Vacation is over, time to get to work
O's hold first Spring Training practice for position players Thursday
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles took the next logical step toward starting their season on Thursday, when they had their first full-squad workout of Spring Training. Nick Markakis, Melvin Mora and several other veteran players showed up for their first day at Fort Lauderdale Stadium and ran through their first full practice.
"Young talent," said Mora of his first impression. "Speed and power. I guess it's the manager's job to put it together."
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley gave a short day to most of the pitchers, who have already been working out for a week. Trembley held a team meeting in the morning, and then the position players ran through physical examinations, fielding practice and batting practice before closing things out with a little light conditioning.
"A lot of meetings, a lot of sitting around," Trembley said of Thursday's morning activities, which began with a speech about what the players could expect this spring. "I'm glad to get them out here and get guys moving."
Trembley also said that the Orioles would begin taking batting practice this weekend, but he made a point to refer to it as "pitching practice." In other words, the pitchers will throw with hitters in the batter's box, but they'll likely do so while standing behind a screen. And many hitters may elect not to even swing the bat.
The Orioles will also work on team fundamental defense on Friday before reverting to normal batting practice. Mora and first baseman Aubrey Huff had impressive rounds of batting practice on Thursday, and Trembley said it was good to have his entire team in camp and even better to see his hitters already in fine form.
"It's nice to have both of those guys in the lineup; it really is," said Trembley. "It's just nice to have the nucleus of the club here. Everybody looks like they're in good shape. Melvin looks very good."
Baltimore made news in the morning, when second baseman Brian Roberts held forth about a potential contract extension that will likely be announced at a Friday news conference. The Roberts signing marks the second time this offseason that the Orioles have extended a key player, the first being Markakis in mid-January.
Those two deals energized the clubhouse, allowing the players to see that the Orioles plan on rewarding their heaviest contributors. Mora, whose contract includes a team option for next season, said that he was happy for both Markakis and Roberts and that he's not particularly concerned about his own expiring pact.
"I don't worry about my situation," Mora said. "I've been here for nine years already, and I think [president of baseball operations] Andy MacPhail knows what I've done here and what I'm going to do for this organization. Whatever they're going to decide and whatever they're going to do, that's fine with me. The only thing I'm going to tell them is, 'Thank you for all the years I've been here.'"
Markakis, meanwhile, was asked if he feels an increased pressure to perform after his contract. The right fielder said he will try to stay within himself, a similar sentiment to when he was asked if he'd assume an active leadership role. Markakis, who prefers to lead by example, said that he still has some growth to do in that area.
"You've got guys like Aubrey, Melvin and Brian who have been around a long time," said Markakis, respecting his elders. "I'm still learning from them. I feed off them. It's a learning experience, and it takes a little bit of time."
Another familiar face in camp belonged to former Oriole Chris Gomez, who will be fighting for a reserve-infielder job this spring. Gomez, who played with the Pirates last season, said that it's good to be back with Baltimore, and that his familiarity with the team and the coaching staff was a major reason he resurfaced with the Orioles.
"I was in Pittsburgh last year, but I guess I'm an American League-type guy," Gomez said. "Nothing against Pittsburgh. The situation I'm in, too -- having to make the team, -- I like the fact that guys around here know me."
Mora, who skipped the inaugural World Baseball Classic, said that he's looking forward to playing for Team Venezuela this time around. He'll be joined by shortstop Cesar Izturis and former Oriole Ramon Hernandez, who was traded to the Reds earlier in the offseason. Current Oriole Oscar Salazar may also make the team as a reserve.
"I'm excited to go over there," Mora said of Team Venezuela, "because I'm going to be playing with my teammates and I'm going to be able to do something I didn't do three years ago. I'm going to try to help Venezuela be a contender and to be together with all my friends that I grew up with. It's going to be exciting for us."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.