SARASOTA, Fla. -- Have you gotten a housewarming gift for the Orioles, who are happily ensconced in their new spring training home?
Manager Dave Trembley has: Early-spring baserunning drills.
Anybody who watched the Orioles last season knows they too often ran the bases as if they were blindfolded and suffering from vertigo.
But here's the key: The Orioles' early-spring schooling on the bases is not just a reaction to that. The early drills are made possible because of the upgrade to a real, live, major league spring training facility.
In Fort Lauderdale, where the O's trained the past 16 years, even something as simple as baserunning drills wasn't always possible.
"What we've done the last couple of springs, situational hitting, baserunning and bunting, we'd do it at the end of the spring," Trembley says. "This year, we're doing it at the beginning for two reasons: One, they needed to be emphasized, for obvious reasons. And two, with these facilities, we can do those things now.
"We've got four full fields, plus the stadium. We've got a half-field.
"We can run a major-league spring training the way it should be run."
That the Baltimore Orioles, who were a textbook model for fundamentals for so long through the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, were in such a shoddy facility in Fort Lauderdale for 16 years is unimaginable -- an inexcusable.
Among other things, the O's weight room in Lauderdale was a tent in the parking lot.
And while the big-leaguers trained there, their minor-leaguers were a three-hour drive away, in Sarasota.
Now, everyone is together. And making it better, the Orioles now will be able to use Sarasota as their year-round base for things like sending injured players down for rehabilitation.
"Huge upgrade," says president Andy MacPhail, who has been working toward upgrading the Orioles' spring facilities since taking the job in 2007. "In terms of travel, facilities, coming to a community that has had spring training baseball since 1929.
"They've embraced us early. This will be better in any form you can imagine."
Sunblock Day? Not exactly. The sun is shining, but let's just say this: The Twins pushed their workout back an hour this morning, from 9 to 10, because of predicted early-morning temperatures of 39 degrees.
Likes: Boston's City of Palms Park sold out Thursday night despite temperatures in the 40s. Not surprised. ... Akinori Iwamura in a Pirates uniform. Stylish as ever. ... Former catcher Matt Walbeck, one of the game's good guys, managing Double-A Altoona in the Pirates' system this year. ... Nino's Italian restaurant in Fort Myers, Fla., hasn't lost its fastball. Great chicken parmigiana the other night. ... And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the ribs at Lee Roy Selmon's barbecue joint in Tampa the other night. ... The Oscars are Sunday and one thing completely slipped past me until this week: I had no idea that author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) was up for best adapted screenplay for An Education. Hornby is terrific. Haven't yet caught up to his latest book, Juliet, Naked -- it's in the stack of books I've got at home, waiting to be read.
Dislikes: Mets' shortstop Jose Reyes shut down because of concerns over his thyroid levels? And he'll return to New York for tests? Lordy, Lordy, the Mets just don't quit with this health stuff, do they? ... Speaking of which, neither does Nick Johnson. Scratched from the Yankees' lineup Thursday with a stiff lower back, and he says the problem came when he wore spikes instead of turf shoes on the mat in the batting cage. Good luck with this move, Yankees.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
"To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
"And all around me a voice was sounding:
"This land was made for you and me.
"When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
"And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
"As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
"This land was made for you and me.
"As I went walking I saw a sign there
"And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
"But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
"That side was made for you and me."
-- Woody Guthrie, This Land Is Your Land