SARASOTA, Fla. — As the Baltimore Orioles open their Grapefruit League schedule Saturday with a home game against the Minnesota Twins at Ed Smith Stadium, hitters will take varying approaches at the plate.
Some will take more pitches than usual to get a feel for live pitching.
But others — like Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth — will come out swinging. In four intrasquad plate appearances this week, McLouth reached base three times, including lacing an early-count double off lefty Zach Britton on Wednesday.
“It’s weird, because sometimes in spring training your first step in the box the first couple of times it’s like you’ve never been there before,” McLouth said. “Your timing is off. You can’t pick up the ball real fast. But I stepped in and I felt real good, and it’s important to be to get some swings off early in spring training.”
“For me, if I’m seeing the ball well and feeling good at the plate I’m swinging at it,” McLouth added. “I like to treat them like game at-bats, like in-season at-bats as far as mentality. If there’s a guy on second with nobody out, I’m going to move him in spring training just like I’m going to move them in the season. You have to work on those things, too. I’m happy how I’ve seen the ball so far. I know it’s only four at-bats but just how my rhythm is at the plate so far.”
McLouth, who joined the Orioles in August after signing a minor league deal in June, became one of the team’s most dependable players down the stretch. He’s enjoying his first spring training camp with the club.
“I just kind of jumped in last year in August, but I felt comfortable from the day I walked in,” McLouth said. “It’s good to be back with these guys.”
Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, threw 15 pitches from a half mound Friday as scheduled.
It was Wada’s third bullpen session from a half mound. He’s slated to throw from a full mound for the first time in his rehab on Monday. As in his previous three half-mound sessions, he began Friday by throwing long toss.
“I feel like it’s gradually getting better and better day by day,” Wada said through interpreter Seob Yoon. “Today was more like getting ready for Monday. That’s the whole purpose of today’s half mound, and it went well.”
Wada said earlier this week that he believed progressing to a full mound would be a significant step in his recovery. Wada is expected to be available in May or June.
“It is a big step, but it’s more like a beginning too,” Wada said. “I’m going to have to go through a lot of different steps in order to get back.”
The Orioles announced they will wear a patch on their jerseys throughout this season in honor of Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who died last month at the age of 82.
The orange patch will feature Weaver’s retired No. 4, surrounded by the words “Earl Weaver, Hall of Fame.”
The team will also honor Weaver with a moment of silence and video tribute before Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener.
Weaver’s No. 4 will be stenciled onto the grass outside of the Orioles dugout in foul territory.
Britton is scheduled to start Saturday’s game, and the following pitchers are also expected to work an inning: Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, Steve Johnson, Dylan Bundy, T.J. McFarland, Todd Redmond, Zach Clark and Adam Russell. . . . Seven pitchers are slated to pitch in Sunday’s first road game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin: Jair Jurrjens, Troy Patton, Mike Belfiore, Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Daniel Schlereth and Eduardo Rodriguez. The final two innings will be thrown by pitchers brought in from minor league mincamp. . . . Manager Buck Showalter said second baseman Brian Roberts will start Saturday’s game, get one or two at-bats and then leave to attend a friend’s wedding. He will not play in Sunday’s game and will return for Monday’s home game against the New York Yankees.