SARASOTA, Fla. — If Orioles manager Buck Showalter made one point clear on Thursday during his first spring training meeting with the media, it is that he’s not going to spend time handicapping players’ recoveries from injuries or even position battles here.
Yes, Showalter understands that he will be asked regularly about third baseman Manny Machado’s progress from offseason left-knee surgery. He’ll be asked for his take on the closer competition, the starting left-fielder job and the battle for the final spot in the rotation. He knows he will be asked about the Opening Day starter, even though we already know he will downplay any notion of that pitcher being considered the club’s ace.
On Thursday, he was asked whether he thinks left fielder Nolan Reimold will be ready for the first Grapefruit League game. He will continuously be asked whether he Machado will be in the Opening Day starting lineup.
He will answer those questions, but he said he won’t get wrapped up in timetables.
“I’m not going to ask Manny every day, ‘How you feel now?' 'How you feel now?’” Showalter said. “Manny doesn’t need to know, ‘If you’re not doing this by whenever … [you might not be ready].’ … I don’t think it’s productive to be handicapping [and asking] if this guy did this, 'Is that a setback?' You can tell by his facial expression if he feels pretty good about himself.”
I asked Showalter whether he plans to have discussions with those players at the beginning of camp, to tell that that he won’t be asking for updates. He said he’s already had some of those discussions and will make clear over the next few days that the most important pace is their own. Showalter is fine if Machado isn’t ready for Opening Day. What is more important is that when he returns, whether it is two days or two weeks into the season, he’s back for good.
“Have you ever heard anybody say, ‘He’s behind schedule?’” Showalter said. “It’s always, 'He’s ahead of schedule.' We’re not going to get involved in that schedule. It’s not productive on Manny mentally. He’s worth waiting on. When he’s right, he’ll play. I’m glad that we think what we’ve done, and he’s done, we don’t have to worry about — in May or June — a missed step, and something’s happened.”
A few of observations from around the Orioles clubhouse on Thursday:
-- Table tennis is still the Orioles’ game of choice. Even though the clubhouse wasn’t full Thursday, players were regularly playing games after the workout while the bumper billiards table and cornhole game went ignored.
-- Showalter wouldn’t comment on the Orioles’ acquisition of South Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon, but said he will get a South Korean flag to put in one of the hallways in the clubhouse where flags of every country represented in the organization hang.
-- Anyone who went out to get their No. 37 Kevin Gausman jersey is out of luck. Gausman is changing to No. 31. New pitching coach Dave Wallace will be wearing No. 37.
-- Darren O'Day now occupies Jim Johnson's old locker, which has easy access to the cafeteria. J.J. Hardy has Brian Roberts' old locker.
-- Center fielder Adam Jones and childhood friend Quintin Berry will have adjoining lockers. Jones and Berry, a nonroster invitee, grew up together in San Diego and played together at Morse High.
-- The annual "Worst locker of the year" awards go to nonroster pitcher Eddie Gamboa and Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar. Both of their lockers are placed on opposite corners of the clubhouse, where the water refrigerator door opens up toward them. It’s not comfortable, but Gamboa, appearing in his first big league camp, didn’t seem to mind. “I’m happy to be here,” Gamboa said. “I could have my locker in the bathroom, for all I care.”