SARASOTA, Fla. -- In the past few days, it became more likely that right-hander A.J. Burnett was not going to sign with the Orioles, and Wednesday brought official word that the 37-year-old was heading elsewhere when he agreed to terms on a one-year, $16 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Now that Burnett and right-hander Bronson Arroyo -- who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks last week -- have both went elsewhere, two of the club’s top offseason targets are off the board, and the Orioles' search to improve their rotation through free agency hasn't led to any additions.
Keep this in mind. The Orioles have never paid a pitcher anywhere near $16 million annually. The closest was the $12 million doled out to veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood in 2010, and in that instance, the Orioles inherited the final year of Millwood’s five-year deal with the Texas Rangers. And, in the clubs' Dec. 2009 trade, Texas ate an additional $3 million of Millwood’s contract.
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So, as much as the fact that Burnett lives in nearby Monkton could have helped the Orioles in drawing the veteran starter to Baltimore, the Phillies’ offer ultimately was enough for Burnett to choose Philadelphia over not only Oriolee, but also a return to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Orioles likely weren’t going to compete with a $16 million offer.
Take into consideration how Grant Balfour’s deal fell apart when the club felt their concerns regarding his physical presented too much of a risk that Balfour might not complete the term of a two-year, $15 million deal. Having said that, how much risk would there have been to sign a 37-year-old who decided he wanted to pitch two weeks ago to a large deal, even if for just one season?
-- Today is the day when pitchers and catchers report, the official beginning of spring training. Several pitchers and position players were already at the Orioles' spring training facility on Wednesday, but everything officially starts today.
Arrivals will likely work out in the late morning today. Physicals will be taken Friday morning before the first workout.
Position players don’t report until Tuesday, but most position players will filter in before then.
Whenever third baseman Manny Machado arrives at camp -- which will likely be before position players’ report day -- his recovery from offseason left knee surgery will immediately become the story.
Even though early reports said Machado was ahead of schedule and likely to return by Opening Day, that pace was brought into question after Machado spoke to reporters at Orioles FanFest less than two weeks ago. Machado said he will have to refine his running style in hopes that the injury doesn’t occur again.
Expect Orioles manager Buck Showalter to try to shield Machado from the constant questions he’s expected to receive about his rehab. Machado’s recovery will be one of the top stories of this camp, and his health also has a trickle-down effect to how the roster could shake out.
-- Fans who attend the workouts at the Ed Smith Stadium complex starting today might notice a couple of subtle changes to the layout of the back fields.
Where the artificial turf infield is located, there are now two additional infield diamonds -- both natural grass -- in the turf field outfield. Pitchers will also conduct conditioning and rehab drills on this field, and with three infields clustered together, all of the pitchers fielding practice (PFP) drills can be done on one field.
Showalter also hopes to eventually place five full-size mounds in center field -- he might have to wait until next spring for that -- so that all pitching activities can be done on one field. That’s quite an accomplishment given the meticulous work that had to be done on the turf field two years ago to make it serviceable.