SARASOTA, Fla. – Several Orioles players made a statement by filing into this morning's introductory news conference for Nelson Cruz.
Eight of the Orioles' core players – Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis, Manny Machado, Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter – and hitting coach Jim Presley filed into the press conference just minutes before it started.
"Just kind of giving him a little bit of support,” Hardy said. “We all know him from playing against him or playing with him. I played with him in Milwaukee, half of this clubhouse played with him in Texas. He's a good guy. He's a friend of all of ours. So, it was just kind of a way, I guess, to show him that we want to welcome him here with open arms."
The Orioles spent the past few days being asked about Cruz, who served a 50-game suspension last season as part of the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal. They might have said more by attending the presser.
“It was a lot of position player that showed up,” Jones said. “He’s going to be formidable in our lineup and we want to show our support. The guys in there, we’ve been around a little bit and so we kind of understand what’s going on and we wanted him to feel welcome, and he’s welcome in this clubhouse.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter admitted he made sure the players knew when the news conference was.
“But it was their choice to be there,” Showalter said. "It doesn’t surprise me at all. Our guys, they’re enthused about what could be. … I’m really proud of our guys. They had a lot of confidence.”
Cruz was a full participant in his first Orioles workout on Tuesday, participating in defensive outfield drills and taking live batting practice thrown by coaches.
** Second baseman Alexi Casilla left Tuesday’s workout after he pulled his right hamstring while fielding ground balls.
“I could have kept going, but we are practicing right now,” Casilla said. “We’re not playing any games yet, so I want to be ready when the games start.”
Casilla said he hopes he only missed two to three days.
“It’s unusually because Cassie’s been a real durable guy,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, it happened early and we caught it. He’s pretty smart.”
** Outfielder Quintin Berry said he felt much better a day after coming out of Sunday’s workout with back spasms. He received treatment on Monday and hoped to be able to return on Wednesday.
** Showalter said Tuesday afternoon that he had yet to receive the one-page report on Frank Robinson that he assigned to Josh Hart because the 19-year-old minor leaguer didn’t know who the Orioles Hall of Famer was.
“He’s got 24 hours,” Showalter said. “I’ll give him until the end of the day. We don’t do email. It’s got to be on a piece of paper. I’ve got to get with [Director of Player Development] Brian Graham, make sure he knows I wasn’t [joking].”
** Showalter is using Wednesday's eight-inning intrasquad game to simulate an afternoon spring training gameday routine.
The intrasquad game, which will be started by left-hander Brian Matusz and right-hander Kevin Gausman, will be played on the Ed Smith Stadium complex main field and begin at 1:05 p.m. It will be closed to the public.
Before the game, players will go through the usual spring gameday routine, complete with a morning workout, batting practice and lunch.
“It’s important,” Showalter said. “I was talking to J.J. in the weight room this morning [telling him] here’s what I’ve got, [so] just about all of our regulars know what our schedule is going to be this spring for them.”
Showalter said he’s considering playing Thursday’s intrasquad game — which is slated to go four or five innings — on the stadium field as well. It was originally scheduled to be played on the Camden Yards field of the complex, so fans could watch, but there are parts of the outfield still wet from recent showers.
If the game is moved to the main stadium field, it will not be open to the public. No start time for that game has been determined.