Newly-signed and freshly-christened outfielder Pedro Alvarez arrived at Orioles camp Monday and manager Buck Showalter believes the transition to his new position, which the team broached with him last year before he hit free agency, will be a good one.
"We talked about it last September, about how it was something we kind of came to the conclusion for him to get on and continue down a better path, if he could present himself," Showalter said Monday. "I'm going to be surprised if he can't do it. Pretty athletic, kind of fits his skill set too. He's got a plus arm, and he's going to work hard at it. [Vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson] had talked to him a lot about it, kind of similar to [Trey] Mancini. He's going to work there exclusively, and hopefully we'll have a feel for it by the time we get toward the end. We'll have plenty of time."
Showalter said Alvarez, who on Monday signed an incentive-laden minor league deal with a major league camp invitation that will pay him a base of $2 million if he makes the big leagues, will work exclusively in the outfield, and primarily play right field because of his arm strength.
The 30-year-old Alvarez arrived in camp and had his first workout Monday, and recalled that conversation with Showalter and other leaders in the organization with an appreciation both for their wish to fit him back on their roster this season, but for their general care for him and his career.
"I think the fact it was brought up with me showed a desired to have me around, and I appreciated that conversation last year," Alvarez said. "But by the same token too, I know it was coming from a good place in his heart, looking out for my career. You can never be too versatile, I guess, for lack of a better term. But that's how I took that conversation, just a desire to have me around and at the same time, just looking out for my best interests."
Alvarez said that like most position players, he has some experience shagging balls in the outfield during batting practice, but nothing as formal as the work he did this offseason to get a good feel for the outfield. He singled out first base coach Wayne Kirby and Anerson as people he'll lean on for help.
"I'm taking all the help I can get, obviously," Alvarez said.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to learn the position as much as possible. Whenever you try and play a new position, you have to put in a lot of work and the one thing you can't replicate is game reps. So I'm looking forward to a game opportunity to go out there and just play."
The transition could take longer than just the allotted spring training time, but the Orioles don't have to add Alvarez to the roster immediately. He's willing to take as much time to get as many reps as he can, all in an effort to turn Alvarez into more than just a valuable bench bat.
"You don't want to come in halfway through spring or whatever time period it is now, but one thing that's very helpful is the fact that obviously last year, switching organizations was a big change for me and going into it, not that I was hesitant, but I didn't know what to expect," Alvarez said. "I couldn't be happier with the way this organization made the transition for me—very seamless. And going into this year, I know again it's not the ideal timing, but there isn't that uncertainty in terms of how I'm going to feel coming in here. I'm around a lot of people that are going to be helpful or pulling for me, and what more could you ask of a group of people that you're planning to work with?"
Alvarez has never played the outfield professionally before, and has dealt with defensive issues before as a corner infielder. However, the Orioles view the signing as a low-risk opportunity to get Alvarez's bat back in their organization and see if they can make him a more valuable roster asset in the process.
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No update on Tillman: The Orioles are still formulating their next step with right-hander Chris Tillman and his sore right shoulder after he wasn't able to take a scheduled bullpen Sunday due to discomfort.
"We're going to sit down about where we are with him at lunch time," Showalter said. "The doctors, I know they've been talking to him about whether we continue down the path, rest, injection. There's a lot of different options there. We're not sure. Richie [Bancells, head athletic trainer] told us this morning at our meeting that they're trying to formulate a plan on what we want to do going forward."
Seth Smith cautious with hamstring: Orioles outfielder Seth Smith was back doing some baseball activities Monday, a new development as he works back from what Showalter is characterizing as a minor hamstring injury that has kept him out since Wednesday.
"It's one of those things where he'd be playing during the season, but we've got plenty of time," Showalter said. "Don't want it to turn into something. He had it last spring, and it was worse last spring and he played through it and he went into the season hampering him, so we're trying to stay away from that."
Around the horn: Showalter said shortstop J.J. Hardy (back spasms), playing his first Grapefruit League game Monday against the Phillies, could be back in the lineup Tuesday if he's up for it. … Closer Zach Britton will make his Grapefruit League debut tomorrow. … Outfielder Chris Dickerson, who was hit with a pitch on a nerve in his arm and lost feeling Sunday, was "pretty sore" Monday, Showalter said. Dickerson only recently came back from a foot injury. … Outfielder Craig Gentry is dealing with a groin issue and may not play Monday, Showalter said. … The Orioles are scheduling a B game against the Pittsburgh Pirates for Friday morning, with Mike Wright to start and Darren O'Day possibly getting a two-inning stint under his belt. Starting Wright in that game would allow the Orioles to get looks at left-hander Chris Lee and right-hander Gabriel Ynoa as starters in Grapefruit League games.