This morning marks the official beginning of spring training for the Orioles as pitchers and catchers will report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex here in Sarasota, Fla.
Players will stroll into the complex over the course of the day. Some position players who have reported early will work out on their own. Tomorrow, the pitchers and catchers will have their first workout of the spring.
So much has happened since this time last season. Few would have predicted anything more than a fifth-place finish in the American League East for the Orioles last season. The Orioles brought 30 pitchers into camp, none of them with guarantees. The talk of the early days of camp was the team’s sparkling new training facility, not the promise of the product on the field. Still, all the while, manager Buck Showalter trumpeted that the Orioles’ new digs helped eliminate the past excuses for mediocrity.
Now, after last season’s playoff push, expectations have been raised. The Orioles’ goal isn’t merely a .500 record -- that happening this season after last year's performance would equivocally amount to failure. It is not only to compete for a division title but a World Series championship.
Beginning tomorrow, Showalter will run his camp dedicated to details. Pitchers fielding practice drills (also known as PFPs) will be run ad nauseum, with Showalter watching every break to cover first base, every bunt in front of the mound with piqued interest.
Last season, Showalter pointed to those days on the back fields of the Ed Smith complex -- in front of dozens of fans – as ones that established the foundation of success and prepared his team for the rigors of surviving a 162-game season with a playoff berth.
On Friday, the first full-squad workout commences. Eight days later, the Orioles will host the Twins in their Grapefruit League opener.
While the Orioles have received their share of criticism for not doing enough this offseason to build on 2012’s success, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette built last year’s Orioles not with an open checkbook, but with opportunity. And that’s how their success will be sustained.
And that’s what will make the next seven weeks here in Sarasota so interesting. There aren’t as many holes to fill on this year’s team. That’s a byproduct of success. But seeing how Showalter and Duquette build the 2013 Orioles will make this spring training worth watching.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun