Eduardo A. Encina reports on the third and final day of Orioles minicamp in Sarasota, Fla. (Eduardo A. Encina, Baltimore Sun video)
Two years ago, Orioles right-hander Mychal Givens used the annual offseason minicamp as a springboard to a second-half call-up. At last year's minicamp, reliever Donnie Hart made an impression that helped him join the Orioles bullpen as their situational lefty.
There's no doubt that the team's minicamp, which this week was held for the fourth straight year at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, has proven to be beneficial. And manager Buck Showalter said the opportunity to get a head start on spring training a month before pitchers and catchers report and uncover talent that could ultimately help the big league club is still as important as ever to the Orioles.
As much as throwing in front of the major league staff is an integral part of the minicamp, the individual discussions that players have with coaches are just as meaningful for the Orioles, especially with new pitching coach Roger McDowell coming from the Atlanta Braves and new bullpen coach Alan Mills being promoted from Double-A Bowie.
"It was important then because we identified who we are and how we're going," Showalter said. "The multiyear, five-year contracts for starting pitchers, it's a proven fact: it's a bad [investment]. … We've got two teams in our division that paid a luxury tax last year. [But this is] who we are. We're going to try to out-relationship you, out-knowledge [teams to] try to make somebody the best they can be. It's a lot more fun, quite frankly instead of trying to outbid on people. That's kind of who we are.
"We have to do things like this to find somebody that nobody really knew about. We know about them. Shame on us if we don't know about them. It creates a great morale in the organization, and it starts with the pitching coaches, the pitching coordinator, the pitchers themselves because they know that's where they're going, and their job is very important. You know who you are, and we have to do those things."
While this year's group of pitchers is the least-heralded group over the minicamp's four years in Sarasota, Showalter said he thinks there's potentially another Givens or Hart in the mix. Left-hander Chris Lee and right-hander Jesus Liranzo were among those to impress Showalter at the minicamp, and he said both have the potential to move up quickly.
"I've got about three I think," Showalter said. "I'm hoping all of them. But you put the stat sheets together, you put what people who had them for 140 games tell you, and [see] if your eyes match up with the narrative. I've said it many times: Spring is one of the worst times to evaluate players. It is. It's a big fooler. Wind blowing out, wind blowing in, facing Double-A and Triple-A hitters. Those are things that we have to take into consideration when we're doing this, so track record means a lot in how you feel about them emotionally and mentally.
"It's not about trying to make the club or anything. But I guarantee that there are going to be some people who are here right now that may not be on some people's radar that will be."
Kim reportedly pulls out of WBC
Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim will no longer play in this spring's World Baseball Classic, according to a report from Yonhap News, South Korea's largest news agency.
Kim reportedly took himself off South Korea's WBC roster Wednesday, the report said, telling the team's manager he wasn't playing after a team meeting.
Kim has played for the previous two South Korean entries in the WBC. He played in 2009 and 2013, and was named to the all-tournament team in 2009. But coming off his first big league season, it will be important for Kim to be in Orioles camp for the entire spring. Kim, whose .382 on-base percentage led the Orioles in 2016, will be attempting to earn more playing time this coming season after playing almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers.
The Orioles are set to have four players in the WBC: outfielder Adam Jones (United States), third baseman Manny Machado (Dominican Republic), second baseman Jonathan Schoop (Netherlands) and Givens (United States).
Showalter expressed concerns about pitchers participating in the WBC earlier this week, but it appears Givens is intent on pitching in the event.
Around the horn
Liranzo, left-hander Garrett Cleavinger and left-hander Brian Gonzalez threw bullpen sessions during Wednesday's final day of minicamp. … Among the Orioles' nonroster spring training invitations will be outfielder Chris Dickerson, catcher Chance Sisco, first baseman/outfielder David Washington, catcher Audry Perez, catcher Austin Wynns and right-hander Richard Rodriguez. Cisco, Perez and Wynns will give the Orioles six catchers in camp with starter Welington Castillo as well as Caleb Joseph and Francisco Pena. … Add prospect Trey Mancini to the group of players spending part of the offseason in California working out with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson, a group that also includes outfielder Joey Rickard, right-hander Cody Sedlock, left-hander Keegan Akin and Sisco.