SARASOTA, FLA. — The Orioles officially introduced new starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the media and the fans during a televised news conference Thursday afternoon, ending days of contract negotiations and medical evaluations that finally resulted in a restructured two-year deal.
Gallardo, a historically durable free-agent pitcher whose health came into question during the Orioles' rigorous physical examination process, seemed relieved just to be back in a baseball camp after waiting all winter to sign with a new team.
"It was a little bit different, to be honest, but I'm just glad we were able to get something done," Gallardo said. "It's part of the process. I think it's part of the situation, becoming a free agent. But everything for me, I'm passed that. I'm looking forward to being on this club and pitching for this team and going out every fifth day or whenever my name is called and doing everything I can to get this team a victory."
The media conference was held soon after surprising news broke that Dexter Fowler, the other free agent the Orioles have been pursuing this week, had turned down the club's $33 million offer and returned to the Chicago Cubs.
Though the Gallardo contract ended up being reduced to a two-year, $22 million deal with a club option for 2018, he was higher on the Orioles' offseason priority list. Baseball operations chief Dan Duquette said from the start of the offseason that improving the starting rotation was his top priority, and he had been in discussions with agent Scott Pucino about Gallardo since November.
"I think Yovani helps us because he's shown us he's a very dependable starter," Duquette said. "He's up to the challenge of going against the best pitchers, and he's done that in the course of his career. I think when you have dependable starting pitchers, and you have the experience that Yovani has, the other pitchers — the younger pitchers — they have a good role model. They can watch him do his job, but I think they can set in comfortably and do their job."
Gallardo signed his contract in time to join the team for Thursday's full-squad workout and seemed comfortable in his new surroundings. He said he struggled with a couple of fielding drills, but enjoyed being around his new teammates.
"It's a great group from what I learned today," Gallardo said. "They did a great job. They made me feel comfortable and welcome here in the clubhouse. I'm excited. I'm excited to be part of this club and looking forward to winning a lot of ballgames with you guys. I was anxious to get started right away and I'm happy to be here."
The news conference, which also featured manager Buck Showalter, was attended by about 10 Orioles players.
MLB announces rules changes: Major League Baseball announced modifications in the rules regarding slides on potential double plays and a new 30-second time limit on visits to the mound by managers and pitching coaches. The time monitored by the break timers between innings also will be reduced by 20 seconds.
Showalter was briefed on the changes Wednesday by MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre. It's still not clear, however, exactly how the limits on mound visits will be supervised by the umpires.
"I don't think it's going to be some alarm going off and a buzzer … and how are your penalized," Showalter said. "Let me read the memo, because there was some gray area there yesterday and I thought we'd have this before spring started, but we don't."
Outfield competition resets: The Orioles might still sign or deal for another outfielder, but the end of the Fowler quest puts them right back where they were when they arrived in camp, with several candidates vying for playing time in both right and left field.
Nolan Reimold, 32, is used to coming to spring training to fight for a spot, but might be better positioned this year because he finished well last season and has put some major health issues behind him. He obviously knows that the clock is ticking and this is an important juncture in his career.
"I'm feeling good this year," Reimold said. "As time goes on, the better I feel, but the older I get as well. But I think it'll be a good spring and a good year for us."
Reimold will be in the mix with newcomer Mark Trumbo and the younger outfield candidates to play in right field. He also could end up in left if South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim cannot hold his projected place in the starting lineup. But the outfield dynamic could change if the Orioles acquire another corner outfielder.
"There's always competition," Reimold said. "The team's going to get as much talent as it can. That's good for the team and everybody is out there to work hard and see what they can do for the team. We'll see how it plays out in the spring and throughout the year."
Around the horn: Showalter was noncommittal about Gallardo's chances of pitching in either intrasquad game, but that seems doubtful. He probably won't throw off a mound until Saturday. … The Orioles were honored by the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce at the group's annual Spring Training Welcome Reception on Thursday evening.