Friday, March 19, 2010

Orioles Minor League Camp in Sarasota, 3/6-3/8

One of the great benefits of the Orioles moving their Spring Training home to Sarasota is that now their minor league camp is just a few miles away from the Ed Smith complex. It is held at the Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes park just on the east side of I-75.

This encompasses my impressions over two days...

The first day, I arrived waaaay too early. I got there just after 9 AM but on this particular day, the team meeting wasn't even happening until 9:45. At 9:15, this is all you were going to see. Orioles roving catching instructor Minor League Catching Coordinator Don Werner testing out the JUGS machine with C Wally Crancer as they tested out a new training method.

Granted, this is some real "inside baseball" and I really only recorded a bit because Werner said he had never tried it before and I thought something funny might happen but I got a kick out of seeing little drills like this and how things are run on a professional level.

At 9:45, all the players gathered on one field and were given the schedule for the day. After that, calisthenics began.

Then long toss...

Then they broke up into groups for the drills. The pitchers were working on fielding drills and throwing a short bullpen sessions. The catchers were working on glovework and footwork. Here's catching prospect Michael Ohlman facing the JUGS machine:

A side note about the pitching drills: P Ryohei Tanaka came over from Japan last season but unlike Koji Uehara, Tanaka was not a star in Japan and does not travel with his own interpreter. He seems to know some English but does not appear to be fluent. So when the air horn would sound and everyone would move from field to field, Tanaka would sometimes start toward the wrong station as if he didn't fully understand the instruction given at the morning meeting. RP Brandon Cooney would always make sure he got to where he needed to be. "Tanaka! Over here! This way!" was heard more than a couple times. Cooney instantly became one of my favorite Baby Birds. (Cooney is also on Baseball America's list of Top 30 Oriole prospects.)

After about an hour and a half, the pitchers were done and the batting practice started. It was not time for hitters to report yet but there were a few notable prospects there. Xavier Avery...

LJ Hoes, Brandon Waring and Mike Flacco...

We came back on Monday to watch some more batting practice and more hitters had reported by then. A couple of interesting notes from BP...

CF Xavier Avery and 2B L.J. Hoes were 2nd and 3rd round picks in 2008 and are very similar looking players, same size, same build. Avery took BP and looked how you thought he would; light-hitting, shooting flares and sharp grounders to all fields. Hoes was a different story. The ball jumped off his bat and he was showing good gap power. It was only BP but Hoes is only 20. You might want to look for increased power from him this season.

3B Brandon Waring showed the most consistent power during the sessions I watched. But who showed the most raw power? OF/1B Jacob Julius. 23-year-old Julius only posted a .228/.304/.345 line for Delmarva last year but he was launching ball all over the field and over the fence during BP. Lots of fun to watch.

On Monday, I brought the kids since they wanted to get some autographs. As the guys headed for the clubhouse, many obliged. P Vito Frabizio threw them each a ball from the practice field.

Overall, it was a good atmosphere. I was usually one of maybe 5 or 6 people at most and the complex is wide open. You have to watch out for batted balls because drills are happening everywhere. My only regret is that I'm not here later in camp for live BP, scrimmages or games. That's something I'll have to remedy next year.

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