsburgh Pirates (2001) organizations. Over 301 games (297 starts), he went 135-88 with a 3.67 ERA (1895.2IP, 772ER). He won a career-high 20 games with the Dodgers in 1990, including a Major League-leading 12 complete games, finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting, and was selected to the All-Star Game.

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More comfortable Gausman primed for breakout season

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More comfortable Gausman primed for breakout season

Posted on 03 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Two years ago, the thought of starting the exhibition home opener might have created butterflies for Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman.

But after starting Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium last September and pitching to a 1.13 ERA out of the bullpen in the 2014 postseason, you’ll forgive the 24-year-old if he’s unmoved by what’s expected to be a one-inning stint at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on Wednesday. Now, familiarity is on Gausman’s side as he’s in the midst of his third spring training with the Orioles.

“I don’t know if I feel like I have less to prove, but I just feel more comfortable being around the guys,” Gausman said. “It’s just kind of knowing everybody. When you have that type of relationship where you can just go up and talk to anybody, obviously you feel more comfortable.”

Of course, Gausman hasn’t surprised anyone to this point as he was immediately labeled one of baseball’s best prospects upon being selected fourth overall out of Louisiana State in the 2012 amateur draft. After spending most of his major league time in the bullpen in his rookie season two years ago, Gausman blossomed into a dependable member of a rotation in 2014 that finished fifth in the American League with a 3.61 starter ERA.

In 20 starts, Gausman went 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA, but his 3.41 fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark that measures only the factors a pitcher fully controls — strikeouts, walks, home runs, and hit batsmen — was the best among the Orioles’ six regular starters. His success last season at the age of 23 as well as a high-90s fastball and devastating split-changeup are reasons why executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was repeatedly predicting a breakout 2015 campaign for Gausman this winter.

Counting the postseason and his minor-league work, Gausman pitched 166 2/3 innings last year and is aiming to approach the 200-inning mark this season. The overwhelming sentiment shared by teammates and coaches alike is that it’s only a matter of Gausman gaining experience and being himself to realize his full potential that many believe is becoming a top-of-the-rotation starter one day.

“He’s got a great head on his shoulders and he’s got the arm,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “It’s just a matter of trusting the process and letting it all play out. I think we get in trouble when we try and force things and then some anxiety sets in. As long as you keep letting the process play out and trust what you’re doing, he’s going to have a good chance to succeed.”

Gausman acknowledges not yet being a finished product as he’d like to improve a slider that’s been little more than a “show-me” pitch in his first two major league seasons. Often picking the brains of teammates about how they throw their own versions of the pitch, Gausman is sticking with the same grip he used last season and feels he’s had some success with it when working in relief the last two years.

Primarily relying on throwing his power fastball down in the zone while mixing in a wicked split-change, Gausman threw his slider just 7.2 percent of the time last season. Some also believe the right-hander needs to mix in more high fastballs to induce more swinging strikes — his 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings rate in 2014 was rather ordinary for a pitcher with his impressive stuff — but Gausman allowed only seven home runs in 113 1/3 innings, an improvement from the eight he allowed in 47 2/3 innings in 2013.

The continued development of a third pitch — either the slider or a circle changeup he mixed in 3.7 percent of the time last season — would go a long way in not only cementing Gausman’s place in the Baltimore rotation but establishing him as one of the better pitchers in the AL.

“One thing that nobody realizes is I don’t throw [the slider] very much, so I don’t get those reps as much as I should,” Gausman said. “That’s one thing I wanted to focus on this [spring] is throwing it a little bit more and kind of get that feedback from hitters. This is when you get your work in and your bullpens. You get to work on stuff that normally during the season you’re not going to work on. Just refining those things and making sure that I’m as ready as can be for Opening Day and beyond that.”

Gausman hopes he’s landed in the major leagues for good — his performance in 2014 supports that argument — but a crowded starting rotation that includes Ubaldo Jimenez and the three years that remain of his $50 million contract could complicate matters. No stranger to the Baltimore-to-Norfolk express over the last two years, Gausman and fellow starter Miguel Gonzalez both have a minor-league option remaining, which means either could land in Triple A depending on how manager Buck Showalter elects to handle his pitching staff.

Either pitcher could also land in the bullpen to begin the season while the Orioles try to maximize their return on Jimenez, who lost his rotation spot in the second half of 2014 despite making $11.25 million in his first season in Baltimore.

Even if Gausman heads north as a member of the staff in April, he knows there’s a good chance he’ll find himself optioned to Norfolk at some point during the season. It’s just the way Showalter and the Orioles operate in trying to keep their bullpen healthy for a 162-game marathon even though the young pitcher credits being able to get into a regular routine of pitching every fifth day as a major reason for his success in the second half last season.

“It’s just a part of it. Talking with other guys – [Chris] Tillman, [Brian] Matusz, guys like that – they’ve all gone through it,” Gausman said. “I don’t take it personally at all. At first, I kind of used to, but then I realized it’s a business and it’s all about winning and protecting those guys out of the bullpen. If we have everybody throw in one game and go into extras and we need to option somebody to bring up a healthy arm, it’s probably going to be me. That’s just something I’ve come to realize. The more you kind of just deal with it yourself, you don’t have to deal with it when it comes up.”

As many pundits have pointed to the offseason departures of outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and top reliever Andrew Miller as reasons why the Orioles won’t succeed in defending their AL East title, Gausman and others have taken exception to the way the pitching staff has been overlooked after finishing third in the AL in team ERA last season.

The Orioles remind doubters that they already had one of the best bullpens in the league and were in first place before they acquired Miller at the end of July.

But Gausman blossoming into a top starting pitcher this season would go a long way in improving Baltimore’s chances of advancing to the playoffs for the third time in four years.

“People forget how good we were before Miller got here,” Gausman said. “Our bullpen was one of the best in baseball before we even had him. We’re very confident in that. Us starting pitchers, we had a great season last year.

“I think we kind of finally put ourselves on the map — maybe put a little bit of a target on our back now. But that’s just something you deal with when you have success.”

Based on the success he’s already had in his young career, Gausman will be perfectly fine with that target.

You can listen to my entire chat with Gausman from Sarasota HERE.

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Recovering Wieters focused on 2015 season despite looming free agency

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Recovering Wieters focused on 2015 season despite looming free agency

Posted on 28 February 2015 by Luke Jones

SARASOTA, Fla. — Watching Orioles catcher Matt Wieters during the first few days of full-squad workouts, you could almost forget he’s less than nine months removed from having Tommy John surgery.

He may not yet be cleared to fire bullets down to second or third base to gun down a runner trying to steal, but there have been no signs of apprehension to this point as he’s participated in other fielding drills and caught bullpen sessions. The Orioles hope it stays that way as Wieters will catch in the club’s first intrasquad game on Sunday, which won’t include any throwing for him beyond tosses back to the pitcher.

“He’s doing everything [else],” manager Buck Showalter said. “I saw him throw a ball [the other day] and I had to catch myself because it looked like normal and I thought to myself, ‘Jeez.’ There wasn’t that recoil or decel at the end that you see with a lot of guys that are [recovering from arm injuries].”

It’s so far, so good for Wieters, who is part of a small group of major league catchers to have undergone the elbow ligament reconstruction surgery more commonly associated with pitchers. The track record of catchers coming back from the surgical procedure isn’t encouraging, but most in the group were fringe major league catchers to begin with and lacked Wieters’ ability behind the dish and in the batter’s box.

Defense has been Wieters’ biggest strength throughout his major league career as he’s thrown out 33 percent of runners trying to steal. Until the 28-year-old is fully cleared to throw behind the plate, however, uncertainty remains about what kind of catcher he’ll be in his seventh season and beyond.

The three-time All-Star selection and two-time Gold Glove winner may not have to worry about throwing breaking balls or preparing for 100-pitch outings like a hurler coming back from Tommy John surgery, but making a high volume of throws from different angles behind the plate does make projecting an exact timetable for recovery tricky compared to the expected 10 to 14 months for most pitchers or the six to eight months for other position players not throwing as often as catchers.

“The rehab is going as well as we could have expected, which is a blessing in itself,” Wieters said. “To be able to get out there and just do partial throwing and be able to just be with the guys is great. I’m going through the throwing program, and it feels good throwing. I haven’t gotten into actual positional throwing yet, so that will be the next step of getting into a squat and making throws as a catcher. I’ll do that for a little bit before actually getting behind the plate in a game.”

The Orioles are currently targeting March 17 for Wieters’ first game behind the plate in Grapefruit League action. In the meantime, he’ll receive at-bats as a designated hitter and catch in minor-league spring games — once again with no runners trying to steal — at the organization’s Twin Lakes facility. Showalter plans to have Wieters’ legs fully in shape to allow him to catch five to seven innings when he makes his Grapefruit League debut behind the plate.

The organization and Wieters remain hopeful that he’ll be ready for Opening Day on April 6, but returning to the lineup for good is the 2007 first-round pick’s ultimate goal in not wanting to experience a setback or to need to baby the surgically-repaired elbow over the course of a 162-game season.

“I think about what’s going to be best for the team and what’s going to be best health-wise going forward,” Wieters said. “It’s something where missing all that time last year was tough. I think the biggest thing is you’ve got to make the decision, ‘What’s the best way for you to be on the field as much as possible?’ This game is what I love playing, and we’re going to do whatever is going to give me the best chance to be on the field the most this year.”

There’s also the reality of looming free agency to consider as Wieters is scheduled to hit the open market next winter. The catcher insists his singular focus is on getting ready for the season, but he and agent Scott Boras have to be thinking about his health and showing the Orioles and potential suitors that his elbow problem will be completely behind him.

It isn’t an easy position for a soon-to-be 29-year-old catcher to be in after he’s already logged 5,533 innings behind the plate in his major league career. In that way, the injury may have been a blessing in disguise for the rest of his body in 2014 as he was only able to contribute from a mental standpoint, which even included some advanced scouting of the Detroit Tigers ahead of the American League Division Series.

Showalter has frequently pointed to Wieters as a potential manager one day and credited his work with catchers Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley as a major reason why the pitching staff thrived in his absence.

“It just verified what we thought. That doesn’t surprise anybody,” Showalter said. “He was in the film room with those guys every day. His words carry a lot of weight. He projects a real self-confidence when you’re willing to help other people like that.”

Wieters is confident that his familiarity with the club’s pitching staff — which lost only lefty reliever Andrew Miller in the offseason — will allow for a smooth return behind the plate.

Having not played in a game since May 10 of last year, Wieters is itching to return to action, whether it’s as soon as Opening Day or a more conservative track. He gained perspective from watching Showalter in the dugout and believes the mental side of his game has improved over the last year, but watching his teammates play in the 2014 postseason wasn’t easy.

“It was tough and great at the same time to be able to watch those guys have the success they had last year,” Wieters said. “I felt a part of it but not as much a part of it as I would have liked to be. When the season ended last year, I was probably the only guy in that clubhouse that was already thinking about spring training. Those guys deserved their time off, but I was ready to come down here and get going as soon as possible.”

Wieters can see the light at the end of the tunnel in the rehabilitation process, but the last few hurdles remain. Meanwhile, the Orioles know the clock is ticking before the catcher hits free agency, with few expecting him to sign an extension to stay with the organization that drafted him.

Those realities present an interesting juxtaposition as Wieters must understandably focus on the big picture while the Orioles would like to maximize their return in their final season of control before free agency. Unclear of his future beyond 2015, Wieters is hoping to take advantage of a healthy season while trying to help the Orioles defend their 2014 AL East title.

“I love Baltimore and Baltimore’s a great town,” Wieters said. “Right now, I’m really thinking about getting back on the field, which could be a blessing. [Free agency is] something that always looms for players, but for me, it’s really just about getting back out there and enjoying it.”

Listen to my exclusive interview with Wieters from Sarasota HERE.

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Jones defends Markakis’ strong words about Orioles departure

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Jones defends Markakis’ strong words about Orioles departure

Posted on 26 February 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 12:00 p.m.)

SARASOTA, Fla. — The biggest headline stemming from Thursday’s workout in Sarasota involved a player who’s no longer with the Orioles.

More than two months after signing a four-year, $44 million with the Atlanta Braves, Nick Markakis fired a shot at the way the Orioles and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette handled negotiations. The 31-year-old underwent neck surgery Dec. 17 for a herniated disc he’s dealt with for two years, and the Orioles were concerned with the latest magnetic resonance imaging exam, prompting them to lower their initial offer of four years to three.

“Don’t believe a word they say,” Markakis said to USA TODAY on Wednesday. “It was all because of my neck. They can say what they want to make them look good. It’s all B.S.”

Center fielder Adam Jones was asked about his former teammate’s comments and expressed satisfaction that the normally-quiet Markakis spoke his mind.

Told Duquette had confirmed that the neck was a concern from the Orioles’ perspective, Jones still took exception to the timing of the comments after Markakis had already departed. The center fielder credited Markakis for playing through the neck issues over the last couple years, citing that nearly every player in baseball deals with various ailments over the course of a season.

“Now you want to say it two months later,” said Jones of Duquette. “Let’s say it when everybody is wanting to know right then and now. But it always comes out later. That’s just how this game is.”

Truthfully, Duquette acknowledged in early December that the Orioles had “concern that made the terms an issue” as it was reported at the time that the neck was a clear holdup. Markakis may have legitimate gripes about the way negotiations were handled behind closed doors, but Duquette going public about the health issues could have easily hurt the right fielder’s value in free agency with any team vying for his services.

In that regard, the Orioles might have actually been doing Markakis a favor.

It’s also worth noting that the Braves sold off a number of players this offseason after signing Markakis, making it likely he’ll be playing for a club with little chance of winning in 2015. Maybe some underlying frustration exists after he took Atlanta’s offer? Markakis hopes to be ready for Opening Day, but that isn’t a certainty, according to reports from Braves camp.

Meanwhile, the Orioles will try to turn to page without Markakis or 2014 home run king Nelson Cruz, who signed with Seattle in the offseason. Jones admits he’ll have to get used to someone different manning right field after spending the last seven years with the same guy.

“It’s going to be different looking to my left not having Markakis there just like it’s going to be different for Orioles fans knowing that 21’s not in right,” Jones said. “He’s been there for nine years, but it’s baseball. Cal [Ripken] retired, and somebody had to fill in. The game is going to continue. 2015 Opening Day’s not going to be halted because we don’t have Markakis. It’s just an adjustment we’re going to have to make. I think we’re going to be fine.”

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