Notes: Barnstorming tour begins

Notes: Barnstorming tour begins

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles staged their grand getaway day on Thursday, when they boarded a flight north to leave their Spring Training camp. Baltimore will play three more exhibition games, but all of them will require flights to different cities. The O's played the Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday afternoon to kick off the tour.

After that, they'll play at the home of their new Triple-A affiliate, Norfolk, Va., on Friday. Finally, the Orioles and Nationals will wind up the three-city trip with a final exhibition game on Saturday in Washington's RFK Stadium. Baltimore will go to Camden Yards on Sunday for a workout and for FanFest, and then Opening Day is Monday in Minneapolis.

It's a busy itinerary, but according to manager Sam Perlozzo, it's also a necessary one.

"We've always gone someplace to play an exhibition game. We're not going to worry," he said Wednesday. "The schedule's the schedule. We knew it from Day 1, and we're going to play it out. We're looking forward to Opening Day, and this is part of our journey to get there. We're not going to make any excuses or whine about it.

"We're going to go play them, get our work in and prepare ourselves for the opener."

The Orioles still have a few roster decisions to make in the next few days, but Perlozzo refused to tip his hand on Wednesday. The team did option Adam Stern to Norfolk, which indicated that Freddie Bynum may have a leg up on the final roster spot for position players. There's also a logjam in the bullpen that needs to be resolved.

Relievers Todd Williams, Jeremy Guthrie and John Parrish are fighting for two pitching slots, and Baltimore may elect to carry all three on an eight-man relief staff. That decision could come as late as Sunday, when teams are required to submit their Opening Day rosters to the league office. For now, Perlozzo just wants to play the games.

"We've got three more games. We need to tune it up a little bit, and I think that will happen," he said of the team's goal for the weekend. "The guys have been kind of anxious to get out of here. After you're in Florida for so long, you just want to get closer to home. Those games will help pick us up a little bit."

One player, first baseman Aubrey Huff, wasn't sure how the trip could prepare the team for the season. He said that it wouldn't really help to get into and out of three cities in three days, and he said it could even be a nuisance.

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"It's probably going to [stink], but what can you do? A plane flight a day for three days," he said. "There's no rhyme or reason for players. If you can find one guy in here that thinks otherwise, let me know."

Final marks: The Orioles finished their Grapefruit League schedule with a 14-13 record, but Perlozzo seemed thrilled with the team's effort over the last 45 days and appears ready to begin the regular season.

"We've gone about our business -- I think everyone has -- in the spring," he said after completing his second tour of Florida as a full-time manager. "Other than Jay Payton being hurt, I think we'll go into the season as ready as we can be, and have gone through Spring Training as good as we can. We'll see what happens when the bell rings."

When asked for a bright spot or a pleasant surprise, Perlozzo singled out shortstop Miguel Tejada. The four-time All-Star pledged on the first day of camp to be a better leader and held true to his word all spring. Tejada, who has played in 1,080 consecutive games, really showed Perlozzo something beyond the statistics.

"I've loved the way Miguel Tejada has gone about his business," he said of the former American League Most Valuable Player. "Not to take anything away [from seasons past], but he's really come in with a great attitude. He's backed up the things he said early on. I think the ballclub has seen that. He's been something that's gone very right."

Case closed: Perlozzo said that closer Chris Ray has conquered a mechanical hiccup that bothered him early in Spring Training. The right-hander worked in nine games this spring, allowing 11 hits, four walks and four earned runs. Towards the end, Perlozzo said that Ray and pitching coach Leo Mazzone ironed a few things out.

"He's trying to stay back and get his timing together," Perlozzo said. "He's working on a little rhythm. He was better. I asked him if he's going to make a couple good pitches. He said he will when the season starts."

Quotable: "We'll see how the weather conditions are. We have a backup at every position. The guys should play every day. It's part of Spring Training. We're not finished [with] Spring Training yet. And when we are, we'll get ready." -- Perlozzo, on his plans for playing his regulars during the barnstorming tour

Coming up: The Orioles will play the Nationals on Friday afternoon at 2:05 ET in Norfolk. Jaret Wright will get the ball for his final spring start, and the right-hander will try to complete five innings without running up a high pitch count. Wright is scheduled to start the third and final game of the season-opening series in Minnesota.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.