Starting infield gains rapport off field
Instead of taking part in Grapefruit debut, regulars get in side work
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Dave Trembley's placid Spring Training ended on Wednesday, when he had to write out his first lineup card and deal with media inquiries about it. The skipper's lineup didn't include any members of his prospective starting infield, a fact that Trembley had plotted out well in advance.
And as with most plans, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. Trembley arranged for his starting infield to do extra work together on the back field on Wednesday, ensuring that the unit will get plenty of time to grow before shortstop Cesar Izturis and third baseman Melvin Mora leave for the World Baseball Classic.
"I'm getting hammered already on my lineup," joked Trembley after the first question in his pregame media session. "We want to see the new guys play. It's a long Spring Training. For me, it's important that Izturis, [Brian] Roberts, Mora and [Aubrey] Huff get in a lot of fundamental work in the back with [infield instructor Juan Samuel], getting to know each other and working on the little things that are going to be a big part of our game."
Trembley took the opportunity to analyze three potential members of his bench -- second baseman Ryan Freel, shortstop Chris Gomez and third baseman Ty Wigginton -- at their most natural positions. And he said that fans will get to see the starting infield soon enough, perhaps as early as Thursday afternoon.
"We're losing Mora and Izturis on [March 1], so as much practice time as I can get those guys, it's to our benefit," Trembley said. "I think you'll see that when they play in a game, they'll all play at the same time."
Izturis, the lone newcomer to the starting infield, represents a relief of some sort. The Orioles cycled through five shortstops last year, and they've gone through 12 different shortstops who have played more than 100 innings in any respective season since 2001. For Roberts, though, it's not really a concern.
"It's not that big a deal," said Roberts, Baltimore's starting second baseman since 2003. "I've played with a bunch of shortstops over my span of time here, but it's obviously a treat to have someone of Cesar's caliber."
Samuel, who had a productive career as a Major League infielder, said that the defense will work itself out over time. But with the limited time window imposed by the Classic, the pressure's on to work hard now.
"The thing is to get Brian and Cesar turning the double play. They've been working on the back field quite a bit, and it's important they know where they want the ball," Samuel said. "Those guys will be gone for the heart of Spring Training. You know what we went through last year at shortstop, so it's great to get an experienced guy like Cesar."
"We've taken enough ground balls already to figure it out," added Roberts. "It doesn't take long. It will be good to get into some game situations eventually, but for the most part, we should be fine."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.