Notes: Gibbons excited about new 'role'
Veteran likely to get majority of playing time at designated hitter
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Unlike most players in Baltimore's clubhouse, Jay Gibbons came to Spring Training with a defined role but without a determined position. The former Rule 5 Draft pick lost his starting job in right field in 2006, and he is expected to provide a power bat as he slides between left field, first base and designated hitter.
Gibbons knows he'll be in the lineup on a regular basis against right-handers, but he doesn't know where he'll be for any given game. And that's strange for the veteran who's never been considered a defensive standout.
"I just put 'utility' on my physical under 'position.' It's weird," Gibbons said Sunday, his first day at Baltimore's Spring Training complex. "We'll see what happens. We have a lot of guys who play a lot of the same positions right now. Let's just play some Spring Training games and see how things work out.
"I could be a guy who shifts around everywhere. I could get used to that, I guess."
Gibbons is coming off an injury-marred 2006 season that included a sprained right knee, a strained left groin and muscle spasms in his right trapezius. He missed two months of playing time and was unable to play the field after May. And that's where his positional dilemma began, thanks to rookie Nick Markakis taking over in right field.
Gibbons has played left field and first base sparingly in his big-league career, and he will likely get the majority of his playing time at DH. That assignment is designed to keep him healthy, but Gibbons isn't sure that's the right reason. He ran without a knee brace for the entire offseason and said he won't need one when the games start.
"I'm healthy right now and that's all I can look at," he said. "I can't take back what happened last year. I ran into a wall. I was trying to make a play and it didn't work out. All I know is I'm in good shape now. I'm not going to worry about getting hurt. You can't worry about getting hurt. ... I'm clumsy as can be. I could trip walking out of here.
"It's going to make no difference. If I'm going to get hurt, I'm going to get hurt."
Still, Gibbons has missed 60 games or more in three of his six seasons, so Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo is pressed with finding a way to keep his bat in the lineup any way he can.
"I want to just take a look at Jay the first week or so and see how healthy he is before we start pushing him," he said. "I just want to make sure he looks as good as the reports say they are and then we'll open him up. ... We'll see how he does, but I think if we get him in the batting box as much as we want, it always has a way of easing somebody's pain."
Gibbons spent a lot of time working out at first base this offseason, but he said a million ground balls can't make up for game experience at the position. Baltimore re-signed Kevin Millar and also acquired Aubrey Huff to play at first, though, so Gibbons will have to prove he can handle the position better than those two.
"I'm actually kind of excited to see how things play out," he said. "I'm just looking forward to being in the lineup. We'll see where it's going to be. I haven't really had a conversation about it yet. I just hope it's in the field somewhere. We'll see."
Filling space: Perlozzo said the Orioles only have a few roster spots that remain up for grabs. The manager remarked that two bullpen slots are open, and he said that there's at least one hole at the end of the bench. And once you consider injuries, he said many future roster decisions could be decided by spring impressions.
"I don't discourage any of these kids to show up and do well," he said. "The thing that happens is you end up losing a couple of guys with injuries and it is important for these kids to play well. We see them and if we need help, we'll be familiar with them. We'll know that they did well, and we can pick the right guy to come up and help us."
Perlozzo also said Baltimore's spring practices are running more efficiently, thanks to bullpen coach Dave Trembley.
"He's very conscientious, stays on top of everybody," he said. "But it's just not him. The whole staff is chipping in. I think we all have a different mind-set this year also. We feel like we are better. How much better, we don't know. We have some good veteran guys and we feel like we are a lot better team."
Rainouts: Baltimore's practice was cut short by rain Sunday, marking the first time the weather has interrupted the spring season. The team's pitchers didn't throw on Sunday, but Perlozzo said everyone's on track.
"We couldn't get on the field as early. I think being it's so early in the spring, we calmed things down a little and were just being sure that the guys were all loose," he said. "This is actually not a bad day to miss [throwing]. ... Our pitchers are all going to throw three out of five days. That's probably the way we want it to fall."
Despite the interruption, Perlozzo said the Orioles stayed as busy as they could.
"We got some really good stuff done today that needs to get done -- sign-wise, controlling the running game and getting a head-start on the bunt play stuff," he said. "It's better that you get it now than when you are trying to get work in and get a look at some people."
Quotable: "My wife told me if I don't cut it, I don't have to buy her any purses all year. I told her I'll look like John Lennon for her. It's like a contract extension, not having to buy her a purse all year. I haven't cut it since September." -- Gibbons, on the origins of his new shaggy hairstyle
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.