SARASOTA, Fla. — Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps took batting practice with the Orioles before Thursday’s intrasquad game at Ed Smith Stadium.
Phelps, born in nearby Towson, Md., was in town filming an episode of the Golf Channel show “The Haney Project,” in which renowned golf guru Hank Haney tutors famous pupils.
Phelps, who owns the Olympic record for gold medals (18) and total medals (22), took five rounds in the batting cage with varying degrees of success and said he was a little out of breath after the final one. Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley gave him some tips, as did first base coach Wayne Kirby, who told Phelps to “use your lower half. This ain’t no breaststroke.”
Phelps did hit his share of line drives into the outfield.
“It’s my first time taking BP, so it was a cool experience, being able to do that with these guys and especially after a remarkable season, and hopefully they have a good one coming up,” Phelps said. “These guys are just normal guys. . . just out here having fun, and I enjoyed being around them.”
The Orioles played on the Ed Smith Stadium main field for the first time this spring on Thursday afternoon, making it the site for their second straight day of intrasquad games.
Much like the back-to-back intrasquad games on Wednesday, Thursday’s game was played within a controlled environment. Pitchers were limited to 15 pitches, but they faced extra hitters if they retired three batters without meeting the pitch count. The game lasted 4½ innings.
One example of the controlled environment: When catcher Matt Wieters launched a solo homer to left field off Troy Patton, Wieters didn’t run around the bases.
In the final half-inning, pitching prospect Kevin Gausman — who is in his first big league camp — made his first appearance outside of bullpens and pitched a perfect four-out inning.
Throwing mainly fastballs, the Orioles’ first-round pick in last June’s draft out of LSU struck out outfielder Lew Ford and catcher Chris Robinson, induced a ground out to second from L.J. Hoes — a former All-Met out of St. John’s (D.C.) — and got Danny Valencia to fly out to center.
“You can see why everybody thinks so highly of Gaus,” Showalter said. “He’s got a good arm, and he’s got a great delivery. He does a lot of things to make himself successful.”. . .
Outfielder Nolan Reimold, who wasn’t initially scheduled to play, entered in the second inning, flying out to left.
Showalter originally didn’t plan on playing Reimold — who is coming back from extensive neck surgery — on either day of intrasquad games so the team could slow his pace during this long spring training.
“He wanted to get out here today,” Showalter said.
— The Baltimore Sun