Multiple news outlets are reporting that the Orioles are close to trading Ryan Freel to the Cubs for Joey Gathright, and Baltimore didn’t do anything to dispel the rumors Friday afternoon. Manager Dave Trembley was asked about Freel’s status during his pre-game media briefing and deferred comment to Andy MacPhail, the team’s president of baseball operations.
“I believe there will be some kind of statement coming about Ryan Freel,” he said. “I’ll let Andy MacPhail take care of it.”
Freel, who was acquired from Cincinnati in the offseason as part of a deal for Ramon Hernandez, has struggled to find playing time in his first month with the Orioles. The veteran reserve was hit in the head by an errant pickoff throw two weeks ago in Boston and has been on the disabled list ever since. If he’s dealt, he may open up a roster spot for the Orioles.
And in that case, reserve outfielder Lou Montanez would be a strong candidate to stick with the team long-term. Gathright would likely fill in at Triple-A Norfolk and prospect Nolan Reimold, who is off to a hot start, would likely be the next callup among outfielders.
Utilityman Ryan Freel has had several obstacles heaped in his path to recovery from a head injury, but he may finally see a promotion back to the parent club by the end of the week.
The Orioles plan for Freel to play in both ends of a double-header Wednesday night and to play another game on Thursday before he returns. But after that, the Orioles will likely summon him back to play left field versus left-handed pitchers.
“I think he just wants to play,” said manager Dave Trembley. “It’s been one thing after another with the rain [and] he got held back because he didn’t get medical clearance. He’s missed so much time and missed so many at-bats he’s playing catchup. I hope it works out for him.”
Ryan Freel met with the team’s management on Tuesday for the second time in a month regarding his flagging playing time and his expectations for the rest of the season. Freel, who is currently on the disabled list, has said he is unhappy with his present utility role.
“I still believe in change. I don’t think I fit here,” he said before Tuesday’s game. “I don’t think I fit in probably what they wanted me to be here in this organization. I can’t control whatever they do at this point. I know it’s really putting a damper on my career, really hurting my career as far as getting a job next year. I’m pretty much just rolling with the punches.”
Andy MacPhail, Baltimore’s president of baseball operations, acknowledged Freel’s concerns but held out hope that the team will be able to bridge the gap over the next few weeks.
“He’s got a right to feel that way too, because since we acquired him we’ve acquired Felix Pie and Ty Wiggington,” said MacPhail of Freel’s uncompromising stance. “So some of the at-bats that we saw right in the beginning have probably dried up for him. It never bothers me in the slightest when a guy wants to play. I think it’s a good thing.”
Center fielder Adam Jones has been all over the field in recent days, flashing his speed on the basepaths and in center field. The youngster made a strong diving catch on Wednesday, just two days after erasing a runner at the plate with a cannon throw.
Jones also stole a base, drew a walk and doubled off All-Star closer Joe Nathan on Wednesday, prompting a strong evaluation from manager Dave Trembley.
“I thought today Jones played probably one of the better games he’s going to play,” said Trembley. “He’s doing a lot of the things we asked him to do. You can see the difference from last year to this year. He’s a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident.”
Trembley said that confidence even extends to positioning his fellow outfielders, helping them stand in the best possible position to make them play. Last year, Jones, a converted shortstop, never would’ve had the confidence to move people around.
“I know they’re both good outfielders, but I’ve never played with them,” said Jones, a second-year starter. “So I want them to get comfortable with me also. There’s certain hitters that they don’t know, especially with [Felix] Pie and [Ryan] Freel because they were National League players. They don’t know most of the hitters, so as much as I can, I’ll help them.
Ryan Freel had a rough day at second base Monday, one day after making a throwing error at shortstop. Freel wasn’t able to make two tough diving plays within a tight sequence, contributing to a Mets’ scoring rally and putting his struggles at shortstop in sharper focus.
The Orioles are counting on moving Freel around this season, and shortstop is a position he hasn’t played since he was coming up in the lower Minors. Although he’s a natural second baseman, Freel has spent more time at third base and the outfield in recent seasons.
When asked if the veteran’s struggles were due to the amount of time he’s spent switching between positions, manager Dave Trembley took the high road.
“I’m not sure,” said Trembley of Freel’s tough run in the infield. “I was glad to see him offensively swing the bat like he did. I’ve told him ahead of time when he’s going to play certain positions. He’s just going to have to get used to it, because that’s his role here.”
The Orioles have received kudos for increasing their depth at the big-league level in recent weeks, but one thing that has gone virtually unnoticed is the maturation of some of their younger infielders. Blake Davis and Justin Turner have both earned accolades for their improvement this spring and will stand as potential reinforcements if anyone gets injured.
“Every player that’s in camp here should have the mindset that they’re here to compete for one of the 25 jobs,” said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. “You have to send a message and you have to have people notice you. And they’re either going to notice you in a positive or a negative way. I would dare say, you guys that follow the club, the inventory is better.”
Baltimore signed Ty Wigginton and Ryan Freel to flesh out its bench, relegating Scott Moore to the challenge of trying to distinguish himself. And Moore has hit well, finding himself in a grouping with Turner, Davis and several other youngsters trying to separate themselves.
“There are some players here in camp,” Trembley said. “I’m not talking about stars. I’m not talking about impact type players, but there are better overall baseball players in camp. I don’t want to put the whammy on them, but look at the way the infielders have played.
“If Blake Davis didn’t have No. 82 on his back, you’d think he’s a big-leaguer. Honest to God. …And for me, he is a Major League player. I think these guys deserve a lot of credit.”
If you had any reservations about the Grapefruit League season starting today, they’ve been effectively overruled. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley has been holding court with several of his players for the last few hours, introducing himself to some in person and chiding others about their non-compliance with the team’s facial hair policy.
In some ways, it seems like Spring Training has been here forever. Koji Uehara is already being shadowed by a sizable Japanese press corps as he goes about his daily routine. Matt Wieters has already been interviewed by the local press corps. And Gregg Zaun and Mark Hendrickson have been making the rounds, introducing themselves to their new teammates.
Several of the team’s pitchers are already in camp, even though they’re not required to be at the facility until tomorrow. And two position players — Ryan Freel and Donnie Murphy — are in camp well ahead of their mandatory reporting date. Freel, in fact, came up with the spring’s first deadpan quip when asked if he always shows up to camp a week early.
“No,” he said. “I usually show up a month early.”