Orioles: Most position players report early

SARASOTA, Fla. - One week ago, Baltimore Orioles pitchers and catchers reported to camp. Position players were supposed to follow five days later.

They didn't follow instructions.

Instead, nearly all of the position players reported ahead of Thursday's scheduled time. Only Endy Chavez, who'll likely be the team's fourth outfielder came on time.

"I hope it bodes well," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "They know there are some jobs open. We offer opportunity."

While the starting eight will likely be all holdovers, there are perhaps a dozen candidates for the starting rotation, perhaps that many for the bullpen, and many more who'll provide Showalter with the depth he's looking for.

Jim Johnson is a little behind the other pitchers in camp due to a lower back injury. Last year, he unseated Kevin Gregg as the closer in the final six weeks of the season. This year, it's Johnson's job to lose.

"I like the options we have," Showalter said. "Kind of like the starting pitching, it's just a matter of sorting it out. That's the easy part and the hard part."

In the final weeks before spring training, new executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette acquired Matt Lindstrom in a trade with Colorado and signed veteran Luis Ayala-both with closing experience.

In a conference call discussing Lindstrom's acquisition along with Jason Hammel in exchange for Jeremy Guthrie, Duquette pointedly did not mention Gregg when discussing closing candidates.

The Orioles would like to move Gregg, but haven't found a taker. They'd like another team to take his $5 million contract off their hands, but would have to pay much of his salary.

Barring injury, Hammel is one of the few pitchers who will be in the starting rotation. Tommy Hunter, who was acquired from Texas in the Koji Uehara deal last July, is another. If Jake Arrieta is recovered from surgery for bone chips on his right elbow, he'll probably be a third.

Wei-Yin Chen, a native of Taiwan, who's pitched in Japan, will probably join them, and Zach Britton, who's been slowed by a sore left shoulder is also a candidate. Tsuyoshi Wada, a longtime Japanese pitcher, could start or be sent to the bullpen.

Other candidates include Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Alfredo Simon, Brad Bergesen, Dana Eveland and non-roster pitcher Armando Galarraga.

Matusz and Tillman are most likely ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk - at least at the start of the season. Eveland, who's out of options, and a left-hander, could work out of the bullpen.

Simon was a starter last season after closing the year before, and Bergesen has experience both starting and relieving.

"As we get healthier, we'll cross some hurdles on it. I have some ideas in the back of my mind," Showalter said.

MATHEWS DIES: Former Orioles reliever Terry Mathews died of a heart attack in Alexandria, La. on Friday. He was 47.

Mathews, who pitched three seasons for Baltimore, pitched for the last two Orioles teams to play in the postseason, 1996 and 1997.

After a bad start in 1998, Mathews was released by the team in July.

Mathews also played with Texas, Florida and Kansas City in an eight-season career. He was 6-7 with a 4.57 ERA in 88 games in Baltimore.

At this death, Mathews was working for his high school in Boyce, La. as a baseball coach and resource officer for the county sheriff's department.

Mathews was the second member of the 1997 Orioles to die this month. Outfielder Danny Clyburn was murdered in Lancaster, South Carolina on Feb. 7.

ODDS AND ENDS: The Orioles will try out their new artificial turf field on Sunday. ... Right-handed pitcher Jon Link has a hamstring injury. He's the third candidate for the bullpen to be hurt in the last few days. Jason Berken, who also has a hamstring injury and Willie Eyre (groin) are both hampered. ... Orioles pitchers took a day off from throwing on Saturday. ... Showalter has scheduled two intrasquad games next weekend.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun