Pie checks into camp
Six days late, left fielder faces battle to win starting job
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Felix Pie arrived at Spring Training on Tuesday, six days late and perhaps a few at-bats short of a starting job. The Orioles acquired the left fielder with the hope that he'd carve out a starting job, but visa troubles may have docked him back into a battle for playing time.
Pie, a native of the Dominican Republic, wasn't able to get out of his homeland in time to report with the rest of the position players. The situation was rectified when the Orioles sent an executive down to the Dominican to work with the American consulate, and Pie arrived in Fort Lauderdale early on Tuesday.
"I was traded, so I wanted to be here early," Pie said. "But like I've said, I don't know what happened. It's frustrating that it happened to me. But now I'm here. I've forgotten the past. I'm ready to play."
Manager Dave Trembley, who had previously said that Pie would be his starter, was saying something else entirely on Tuesday. Trembley acknowledged that the Orioles are still going to give Pie every chance to earn at-bats, but he didn't give him an unqualified path to the starting gig in left field.
"I'd like to see him first," said Trembley. "Obviously, he was acquired because he has an upside. But he's going to get an opportunity, just like a lot of other guys are going to get an opportunity. I'm not ready to say he's going to play 162 games. Our situation is such that I've got [Ryan] Freel to play against left-handed pitchers."
Pie has shown a huge split in his Minor League performance and his brief exposure to Major League action, batting .299 in his path through Chicago's organization and .223 in the big leagues. The Orioles are hoping expanded opportunities to play will yield rapid improvement, and Pie is thankful for the change of scenery.
"I'm going to be ready every day when I go to the field -- ready to win and play hard every day," Pie said. "I'm going to get an opportunity to play now every day with the Orioles. They are going to give me an opportunity to play. I'm ready for that. I'm going to play hard and show everybody I can do it."
The Orioles traded southpaw Garrett Olson to the Cubs to acquire Pie, who is out of options and will have to be exposed to waivers if he doesn't make the parent club out of Spring Training.
In the short run, Pie's main competition for at-bats will likely come from three players -- Freel, designated hitter Luke Scott and reserve slugger Ty Wigginton. Scott, in fact, was the incumbent in left field, but Baltimore acquired Pie in order to make Scott the designated hitter and improve its defense across the board.
"We got him to see if he can handle it or not," said Trembley. "And that factor is going to be determined by what our hitting guy tells us and watching him play. Competition is a very helpful thing, and we will have some now."
Pie helped make the best of a bad situation by working out hard at the Orioles' Dominican complex in Boca Chica, and his baseball skills were kept sharp by playing winter ball for Licey in his homeland. Now, though, the club has to let him get into camp, meet his new teammates and get acclimated as quickly as possible.
"He's going to throw, run and hit," Trembley said. "Then we'll get him in the regular program tomorrow. I would expect we'll see where he's at and try to get him in a game as soon as we can."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.