NEW YORK -- For the second consecutive year, the Orioles pick in the top five in baseball's first-year player draft, and the club's philosophy is simple: Emerge with a top-quality player, regardless of the position.
"Baseball is not a draft where you draft need. It's not the NFL," Orioles president Andy MacPhail said recently. "I just want them to get the guy that they think will be the most productive big league player."
After snagging Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters with the fifth overall selection last year, the Orioles will pick fourth on June 5. It's the highest the Orioles have selected since 2002, when they took Canadian left-handed pitcher Adam Loewen at No. 4.
MacPhail, who will be overseeing his first draft with the Orioles, has been focused on rebuilding the club's farm system since he arrived last June. He has restocked the system with young power pitchers, but there is a lack of quality position players in the minors, specifically in the middle infield and outfield. However, don't expect MacPhail and amateur scouting director Joe Jordan to reach just to get a shortstop or outfielder.
"My history has been to take a bat if there is one there that we really like," said Jordan, who has selected a position player with the Orioles' top pick in all three of his drafts. "I think you can get pitching later in the draft, but there are a lot of pitchers I like as well. We have some work to do, but we're going to have a really good option. I don't know exactly which name it's going to be, but I'll be excited when we pull the name."
Jordan said the club is "probably down to six names" for consideration for its top pick, and he will spend the next few weeks "trying to get as many looks as I can at the top guys."
He wouldn't comment on specific players, but Georgia high school shortstop Tim Beckham, Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez, South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak and San Diego left-handed pitcher Brian Matusz are among the names that have been connected to the Orioles. There is a good chance Beckham and Alvarez will be taken before the Orioles' pick.
"Right now, my focus is on the quality of the player and how good they are going to be," MacPhail said. "Obviously, we intend on signing our picks like everybody else does."
Bullpen coach Alan Dunn watched extensive video of struggling reliever Jamie Walker and discovered Walker's arm slot had dropped significantly from last year. He took the information to Walker, and they worked on making an adjustment during Walker's bullpen session. The reliever then went out and turned in a scoreless outing Sunday.
"I think what you saw on Sunday is probably more indicative of what he needs to do," manager Dave Trembley said. "I think his arm slot was a lot better. He seemed to be more on top of his pitches. He threw his breaking ball the other day and I thought it had more of a finish on it. Before ... it was kind of coming [across] the plate instead of going down. I talked to him before we came out here. He's an important guy on this club, and he's certainly an important guy when we play the Yankees because they have so many left-handed hitters."
Around the horn
Trembley said the Yankees' struggles against left-handed pitching factored heavily in his decision to not split up left-handers Garrett Olson and Brian Burres in the series. Olson pitches tonight and Burres will start tomorrow, though Trembley said the situation will be revisited. ... Trembley also said the club will determine the day of Steve Trachsel's next start after a side bullpen session today. Trachsel, whose past two turns in the rotation have been skipped, is scheduled face Tampa Bay at some point this weekend.