SARASOTA, Fla. -- Outtakes from hanging with the team that once went to World Series' with Earl Weaver, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer. ...
-- Strong, and interesting, words this spring from veteran second baseman Brian Roberts in assessing newcomers Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, Vladimir Guerrero and, of course, manager Buck Showalter: "This is the most excitement, I think, that I've seen in my 10 years here. There's been some good excitement in the past, like when we got Sammy Sosa, but as far as realistic excitement, this is the most I've seen."
-- It's easy to get impatient with catcher Matt Wieters, 24, partly because it seems like he's been around longer than he has. We've been hearing about him for so long, a good year or more before he landed in the majors in 2009, that last year's .249 batting average, 11 homers and 55 RBI in 130 games sure seems ho-hum. Especially given that those numbers are down from his 86-game debut in '09: .288, nine homers, 43 RBIs.
"I don't give a lot of to Matt," Showalter says. "He's going to be as good as he's capable of being. Challenges off the field, physical toughness, mental toughness ... he brings all of those things. Like I was telling him last year, 'Matt, you make between 100 and 200 decisions a night with your fingers. You get four at-bats. You do the ratio of how much you impact this club.'"
As the Orioles' culture shifts into a new year, Showalter also is looking for his catcher to be more of a leader this year.
"I told him at end of year last year, the gloves are coming off," Showalter says. "You can't fool me. I know it's there. As long as you're not asking anybody else to something you're not willing to do yourself, then you're covered. If all of a sudden you go half-assed down the line, don't be saying anything to me about it. I want him to start taking more of a role in what's best for the Orioles."
-- For his part, Wieters should be more comfortable with Lee, Reynolds, Hardy and Guerrero around because it helps shoulder the load.
"It's big from an information standpoint," Wieters says. "It's big in that they've been on winning ballclubs. They let you know, this is no longer a rebuilding phase. It's time to win and win now. This is definitely a different camp this year."
-- And Wieters on Showalter: "He's probably the most prepared manager I've ever been around. You're going to come to the park and have a chance to succeed. That's the biggest thing. Every piece of information is there."
Sunblock Day? So far, there have been no days where you didn't need to slather on the sunblock this spring. Just gorgeous.
Likes: David Letterman's top 10 the other night, things you don't want to hear during spring training. Loved No. 9: "Instead of Tommy John surgery, I had Elton John surgery." For the whole list, check out our Eye on Baseball blog. ... A.J. Pierzynski getting pulled over and ticketed for speeding while wearing his White Sox uniform en route to a Cactus League game against Cincinnati. Classic story. And Pierzynski reports that the Arizona police still have not returned his insurance card. ... Boston's on A1A in Delray Beach, Fla. Great food, great atmosphere. ... Weather warm enough to wear shorts, and drive barefoot. ... Mavis Staples' disc You Are Not Alone, produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. Great, great stuff from a true -- and underrated -- soul legend.
Dislikes: Staying at the hotel in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., next to the Wackenhut corporate headquarters. The hotel is good. But seeing the Wackenhut building just gives me the shivers from a long ago time in my life. Scrounging for work the summer before going off to college, I got a job as a security man -- employed by Wackenhut -- at the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Power Plan outside of Monroe, Mich. Now, here I was, an 18-year-old kid, working the graveyard shift (something like midnight-8 a.m.) making rounds to protect a nuclear power plant. There was a another security outfit, from what I remember, whose employees actually carried guns. Me, no. I just made rounds and reported anything suspicious. Fortunately, I found another job and only lasted, as I recall, about a month in that gig. It helped build character, no doubt. But I sure hope security has improved since those days.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"The pretty little raven at the birdbath stand
"Taught him how to do the bop and it was grand
"Start goin' steady and bless my soul
"He out-bopped the buzzard and the Oriole"
-- Bobby Day, Rockin' Robin