3/1/2014 6:03 P.M. ET
Trying to land role on Orioles, Clevenger studying up
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Before catcher Steve Clevenger left last season, he loaded his iPad up with hours of video of the Orioles' pitchers, a homework assignment he took with him this winter.
"It's huge," Clevenger, acquired in a July trade with the Cubs, said of the comfort factor he has this spring. "It's a big key, these guys have to respect your thoughts and your aspects on the game behind the plate and when you come back, you have some ammunition from video and going over hours of it."
Clevenger and Johnny Monell are the two candidates for the backup catcher job behind starter Matt Wieters, who manager Buck Showalter would like to rest a little more this season.
"I think him and Johnny both understand how this is going to be decided," Showalter said Saturday morning. "So far, so good. John [Russell] gave them a really stern reminder very early in camp about how this is going to go. What you hit is nice, but we don't want to lose anything defensively."
Showalter said neither guy will play any infield this spring, despite their respective background in the field. The Orioles want the emphasis to strictly be on what Clevenger and Monell bring behind the plate, a facet of the game Clevenger is working hard to improve.
"In the Minor Leagues, I've thrown really well, ever since I've been in the big leagues I haven't really thrown out that many guys," he said. "The footwork part of it has been sloppy the past couple years. It's hard when you don't play every day, but it's something you got to stay on top of. It's important as a backup catcher to stay on top of it, it's your job to be defensively sound."
Cruz walks twice, scores in Orioles debut
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Nelson Cruz grounded out, walked twice and scored a run in his Orioles debut, a 9-7 Baltimore win over Toronto, on Saturday afternoon.
After drawing a two-out walk in the third inning, Cruz raced home and scored on Chris Davis' two-run double into left-center field. Did Cruz think he could score on the play, with the ball rolling to the fence?
"Yeah," Cruz said, smiling. "I think of that right away."
Cruz said his legs felt good and he'd like to see more pitches the next time out. He had just one at-bat prior to Saturday's game, grounding out in Thursday's intrasquad contest.
"As soon as I came into the stadium, I missed that," Cruz said of the game feeling. "Good at-bats, I guess. With more at-bats, I'll feel better.
"It doesn't feel like butterflies or anything. Buck [Showalter] asked me if I was nervous. I feel normal, I guess, as soon as I come out to the field. It's something I haven't done for a while. It comes natural."
Orioles honor Barlow's memory on wristbands
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Numerous prominent Orioles and coaches had a new addition to their uniforms for Saturday's home opener: gray wristbands with the initials "MB" scrawled in black marker, a touching tribute in honor of the passing of public relation director Monica Barlow.
"I put it on my hat, it's more visual that way," said center fielder Adam Jones of the tribute, which the club originally tried to do with their ball caps until they hit a snag from the league. "I think no matter what we did, she's in everybody's hearts right now, everybody's minds. We lost a good member of our family and it's not easy just to cope with it and let it go. We are going to remember her in great fashion."
Barlow, 36, passed away Friday morning and the news rocked the organization as the longtime Orioles employee had a courageous four-year fight against Stage IV lung cancer. A non-smoker, Barlow was an advocate for lung cancer research, but shied away from the spotlight, never letting her diagnosis prevent her from working long hours at Camden Yards.
"She probably would have thought it was a terrible idea, but that's what I love about her," first baseman Chris Davis said of the public display. "She made our jobs easier and you just can't say enough good things about her."
"She would have been so [angry]," manager Buck Showalter added. "We were talking about it in the dugout. You could feel it in the dugout, everybody was thinking about her today."
In addition to Davis and Jones, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters, Ryan Flaherty, Manny Machado, Showalter, hitting coach Jim Presley, first-base coach Wayne Kirby and bench coach John Russell all sported the wrist bands for the televised game.
There is also talk of the team trying to put something permanent on their uniforms during the season.
"That's up to Mr. [Peter] Angelos and then you have to get it through Major League Baseball," Jones said. "But she was such an instrumental part of our family here in the Orioles. I wouldn't be opposed with it, to be honest with you, for everything -- not just what she's done with the team -- but for the individuals. She's helped out a lot of individuals with their personal life also. So to pay tribute, to pay homage any way we do it would be awesome."
Added Davis: "I would like to. I think it's a good idea to honor her. A lot of people don't understand what goes on behind the clubhouse doors, but those are the people who are really important to us. Anything we can do to honor her, whether it's wearing her initials on a wristband or putting them on our hat, whatever we could do, we'd sure like to do that."
Barlow had been with the Orioles since serving as an intern in 1999, leaving for a year to work with the Braves' Triple-A affiliate before coming back to Baltimore and working her way up the ranks.
"What she's done for us is help us just worry about the on-field stuff. ... PR and community relations, they get tons of requests for players and coaches to do certain things and certain activities and Monica has learned each player's personality and what they were willing to do and not willing to do," Jones said. "She always told me, 'Let me be the bad guy. I don't want you to be the bad guy. Let me be the bad guy.' She just helped me a lot with making the right decisions and doing things that not just helped me, but helped the team instead of just doing things just for the sake of doing them. There's always a purpose behind things and she helped me out a lot with that."
The Orioles intend to honor her beyond the 2014 season and are working to go through the proper channels.
"There's about four or five things that [VP of communications and marketing] Greg [Bader] and the organization are looking into right now [that] you will see in some form or fashion for sure," Showalter said. "And quite frankly, not just this year. There's some thought about honoring her in some places that Monica was at a lot."
Urrutia to rest two days with sore shoulder
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Henry Urrutia will be shut down for the next two days with a sore right shoulder, according to manager Buck Showalter.
Urrutia was available only to hit in Saturday's game, and Showalter announced following the Orioles' 9-7 win that the plan is to have Urrutia take some anti-inflammatories and shut him down in hopes of clearing all the inflammation out.
In his first Major League Spring Training, the 26-year-old Urrutia is competing for an Opening Day roster spot.
The outfielder will be replaced on Sunday's travel roster to Boston with farmhand Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Carl, who should attract a sizable crowd against the Red Sox.
'Two minutes with...' series shifts to McFarland
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The "Two Minutes with" series continues with Orioles lefty T.J. McFarland, who was the club's Rule 5 Draft pick from the Cleveland Indians last offseason. The 24-year-old McFarland was in the O's bullpen last year, going 4-1 with a 4.22 ERA in 38 games, including one start. He is competing for a bullpen spot this spring.
Favorite food: I'm a burger guy. I enjoy any type of burger, turkey burger, buffalo burger. Anything goes really. Abbey Burger is legit, I went there numerous times when I was in Baltimore.
Favorite movie: The Shawshank Redemption is my more serious pick. Dumb and Dumber might top it a little bit because I'm more into the comedy part of it.
Hidden talent: I do a lot of impressions, like voices and stuff. I do a pretty decent Harry Caray and Russian accent. I can impersonate anyone really.
If I wasn't a baseball player I'd be…: I'm on my way to getting a business degree. I'm a year away from graduating [online at the University of Phoenix], but I don't know what I would do if I didn't play baseball. I'd probably have some really boring office job.
Favorite offseason place: Chicago is my home, so I like going back there. I always try to go to some kind of vacation where there's a beach. Two years ago I went to the Puntacana resort over in the Dominican. This year I didn't really take a vacation, I went to Venezuela [to play winter ball] where there's a beach. I love the ocean, I love the water.
Prized possession: It would have to be my iPad. I was so against getting it, until last year. Everybody was making fun of me because I didn't have one. So I finally got one and now I love it. I've got a lot of pictures and memories on there.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.