With barely a look back, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones strolled toward the clubhouse with his bat bag slung over his shoulder and with knowledge that his last swing at Ed Smith Stadium for several weeks would have been a home run if not for the wind.

Shortstop Manny Machado, who ended the fifth inning of Sunday's Grapefruit League game with a half-swing grounder to the pitcher, had to jog to catch up and make it off the field before play resumed. But those routine departures represented the moment that this edition of spring training for the Orioles swung into a completely different direction.


Gone in the next day or so are the remaining five players lost to the World Baseball Classic — Jones, Machado, catcher Welington Castillo, reliever Mychal Givens, and left-hander Vidal Nuno. Jonathan Schoop has been gone for more than a week.

The stars that remain in Sarasota are mostly being eased into game action without urgency. What will remain for the next few weeks is a host of players, many of whom didn't have jobs when February began, who will be fighting for a job in Baltimore, Norfolk, or anywhere else that will have them.

These Orioles won't look anything like the team that will return to Baltimore next month, but manager Buck Showalter thinks they'll be a better team in the regular season for the hassle these next few weeks present.

"Manny is going to be on the club," Showalter said. "Castillo's going to be on the club. Jon, they're going to make our club. I look at it as a chance to make better decisions about the Rule 5 guys, the guys that are competing for positions. I feel really good about what we told these guys would happen. I'm not sure if they believe me then, but they believe me now."

For most of the remaining 23 games they'll play in Florida, the focus will be on answering the few questions that remain for a team that came back essentially whole from last year's Wild Card appearance.

With shortstop J.J. Hardy also dealing with back spasms, the primary infielders will be utility man Ryan Flaherty and a trio of veterans who all signed after Feb. 1 — Johnny Giavotella, Robert Andino, and Paul Janish.

All three came to the Orioles as opportunities elsewhere faded, but manager Buck Showalter said this exact situation is the one the Orioles pitched while negotiating to bring them in.

"It was [a selling point]," Showalter said. "'We're not going to be at 70 [players in camp], and we're going to have these guys leave, and you're going to play.'"

So far, those promises have been fulfilled. Johnson doubled and scored to give him eight hits in a team-leading 20 at-bats. Giavotella is working on the back fields at third base to become more versatile and add value outside of the steady bat he's shown so far. And Janish's glove is a known and beloved quantity to the Orioles' coaching staff.

While the infielders have more opportunities to prove themselves during the spring, the case is less extreme in the outfield, which only loses Jones to the WBC.

Mark Trumbo and Seth Smith seem entrenched in starting roles, considering they only seem to play in Sarasota at home games, but there's plenty to be decided about the roles of Hyun Soo Kim, Joey Rickard and Rule 5 picks Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez, and whether the likes of Craig Gentry, Logan Schafer, and Chris Dickerson have futures with the club.

At catcher, Castillo's departure to join the Dominican Republic provides more at-bats for Caleb Joseph to hone the swing he says will lead to a better 2017. Castillo's absence also gives the coaching staff more game looks at top prospect Chance Sisco, among others.

But that's all still to come. Sunday still included many of the WBC-bound players wearing an Orioles cap for the last time in a while.

Machado, on his way to join the Dominican Republic team, said he'd follow closely to see when Hardy returns and remain in contact with Showalter and coaches Wayne Kirby and Bobby Dickerson while he attempts to help that nation repeat in the WBC.


"My main priority is always going to be the Orioles and it's going to be this team," Machado said. "Just for a couple weeks, I'm going to have some other priorities as well. We're going to be enjoying ourselves out there but also paying attention to what's going on back here."

Despite the inconvenience of all the departures, there were good feelings around many of them. Showalter said he met with many of the club's pitchers this weekend and got a lot of positive feedback on Castillo, the team's new starting catcher. The manager also praised how Jones came into camp in shape and is ready to make club and country proud.

Givens likely has one more appearance left on Monday in Lakeland, Fla., against the Detroit Tigers; Nuno's final appearance before leaving was Saturday. Each was sent off with a clear message.

"Come back healthy," Showalter said. "And I'd like to wish you good luck, but I'd like to see you as soon as possible."


Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this story.