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Orioles notes: Seth Smith has sights set on opening season healthy, not spring training

Orioles outfielder Seth Smith said his right hamstring is "getting better," and stressed the precautionary nature of the absence that has now spanned more than a week of Grapefruit League action.

"I'm just trying to get ready," Smith said. "You want to get some time in spring training, obviously, but ultimately you want to do what you can to point toward the first of April. Whatever we've got to do with regard to the leg and at-bats, we'll do the best we can to get where it needs to be."

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Smith, who hit a home run March 8 against the Toronto Blue Jays for his only Grapefruit League hit, is in line to play the big half of an outfield platoon in which he will face mostly right-handed pitching. Acquired in the offseason from the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Yovani Gallardo, Smith said his decision to be extra cautious comes from a similar situation last spring.

Manager Buck Showalter said the soreness last year was worse than this year, but Smith played through it and saw it carry into the beginning of the regular season.

"That's kind of what's allowed us to do this, having what happened last spring training and not wanting to deal with that again," Smith said. "I'm trying to get on top of it now and get it out."

He wouldn't assign a time frame for his return, but said he's confident once he's back he'll have enough time to prepare for the season.

"At-bats are great, and I'd like to get them, but being 100 percent going into the season is No. 1," Smith said.

Flaherty feeling good

After the team gave utility infielder Ryan Flaherty a cortisone shot Monday to alleviate shoulder soreness, he reported Thursday that he's feeling better.

"Just trying to get the inflammation to go away," Flaherty said. "So hopefully the shot I got a couple days ago will do that. … It feels good, but it's just a matter of making sure the strength is fully there. Right now, it feels 100 percent, but you've got to get the strength back up."

Flaherty was dealing with shoulder soreness earlier in the spring, as well, and said it abated in time, but "just kind of came back." With infielders Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop away at the World Baseball Classic and shortstop J.J. Hardy missing several weeks with back spasms, Flaherty has had a busy spring.

He has three hits in 25 at-bats over 10 games, with one RBI.

Showalter hears about Schoop

Showalter said Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens, a onetime player of Showalter's, called him Thursday to update him on Schoop's progress in the WBC.

"He said he's doing well," Showalter said. "Early on, trying to do a little too much, but he's been really good for them, defensively. Got a lot of big hits for them."

Meulens, the San Francisco Giants hitting coach, said he'd like to keep Schoop on his team full-time.

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"I said no, but if you want to send that [Buster] Posey or [Madison Bumgarner] guy our way, we can talk," Showalter said.

Britton switches roles

Longtime former Orioles farmhand Buck Britton, whose brother Zach is the team's closer, is back in the organization as the hitting coach at Low-A Delmarva and is excited to transition into his new role.

He'll be working alongside his longtime coach, Shorebirds manager Ryan Minor, and is already diving into his new gig at minor league camp, at Twin Lakes Park across town in Sarasota.

"One of the hardest things, especially as a hitting coach, is I was just worried about myself and what worked for me," Britton said. "When I was struggling, what did I need to do to prepare? But now, I'm responsible for 20, 30 guys. That's been the biggest challenge, trying to understand how to talk to players and get them to understand what I'm thinking and try to help them in ways that helped me and build that trust factor with these young players.

"Because they look at me as the guy, 30-years-old, I'm not one of those old guys who you think, 'Oh, he's been in baseball forever.' That trust factor is going to be very important for me."

After being drafted by the Orioles in 2008 and playing in their system for seven seasons, Britton spent a year each with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins organizations. He said Paul Molitor and Don Mattingly run good camps, but he's still a disciple of the Orioles' methods and perspectives.

Around the horn

On Friday, the Orioles will wear special green hats both in their Grapefruit League game at the Pittsburgh Pirates and in workouts back in Sarasota. The St. Patrick's Day-themed hats are set to be autographed and auctioned off at orioles.com/spring. … Showalter said Chris Tillman was responding well to his cortisone shot from Wednesday, but deciding the next step for him is still a few days away.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

twitter.com/JonMeoli

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