Koji Uehara threw about 50 pitches alongside Hayden Penn and nonroster pitcher Ross Wolf yesterday morning, drawing praise from pitching coach Rick Kranitz and catcher Gregg Zaun along with the daily scrutiny of the large contingent of Japanese media and a handful of American reporters.
The last time anyone drew close to this kind of interest for a throwing session at Orioles training camp was Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, when he attempted a comeback in 1991, and it really wasn't that close.
"For the first real look at him, I was very impressed," Kranitz said. "He has above-average command of his fastball. He was working on things. I was a little surprised in a good way that he has a cut fastball. That'll be a big asset for him in this league."
Uehara said through interpreter Jiwon Bang that he was satisfied with his performance, though he was a little concerned about the lack of sink in his forkball. He acknowledged that it was a little more difficult to get a grip on the American baseball - "It's a little more slippery" - after many years of playing with a different ball in Japan, but he isn't worried about making that adjustment.
"It's not the first time I've used that ball," he said. "I played with it in the WBC [World Baseball Classic] and the Olympics. It's not that hard to adjust."
Zaun isn't worried. He said Uehara's command of the fastball was so good, he didn't have to do anything to catch it.
"I barely had to move my glove," Zaun said. "He's everything he's advertised to be."
Though communication will be a problem for awhile, Uehara and his teammates are having fun with the clash of cultures. Uehara has been teaching the guys around his locker some Japanese terms, and they are helping him with his English.
"But only the good words," he said.
Center fielder Adam Jones arrived in camp and worked out with the team yesterday. There's no question he has added some muscle, but it's nothing like the 20 to 25 pounds that was rumored before his arrival. He said he weighs 225 pounds, which is just 10 pounds more than he weighed at the end of last season. He looks good and clearly is happy to be back for his second year in the Orioles' outfield.
He spent much of the winter working out with Brian Roberts, Dustin Pedroia and a number of other major leaguers at Athlete's Performance Institute in the Tempe, Ariz. He said he hopes he's ready for a breakout season.
"I've got a year under my belt," he said. "Why not?"
What's the most important thing he learned during his first season in Baltimore?
"Basically, that I can play at this level," he said. "I've never been intimidated. I just need to go out and play and do it."
Jones on Roberts
Jones was not afraid to express his opinion on Roberts' contract situation, which remains unsettled two days before Roberts and the rest of the position players are required to report to camp.
"I would love to see him here for a long time," Jones said. "They signed [Nick] Markakis for six years. Why not sign [Brian] for four?"
Perez held out
Pitcher Wilfrido Perez, who had to leave the field Sunday because of dehydration, was held out of yesterday's workout as a precaution.
"Perez was not out there," manager Dave Trembley said. "He is dehydrated from yesterday. [Orioles head trainer] Richie Bancells told us it was best for him to not go out there today."