Just as the Baltimore Orioles were getting set to take on Minnesota at Ed Smith Stadium yesterday afternoon, word began to spread that free agent pitcher Johan Santana had been spotted at the Birds’ spring training facility. Later on, we heard that the O’s were on the verge of signing the southpaw to a minor league deal. Santana, who will be 35 prior to the start of the season, did not pitch last year due to shoulder problems. Medicals are obviously something of note for the Orioles this year, however in this case it would be a minor league deal which would come with very little risk for the organization.
Santana was signed by Houston as an amateur free agent in 1995, and was chosen by Minnesota in as a rule 5 draftee. He was later traded to the Mets, where in June of 2012 he threw the first no-hitter in NY Mets’ history. Santana was later shut down and missed all of last year with the aforementioned shoulder problems. It’s been reported that his fastball was barely topping out of the 70’s by various outlets, although the Orioles appear to have a deal in principle with the southpaw. Again, this would be a minor league deal, and one would presume that it would come with an invite to spring training (which of course has already begun). The O’s are viewing Santana as a lefty reliever.
The Orioles fell to Minnesota 9-2 yesterday afternoon at Ed Smith Stadium, however there was good news regarding the regular players. Bud Norris pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit, one walk, and striking out two. Chris Davis also hit his first homer of the spring, off of the centerfield scoreboard in Sarasota. Tommy Hunter also pitched a scoreless inning in the game, but Minnesota exploded for seven runs in the ninth, five of which came off of Tim Alderson. That’s how these games go sometimes in the spring; most teams know each other’s starters fairly well, however when you get into the later innings and you start playing farm hands against each other, all bets are off.
Major League Baseball also saw it’s first instant replay review yesterday. Yesterday was a split squad day for Minnesota, with most of their regular players staying at their facility in Ft. Myers to play Toronto. Minnesota right fielder Chris Rahl hit a soft infield grounder, and was ruled safe by umpire Fieldin Culbreth. Toronto Manager John Gibbons spoke briefly with Culbreth, who then proceeded to Minnesota’s dugout where he put on the headset to communicate with umpire Brian O’Nora (who was sitting in a truck outside handling the replay duties at the time). Both Gibbons and Culbreth seemed to have a chuckle as they spoke to each other, undoubtedly understanding the historical aspect of the moment for what it was.
The call was ultimately upheld, however speaking for myself I would submit that they got the call wrong both times! My personal opinion was that the ball and the first baseman’s toe beat Rahl to the bag. However I suspect that the umpires probably – to use the NFL’s terminology – didn’t feel that there was enough evidence to overturn the call on the field. The entire process took (approximately) two minutes and thirty-four seconds. For those who argue that replay will slow the game down, I would submit that most of your manager arguments take about the same amount of time.
Update: The O’s have officially signed Santana to a minor league deal worth $3 million plus incentives. The deal comes with an invite to big league spring training.