Orioles eager to get started, forget about playoff loss
SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) The Baltimore Orioles have been eager to get back to work and forget about losing the wild-card game to the Toronto Blue Jays last October.
On Friday, they took another step in that process.
As Baltimore took the field for its first full-squad workout most of the prominent names were present, except for shortstop J.J. Hardy, whose sore lower back has prevented him from working out.
Hardy has had an MRI and CT-scan, but doesn't seem to be worried.
''Not too concerned, just because I've dealt with this pretty much every year. I don't think it's a big deal but spring training has started early this year so I feel like we got enough time to not push it and get it right,'' Hardy said.
Manager Buck Showalter was planning on playing Manny Machado at shortstop in early spring games because Machado wants to be ready to play the position for the Dominican Republic in next month's World Baseball Classic.
Hardy may be ready not long after Machado leaves for the WBC.
''He wouldn't have played before March 5 anyway,'' Showalter said of Hardy. ''Let me get this last test before I start putting dates on it, but there's plenty of time, plenty of time.''
Nearly all of the most prominent players return this season, but besides re-signing outfielder Mark Trumbo to a three-year deal last month, Baltimore made two key moves. The Orioles signed catcher Welington Castillo to replace Matt Wieters, who had caught for Baltimore since 2009 and is currently a free agent and traded for outfielder Seth Smith from Seattle.
Castillo, who hit .264 with 14 home runs and 68 RBIs for Arizona last season, was not offered a contract by the Diamondbacks and signed a $6 million contract with a $7 million player option in 2018 with the Orioles in mid-December.
The 29-year-old catcher will also leave with Machado to play for the Dominican Republic in the WBC.
Castillo said he some doubts about participating in the WBC because of trying to get used to the Orioles.
''Honestly, I was a little bit in between because I know I'm going to a new team, new players, new pitching staff. I'm going to have time to get to know them. At the same time, I want to represent my country. It's a really good experience (when) you go there,'' Castillo said.
Smith, who was traded to Baltimore on Jan. 6 for right-handed pitcher Yovani Gallardo, hit .249 with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs for the Mariners in 2016.
''I've enjoyed watching the Orioles kind of do their thing for a while now and to be a part of it is going to be fun,'' Smith said.
Smith, who hit home runs in four consecutive games against Baltimore last season, is happy to be a part of the team now.
''I didn't check the box score daily, but you watch highlights and you see the fun things that they're able to do,'' Smith said.
NOTE: RHP Chris Tillman, who Showalter has said on Tuesday wouldn't make a fourth consecutive opening day start because of a sore right shoulder, is happy with the progress he's made. ''I want to do this right. No matter how long it takes, I want to get this behind me and not rush back into it,'' Tillman said.