Carroll County Times

Orioles Notebook: Team honors former manager Weaver

BALTIMORE - In a break with tradition, the Baltimore Orioles did not have anyone take the mound to throw out a ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day prior to Friday's game against the Minnesota Twins.

That was in deference to Earl Weaver, the Hall of Fame manager who died in January.

Instead of a first pitch, a Weaver tribute played on the video screen in center field and a ball was set on the mound to honor the man who managed the team for 15 seasons, getting them to the World Series four times.

The Orioles are wearing Weaver's No. 4 on their right uniform sleeves and that number adorned the field in foul territory in front of the Orioles dugout as it did at the team's spring training home in Sarasota, Fla.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he frequently would be walking back to the dugout during spring training, head down after making a pitching change, and nearly step on Weaver's number before taking care to alter his course and go around it.

"There's a certain reverence we all have for that," Showalter said before Friday's game. "I'll think about him today. And all season. And in the future.

"He was a special Oriole and always will be."

BATTING SECOND: Heading into the season, it had been widely assumed that 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado would bat sixth or seventh in his first full major league season.

But through four games he has hit in the No. 2 position four times.

"It works better for all of us right now," Showalter said. "Manny's capable of hitting in a lot of places. I think with the people around him, there's not a lot of heat on him. It's just a few more at-bats, that's about the extent of it."

Machado went 1 for 4 on Friday with an RBI and a key sacrifice bunt in the eighth inning, when the Orioles scored five runs.

Showalter said he likes the right-handed hitting Machado positioned between lefty leadoff man Nate McLouth and left-handed No. 3 hitter Nick Markakis.

"It allows us to make them make multiple changes or put somebody at a disadvantage," he said. "We'll see how it develops."

WARNING TRACK POWER: The Orioles replaced the hard, rubberized warning track around Camden Yards in the offseason with a natural surface composed of crushed stone. The color of the stone was designed to match the brick that appears throughout the ballpark and in the B&O Warehouse.

But Showalter said the change is more than aesthetic.

"It's a lot safer," he said. "Our outfield is excited about it."

Showalter said advanced metrics showed Orioles outfielders to be lacking in range in deep right-center and left-center fields last season - but only at home. That's because nobody was willing to lay out and risk injury on the old track, he said.

"When's the last time you saw a diving catch? You don't want anybody to do a dive on that," he said, noting that the new track also "has potential to enhance an already beautiful ballpark."

BIRD BITS: Adam Jones went 3 for 5 Friday and now has four consecutive multi-hit games to start the season ... Before the game, Jones, J.J.Hardy and Matt Wieters were presented with the Gold Gloves they won last season ... Orioles starter Jake Arrieta failed in his bid to become the first pitcher to win three consecutive home openers for Baltimore ... The Orioles have won 40 of their 60 home openers.