Stars in his eyes

The Baltimore Sun

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Brandon Snyder's welcome-to-big-league-spring-training moment came last week when he found himself in the batting cage with Aubrey Huff, Luke Scott and Ryan Freel.

"Just listening to those guys talk about baseball was an awesome experience," said Snyder, the Orioles' first-round pick in 2005, who is at major league spring training for the first time. "Obviously, coming here for the first time, you get a lot of nerves involved, but once you kind of get past that, it's just another day of baseball. It's a lot easier to relax and kind of do your job. The guys here are great. It's been a great experience."

Snyder, 22, will likely start the season at Double-A Bowie, but Orioles officials wanted to give one of their top position prospects a taste of the big league environment and reward him for a fine minor league season last year. Dogged by injuries early in his professional career, Snyder hit .315 with 13 homers and 80 RBIs for Single-A Frederick last year. He extended his hot hitting to the Arizona Fall League, batting .349 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 17 games.

Though it has been just batting practice, Snyder has looked impressive this spring, spraying balls all over the field at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, something manager Dave Trembley remembers seeing from the right-handed hitter when he was in instructional league five years ago.

"The one thing that always impressed me about him is he has very good power to the opposite field," Trembley said. "He's one of the guys that's very appreciative to be here. He's settled in nicely. He's got a chance to be a very good offensive player."

Snyder was drafted as a catcher, but shoulder surgery late in 2006 and the Orioles' drafting Matt Wieters necessitated a move from that position. Most scouts project him in the big leagues as a first baseman or designated hitter, though Snyder said he wants the opportunity to play third base. He should be at first and third tomorrow in the Orioles' exhibition game against Italy's World Baseball Classic team.

Pitching lineup set

The Italians will get a good look at the Orioles' stable of pitching prospects. Left-hander Brian Matusz, the Orioles' top pick in the 2008 draft, will start the exhibition game at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

"To be able to start is pretty special," Matusz said.

He'll be followed in the game by Troy Patton, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Wilfrido Perez, David Hernandez and Jim Hoey. Bergesen is scheduled to throw two innings, and everyone else will pitch one. None of the Orioles' regulars is expected to play in the game, though Wieters will likely be the starting catcher.

Brad Hennessey will start the Orioles' Grapefruit League opener Wednesday against the New York Mets, followed by appearances from Chris Waters, David Pauley, Brian Bass and Jim Miller. Danys Baez will start against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, with Matt Albers, Chris Ray, Bob McCrory, Andy Mitchell and Alberto Castillo also scheduled. Koji Uehara and Jeremy Guthrie are slated to start Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Waiting for Pie

The Orioles are hoping that outfielder Felix Pie's visa situation becomes clearer today. The U.S. consulate in the Dominican Republic is closed on weekends, so there has been no progress in rectifying the situation. The Orioles dispatched minor league director David Stockstill to the Dominican Republic to try to help move things along.

Trembley acknowledged Pie's absence has become a concern. The Orioles acquired the outfielder, 24, from the Chicago Cubs last month and planned to give him every opportunity to win the starting left-field job.

"He is a guy that we've counted on to get in camp and work with" hitting coach Terry Crowley, Trembley said. "It's getting to the point where it is important for him to get here. We're going to start playing games, and I want to get him acclimated to his new teammates and the coaching staff. I'll feel a whole better when he gets here."

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