SARASOTA, FLA. — Ubaldo Jimenez wasn't officially an Oriole on Tuesday — he arrived at the Ed Smith Stadium Complex Tuesday morning for his club physical and left — but his new teammates welcomed the news that the Orioles agreed to terms with the pitcher on a four-year deal worth about $50 million.
The 30-year-old Jimenez, one of the top remaining free-agent starting pitchers, must still pass his physical before the deal can be officially announced and he can join workouts. But inside the Orioles clubhouse, there was immediate buzz about the team's new acquisition.
"We've been watching him pitch a long time," Orioles reliever Darren O'Day said. "I know when we faced him last year, guys weren't really jumping in the box having fun. It's exciting to have him on our team. We've got a lot of good talent in here. Anytime you can add to that pool of talent is a plus."
Shortstop J.J. Hardy echoed that sentiment, saying that spending the money on Jimenez, which along with the signing of South Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon puts the Orioles' projected payroll above $97 million, sends a message to the team.
"It just shows everybody that we're here to compete," Hardy said. "We were all saying this offseason that if they made a move and it made us better, we were all for it. This is one of those moves."
Following a sleepy offseason which saw the club's division rivals reload, the Orioles prepared to enter the spring with the same group of players.
"Teams make these big moves and it doesn't always pan out," Hardy continued. "Sometimes keeping the same guys around is a better thing to do. We feel like we've got a good team. We felt like that the last few years and haven't made that many changes because we haven't needed to. This move definitely makes us better, and it does send a message to us."
It is unclear when Jimenez will officially join Orioles camp, but when he does, he will fill a rotation spot that was vacant. Before his acquisition, a handful of legitimate candidates were competing for the No. 5 spot.
Before the deal was made, Orioles manager Buck Showalter did his share of homework on Jimenez, who was 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA last year with the Indians and has made at least 31 starts in each of the past six seasons.
"I've heard a lot of stuff about him," Showalter said. "I've picked a lot of brains of people who have had him recently and in the past. I know when he's been real good, and when he's had some struggles. I feel like I have a pretty good idea coming in what's happened in the past. I'm more interested in the future and the present. I talked to him today a little bit."
Showalter also gave club ownership credit for "stepping up" to close both deals with Jimenez and Yoon.
"You usually have to spend money to be competitive," O'Day said. "It's exciting because talking to some older guys who have been around the game a long time, they say there's a point in your career where you realize you only have so many years left. I'm not there yet, but if you're not trying to win games, you're just wasting your time. No one here wants to waste time. We want to win games. We want to do everything we can to get better."
The official beginning is here
The Orioles will conduct their first full-squad workout on Wednesday, but most of the team has also reported to camp.
Outfielder Xavier Paul and infielder Alex Gonzalez arrived on Tuesday's full-squad report day in time to participate in the morning workout. The only two players Showalter said he hadn't seen by Tuesday early afternoon were Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar and outfielder Francisco Peguero.
Other position players have filtered into camp over the past week and have been working out independently from the pitchers and catchers.
"It's going to be like the first day of pitchers and catchers," Showalter said. "It's like an army out there. [Hitting coach Jim Presley] didn't know how many guys were going to show up. I think we ended up splitting them up on two fields. The first time we get everybody in, its exciting. Maybe Jimenez will work out tomorrow. I don't know. I haven't heard anything negative on that all. What I've heard has been very positive."
Updates on Gonzalez and De La Cruz
Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who was hasn't thrown a bullpen session since leaving Saturday's workout with lower back spasms, played catch for the second straight day and the club hopes he can return to regular sessions on Wednesday.
Gonzalez said he's been in Sarasota for three weeks working out, so there's no reason to rush back.
"I want to be 100 percent," Gonzalez said. "There's no need to hurry up and get on the mound again. I've already threw five bullpens, so I'm not worried about that."
"He's fine," Showalter said. "If anything, we'll probably have to slow him down at some point this spring, anyway."
Kelvin De La Cruz, who threw off a half mound on Monday in the final step of a progression from a left hamstring pull, is also expected to throw a regular bullpen on Wednesday.
Around the horn
Even though the club was somewhat hesitant to lose their first-round pick in signing Jimenez, Showalter said that the team's recent international acquisitions of 17-year-old Mexican corner infielder Carlos Diaz and 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Jomar Reyes help make up for the loss. Diaz is working out in minor league camp, and Reyes is at the club's Dominican academy. ... Tuesday's workout was a brief one, as no bullpens were thrown. Pitchers field practice drills included working on pickoff plays at first and second, fielding the 3-6-1 play, comebacker force plays at home and 4-1 plays. … ESPN college basketball announcer Dick Vitale, who lives in nearby Lakewood Ranch, made a visit at training camp and talked to players inside the clubhouse. He even asked for a selfie photo with right-hander Kevin Gausman.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun