The Orioles worked on communicating in the field with simulated fan noise as they tried to catch fly balls. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)
SARASOTA, FLA. — Orioles manager Buck Showalter is taking his team onto the Ed Smith Stadium field Friday so that they can use the sound system to pump crowd noise into the venue. (That exercise had initially been planned for Saturday.)
The noise -- which will actually be a loop of the crowd's reaction to Delmon Young's game-winning double in Game 2 of last year's American League Division Series at Camden Yards -- allows the players to simulate calling fly balls and communicating in a loud environment.
Showalter said the exercise is still imperfect. There's no way to truly mimic the effect of noise, but it's better replicated on the stadium field than on the back fields of the complex.
"You just try to deal in practicalities with what really plays as opposed to what makes you feel like you've got it back on Field 4 in February," Showalter said Thursday.
In case the noise is too loud for players to hear one another, the Orioles have a system to prevent head-to-head collisions.
Outfielders always are taught to slide when a collision is possible, and infielders are told to stay high.
"We teach it that the infielder always stays up and the outfielder always goes down," Showalter said. "That's why you see [coach Wayne Kirby] and them practicing the feet-first slide, so they can stay away from injury. There's times when a ball's coming down and neither guy is sure if they can catch it, but you have to give him the confidence to keep moving toward the ball, so our infielders know they're never going to have a head-to-head collision. They know the outfielders are always going to go feet first."
** Showalter said catcher Matt Wieters will build his innings behind the plate by playing in simulated and minor league games, in hopes that when he can catch in Grapefruit League games March 17, he will be able to catch between five to seven innings.
"He's going to get some duty in Twin Lakes," Showalter said. "He's going to be doing a lot of DH-ing, running the bases. We'll set up some games where no stealing is allowed. We'll have his legs ready to go. His first outing catching in a game, you'll see him catching more than three innings. I think he'll probably catch five to seven right out of the chute."
Showalter will take advantage of the simulated environment and start Wieters in Sunday's intrasquad game.
"I think ... he's going to DH" in Grapefruit League games, Showalter said. "There's a lot of activity. I saw him throw a ball today, and I had to catch myself because it looked like normal. It wasn't that recoil or [deceleration] at the end that you see with a lot of guys" who are coming back from injury.
"We're going to see as many people as we can see, but obviously, getting Matt ready is a priority," he added. "He's going to make our club."
** Showalter said he asked one of his coaches how third baseman Manny Machado has been doing in his first few days of practice. Machado had right knee surgery in August and has no restrictions this spring. Last spring, he didn't play in spring training games while recovering from surgery on his left knee.
"His face is good," Showalter said. "You get to the point that he almost looks bored. That's where he is. It's not, 'Is this step going to hurt? Is that step going to hurt?' So far, so good."