Many people get super hyped up for the start of spring training. It's more of a symbolic thing when Orioles pitchers and catchers report than something full of actual interesting happening. Friday was the first workout for those guys, and there was a whole lot of, well, fielding practice, plus a few bullpen sessions. It ain't exactly the kind of stuff where you get the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd.
But hey, it's still baseball. Two days ago there was no baseball. Today there are videos across the Internet of people wearing Orioles uniforms, on mounds, throwing baseballs to catchers who are also in Orioles uniforms. Some of them will even pitch in regular season games for the Orioles some day. That's not nothing!
One of the signs for players that the offseason is over is the shearing of the beards. Many were lost overnight, such as Chris Tillman's:
In this particular picture, he looks a bit perturbed to have lost the beard. So it goes. It's another picture that reinforces yesterday's impression that Tillman is in better shape than last year - while manager Buck Showalter didn't address Tillman last year specifically, the fact is that he praised Tillman's appearance yesterday and I don't think he's ever said a word about it before.
It's also a fitter-looking Matt Wieters to these eyes, because, well... look, you try staying in great shape while recovering from Tommy John surgery. (Photo from Kim Klement at USA Today Sports on Sept. 17 of last year.) Will that count for anything in the season to come?
In the background is Miguel Gonzalez with the glorious, inspiring hair. You might not have recognized him. Let's hope his pitching this season looks as good as that hair.
Two potential future Orioles catchers marching with purpose:
Heim, the fourth round pick from 2013, is #78 on the left. Sisco is wearing #73 this spring training. These guys were born the same year - 1995, yes, we're old - but Sisco has made it to Bowie already while Heim's still not topped Delmarva yet. That's because Sisco has been more advanced with hitting, and also because Heim suffered a foot injury last season and missed a lot of time.
Not that we can tell much of anything from looking at them standing there. But unless you've been to see the O's Maryland-based minor league teams in the last season, you might have never actually seen them before. So there you go. They exist.
Speaking of people who do, in fact, exist: Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey are kicking around. Neither one threw a bullpen session today, but that was expected, so don't panic. They did talk to O's media about what's been going on with them.
Harvey, who ended up missing all of last season after a fractured fibula kept him out followed by a flexor mass strain, had this to say:
"I think I might have come back just a little fast. ... I took it too easy when I was coming back, then tried to come back on the mound and full-blast it. Just got to be a little bit smarter on that when I'm coming back."
If you're sitting there thinking to yourself, shouldn't the Orioles, I don't know, have somebody around to make sure their top pitching prospect is coming back from an injury properly, rather than have him figure out these lessons for himself? Yes. You'd think. No changing it now though, so hopefully he's OK from here on.
As for Bundy, he'll definitely be spending his time this year as a reliever, but he doesn't mind, telling O's reporters, "Any spot in the major leagues is a good spot." He also said that he recognizes that throwing out of the bullpen will be a new experience for him, but that he'll be picking the brains of more experienced O's relievers all spring. I'd say he's in good hands.
And now what we've all been waiting for... videos of bullpen sessions. The string drill, made famous after it was employed to turn Zach Britton from failed starter into excellent reliever, made an appearance:
Andy Oliver throwing to the strings (which you can't see) with Wieters. Idea is to improve command pic.twitter.com/73FnUP02OU— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) February 19, 2016
Oliver is a one-time Tigers prospect who hasn't seen big league action since 2011. He is still young-ish, though, at 28, and he's worked out of the bullpen for the past two years to try to find his way back into the picture for a team. He spent half of last season with the O's Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, striking out 34 batters in 29 innings, which is pretty good... although 16 walks in 29 innings isn't so good.
One video of one pitch isn't going to tell us a whole lot of whether the string drill is working. But, if it does, the O's might have finally found a lefty reliever who isn't Brian Matusz.
Triple barrel of a trio of potential future O's:
Jones, Bridwell and Lee throwing pic.twitter.com/UqWFadeYsU— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) February 19, 2016
That's Chris Jones, Parker Bridwell, and Chris Lee in action for a pitch each. These guys are all on the 40-man roster now, so they could be riding the Norfolk-Baltimore shuttle for a spot start at a moment's notice. Well, Bridwell might be in Bowie, but you know, close enough.
Lee has been said to have drawn some trade interest over the offseason. Jones, 27, has put together a couple of decent seasons for the Tides the past two years, and if he keeps doing well, he might be one who gets a shot if someone at the big league level stumbles or is hurt. Even if all the O's get out of him is a late-blooming back-end-of-the-rotation guy, that's still a win. It's also a big if.
So there's your first day of workouts for Orioles pitchers and catchers. And no, they still haven't signed Yovani Gallardo or Dexter Fowler. There's always tomorrow.