SARASOTA, FLA. -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he feels bad for the national attention generated from the one-page writing assignment he gave to minor leaguer Josh Hart on Orioles Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.
The story picked up steam on Tuesday as it was promoted on the Yahoo home page and was mentioned by Keith Olbermann on his nightly ESPN television show.
It all started off innocently enough. Robinson was at Orioles camp on Monday to speak to the team under the invitation of executive vice president Dan Duquette.
Hart, a 19-year-old center fielder who was the 37th overall pick in last year’s draft, was making a rare appearance at major league camp along with a group of fellow minor leaguers.
Showalter asked Hart if he knew who Robinson was. He didn’t, so Showalter told Hart he wanted a one-page report on Robinson on his desk the next day.
As the story gained attention, there was the perception that Showalter was punishing Hart for not knowing about Robinson, but Showalter just wanted Hart to learn about the Orioles’ rich history.
“I actually feel bad right now, I really do,” Showalter said. “I’ve got a good feeling we will be talking about something else concerning Josh Hart than that at some point. He’s a talented kid. … He’s a good looking player boy. He can move around.”
Hart finished the report and in the process learned a lot about Robinson. Showalter said he was told Hart would give him the report the next time he was at big league camp.
“The kid actually said, ‘Holy cow, I knew he was famous, buy I didn’t know how,’” Showalter said. “He was rattling it off, said he needs more paper.”
Showalter usually brings in minor league players for some spring training games to fill in during the late innings. He said Hart will be among that group.
“He is definitely going to be now, so I can apologize,” Showalter said. “He might play the whole year here.”
Hart will likely start the season at low Class-A Delmarva after playing 36 games on the club's Gulf Coast League team and at short-season Aberdeen.
** Showalter said that starters will receive at least two at-bats during this afternoon’s intrasquad game.
** Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar, who will see plenty of playing time this spring at third base with Manny Machado still rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, will also see some time at first base.
“It’s because we have Manny,” Showalter said. “He’s going to get some first base time here too. I can see why we took him. ... We’ll see what develops. He’s going to get a lot of playing time."
** Ubaldo Jimenez and Suk-min Yoon’s first pitching assignments of the spring have yet to be scheduled, but they could be around March 7.
** Showalter said he planned to talk to Nelson Cruz about when he could play in his first game. Cruz took infield drills today.
** Showalter said that some outfielders battling for a roster spot will see time at first base. Last year, Steve Pearce used his versatility to win the final roster spot. Ryan Flaherty is the backup first baseman behind Chris Davis, but he is battling for the starting second base job and could also start the season at third if Machado isn’t ready by Opening Day.
“You see where the competition is,” Showalter said. “There’s a few guys we’ve talked about who have played some time at first base as we go forward, but I don’t want to take them out of the outfield yet. We know that Ryan can play there. I don’t want to hold Ryan’s versatility against him. I think there’s a tendency to do that because that’s the comfortable way to do it because you know he can play anywhere.”