The Orioles got their traditional winter minicamp underway at the spring training facility in Sarasota on Monday. A couple of years ago, this would take place at Camden Yards in the days leading up to FanFest, but they've since moved it down to Florida. Probably better weather there in general, although according to the writers who were there, it rained and sent everyone indoors anyway.
What is the point of the minicamp? It serves a few purposes. One is to check in with players who are rehabbing and see how they look. With a couple of key Orioles on their way back from injuries, it gives them a better idea of what's going on rather than waiting to see what shape someone is in when he shows up a month from now.
Another is to take a look at players who they might want to invite to spring training. Delmon Young put on his first audition for the O's at last year's minicamp and earned himself a minor league deal with a shot in spring training. He took that opportunity and ran with it. One player getting one of those tryouts at the camp this year is the venerable Mark Hendrickson. The Baltimore Sun noted that Hendrickson, 40, recently became a grandfather and is trying to battle his way back to the big leagues. Well, good luck.
It's also a chance for the team to get a first look at some new acquisitions, such as Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia, who has never pitched above High-A before. MASN's Roch Kubatko relayed Garcia's tough offseason: he sustained two concussions in November, neither of which had to do with sports. He was in a car accident, and a couple of weeks later fell while walking his dogs.
Buck on Rule 5 Jason Garcia: "I wanted to see if the delivery was as clean as it was on tape. That's a pretty good arm right there."— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) January 12, 2015
Does that mean much? Probably not. It'll be an uphill battle for Garcia to make the team, but the O's took a chance on a live arm and it only cost them $75,000 to do so. That's chump change. If it doesn't work out, they haven't lost out on much.
Part of any spring training or spring training-like activity is getting a flood of photos from beat writers of players engaged in mundane activities like playing catch or just standing around and talking. Maybe the most interesting, though certainly not the best, tidbits in one of these photos today is this:
That's Chris Tillman on the right, sporting the beard and perhaps a little extra bulk. Is this kind of thing worrisome? None of the reporters present made any comments about Tillman looking larger, so maybe it's just some bad or unflattering photo angles, but sheesh. If something was said to him privately, we probably wouldn't find out about it, either.
Just last week there was an MLBTR article speculating about a fair Tillman extension being for about five years and $55 million. Our brief look at him today through the lenses of beat writer cameras did not make him look like a $55 million man. Tillman got married this offseason. Aren't you supposed to slim down to fit into the tux? Come on, man! Here's hoping this is nothing.
On the rehab front, one significant player appearing was 2013 first round pick Hunter Harvey, who was diagnosed with the dreaded flexor mass strain before being shut down towards the end of last year's minor league season. An MRI in December revealed no damage and Harvey told Kubatko that he's "been throwing for a couple of weeks" and everything is fine. That sounds encouraging.
Showalter told reporters that Matt Wieters is scheduled to begin throwing from 120 feet. Wieters was not present at the camp. The Sun said the team still expects Wieters to be ready for Opening Day. That seems to run contrary to their being out there looking for another catcher, but maybe that pursuit really is a just in case.
The other significant injury rehabber is Manny Machado, who's expected to appear at the camp on Wednesday.