SARASOTA, Fla. — As the sun rises this morning, the Orioles still haven't announced their signing of South Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon.
At this point, the plan is still to introduce Yoon to the media Monday, but I’ve heard that the right-hander is hoping to hear this morning that he cleared his Friday physical and can begin working out with the team today. He’s eager to start his transition to the major leagues and American baseball.
We will see.
But at this point, provided he passed the physical, we know he plans to stay here in Sarasota and get his work visa through Canada instead of going back to South Korea. He still can work out with the Orioles while his visa is being processed. That process is expected to take about two weeks.
It is taking a while for the Orioles to announce Yoon’s signing, but this definitely has a different feel than the club’s two failed physicals this offseason involving reliever Grant Balfour and outfielder Tyler Colvin. Everything I’ve heard regarding Yoon’s physical sounds positive. Those weren’t the vibes I got from The Warehouse with Balfour and Colvin.
Meanwhile, the Orioles hope catcher Johnny Monell and right-hander Alfredo Aceves arrive in camp today. They’ve both missed the first two days of workouts, but Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he doesn’t feel their chances of making the team have been hurt.
That’s because both players played winter ball this offseason. Monell played 32 games for Caguas in Puerto Rico, and Aceves pitched during winter ball in Mexico, then played for Mexico in the Caribbean Series. His last outing was just 10 days ago, a seven-inning performance for Mexico in which he allowed one earned run in a win over the Dominican Republic. In two Caribbean Series outings, Aceves pitched to a 2.57 ERA with a pair of seven-inning quality starts.
"It doesn't even figure into it right now,” Showalter said about the two players missing time. “That doesn't mean that everybody takes a [flight] a couple days [early] next year, but we're not even close to that point, especially with a guy like Aceves, who's been pitching in winter ball.”
Showalter said he also was impressed with nonroster right-hander Brock Huntzinger, who looked strong after winter ball. Huntzinger pitched to a 1.15 ERA in the Dominican Republic this winter.
One player who didn’t know whether he’d be back in an Orioles uniform is infielder Alexi Casilla. Earlier in the offseason, the Orioles declined Casilla's $3 million club option for 2014.
“In my mind, they did the right thing,” Casilla said. “I knew that they weren’t going to take the option, but I knew they were going to offer something to me.”
The Orioles eventually re-signed Casilla to a minor league deal, with an invitation to big league spring training.
“At some point, all baseball players go through that situation,” Casilla said. “That situation came to me this year. I was waiting for a contract, and I was feeling the pressure. You feel kind of scared and [think], 'No one is interested in me.' You just got to believe and keep doing whatever you’re doing in your control and wait for it.
“It was pretty late,” Casilla added. “It was mid-January, I think, so I had a couple of options to choose. I chose the Orioles because I already knew the team. I wanted to be with my teammates and I didn’t want to try something else. I just chose to stay here.”
Even though he’s a nonroster player, Casilla could very well make the team. His ability to play multiple positions -- he can play second base, shortstop and third base -- plus his speed on the base paths make him a valuable utility option, especially if third baseman Manny Machado isn’t fully recovered from offseason knee surgery and second baseman Ryan Flaherty is then shifted to third base to open the season.
“Like always, I’m prepared for whatever happens, and I’m just ready to go and take advantage of any opportunity I receive,” Casilla said. “Just practicing hard, and when it comes time to play, I’ve got to be ready. I think I’m ready. I’ve been working a lot in the offseason, and I’m ready to compete.”