Orioles open spring schedule Tuesday without some regulars
SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) The Baltimore Orioles are five weeks away from playing their first regular season game - and that's probably a good thing for them.
They have 34 Grapefruit League games beginning on Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida, and many of the Orioles regulars - Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Steve Pearce and Matt Wieters - won't be making the trip.
Manager Buck Showalter has said Davis, who has one game left on his 25-game suspension for amphetamine use, Machado and Wieters, are likely to play more road games this spring. Machado and Wieters are each returning after surgery last season.
Ubaldo Jimenez, who was a disappointment after signing a four-year, $50 million contract in 2014, will start Tuesday against Detroit.
Showalter hasn't named his opening day starter, but it's likely to be Chris Tillman, who started last year's first game.
The manager said his club has been crisp since reporting to camp.
''A lot of our guys, Adam, J.J., they know where the finish line is,'' Showalter said. ''We know where we want to be at the apex of this curve.''
Through the first 11 days of camp, there have been no major injuries and a lot of happy faces.
On Sunday, Showalter organized an intrasquad game, and it ended in a six-inning scoreless tie. Even though there was only one extra-base hit, the pitching and defense were sharp.
''That's as good a defensive effort you'll ever see in the first organized game,'' Showalter said.
In 2014, Baltimore won the American League East for the first time since 1997, winning by 12 games.
This year, several preseason prognosticators have opined that the Orioles won't be able to defend their title. A few have predicted that they'll lose more than they'll win.
''I don't care where they picked us, first, second or last,'' Showalter said.
On Sunday, Wieters, who had Tommy John surgery last June, caught two innings of the controlled game. Base stealing was not allowed. Wieters had his first three at-bats of the spring and said he felt strong. He hopes to begin catching on March 17.
''It felt good to be behind the plate and get some AB's. It's fun. It's what I enjoy doing,'' Wieters said. ''It was nice to get out there and be as normal behind the plate without being able to throw the ball to second base.''
Wieters is scheduled to be Baltimore's designated hitter on Wednesday when the Orioles play their home spring opener. Davis and Machado are also expected to play.
Showalter doesn't care about the results of this spring's games, but come Apr. 6, he'll care intensely. For now, he can scoff at the predictions.
''What do they know that I don't know?'' Showalter said with a smile. ''Actually, I kind of like it. It fits us. I appreciate them helping us.''