FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -Outfielder Felix Pie stepped out of minor league director Dave Stockstill's rental car yesterday morning and right into the debate about how the former Chicago Cubs prospect will be used with his new team.
Pie, whose arrival at Fort Lauderdale Stadium was delayed six days after he experienced passport problems in his native Dominican Republic, took his physical yesterday and said he's excited to have the opportunity to play every day in left field.
"I've waited for that for a long time, to let me play every day," said Pie, who was acquired from the Cubs last month for starter Garrett Olson and minor league pitcher Henry Williamson. "They are going to give me an opportunity to play. I'm ready for that. I'm going to play hard and show everybody I can do it."
Orioles president Andy MacPhail and manager Dave Trembley have said repeatedly that Pie, a left-handed hitter, will be given a chance to prove he could be an everyday player. Still, as the Orioles begin their Grapefruit League schedule today, Trembley's handling of Pie, 24, and the left-field situation remain among the spring's main question marks.
Luke Scott, who started 100 games in left field last season, has said he wants to remain there and has no desire to be an everyday designated hitter. Ryan Freel can play everywhere, but Trembley said yesterday that he'll likely be in left field against left-handed pitching once the season begins.
"I think there's more than one guy in that mix, but obviously we have him to see if [Pie] can handle it or not," Trembley said when asked whether he has settled on an everyday left fielder. "That factor is going to be determined by what we get back from [hitting coach Terry Crowley] and watching him play. I think competition is a very healthy thing, and we will have some now. I'm not ready to say I'm going to guarantee these guys so many at-bats. It's a long season. Let's get through the spring. Let's see where we're at."
Scott said yesterday that he has no problem with the club's handling of the situation so far.
"I'm going to play some DH, I'm going to play some left field. I have no problem with that," Scott said. "I think that's great. Ever since I got here, Dave and Andy have been very good with communication. There's no reason not to believe them. One way or another, as long as I get my at-bats, that's all I can really ask for."
Pie, who got only 260 major league at-bats with the Cubs during the past two seasons, feels the same way. He has batted .223 with three homers and 30 RBIs in his limited opportunity with the Cubs. However, the Orioles are in a better position to be more patient with the multi-tooled outfielder, who is a career .299 hitter over parts of seven minor league seasons.
Pie is also out of options, one of the reasons Orioles officials were concerned about his delayed arrival here. They wanted to give him as much time as possible to work with Crowley, learn a new position (Pie is normally a center fielder) and get acclimated to a new team and coaching staff.
"I'm happy and ready to go," Pie said yesterday, not long after getting into town. "I was scared because they took my passport like that, but [Monday] they gave it to me. I'm happy to be here and play baseball. ... I was traded, so I wanted to be here early. I don't know what happened. It's frustrating that it happened to me, but now I'm here. I've forgotten the past. I'm ready to play."
Pie was enough of a priority that the Orioles dispatched Stockstill to the Dominican Republic to facilitate the process. The two flew into Miami together and then made the drive north to Fort Lauderdale Stadium.
Because he needed to get a physical yesterday, Pie did little more than put himself through a light workout. It will likely be a couple of days before he plays in any games, but he undoubtedly will get plenty of work with Crowley in the meantime.
"Obviously, he was acquired because he has an upside," Trembley said. "He's going to get an opportunity just like a lot of other guys in this camp. But I'm not ready to say he's going to play 162 games."
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