Notes: Expanding international focus

Notes: Expanding international focus

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Baseball may be a sport without borders, but Baltimore's scouting department has seen a clear line of demarcation in recent years. The Orioles have been unable to consistently sign and develop international free agents, a fact that has caused a restructuring of the scouting department and the organizational philosophy.

Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, announced earlier this month that the Orioles will begin to diversify their international interests. John Stockstill has been tabbed to head up that effort, and the hope is to take one year to survey the lay of the land before jumping into the foreign markets with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.

"The first thing we need to do is try to get an understanding of where the players come from, where they might be in the future and where it's the most efficient for us to be," said MacPhail. "I don't think it's realistic to think you're going to be everywhere all the time. John's job this year is to get a handle on the different countries and where our resources can be best deployed."

When you examine the state of the parent club's roster, you understand why the Orioles are making international scouting a priority. Only three foreign-born players (Daniel Cabrera, Fredy Deza and Radhames Liz) on the 40-man roster have been signed by Baltimore as undrafted free agents, and four others have been signed that way by another team before joining the O's.

"We need to be more involved. Over a third of the players that play in the Major Leagues are from outside the country," said MacPhail. "I don't think it's realistic to think we're going to jump into the deep end and be right there. I think it's more going to be a function of trying to ascertain the unique qualities of each market and where you need to be."

Stockstill, who worked previously as an assistant general manager in charge of pro scouting, will be responsible for scouting outside the First-Year Player Draft and reviewing the work already done by other scouts. He'll have the responsibility of deciding when the Orioles should move forward or move on, and he'll bring all his information back to MacPhail.

The job will take Stockstill all over the world, from Caribbean islands and South America clear across to the Pacific Rim.

"We've always been in Latin America, but the Asian thing is not a new thing -- it's upgrading what we have now," Stockstill said. "We've been in the market and made offers on Japanese players in the past, so it's a matter of going to a new level that's the next step for us. Some countries have rules where you can't sign certain level players. Obviously, for a club like the Orioles, Japan is a very interesting market, because that's where the most ready for Major League level talent is playing."

The mechanics of the actual process are pretty interesting, as Baltimore's pro scouts will be expected to see players in middle America one month and in Asia the next. Stockstill said the Orioles will expect their scouts to perform a "full circle of duties," which basically means they'll scout everyone from domestic free agents to foreign amateurs.

He also said that won't detract from their normal duties, and may in fact make them more well-rounded.

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"We have to sign all levels of players, and that might mean signing the players that won't show up in Baltimore for eight years," Stockstill said. "That's the great thing about scouting, but it's also the tough thing. The players we sign in Latin America at the very beginning levels, it will be 2015 before anyone in Baltimore hears about them."

"For the time being, we were not big players in the free-agent market. We had a different game plan," added MacPhail. "But that doesnt mean that we won't eventually get involved there, particularly in places like Japan, where you really don't have access to them until they become free agents or get posted by their Japanese team."

More voices: Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said it's important for the organization's Minor League coaches to feel like they're a part of the staff and get a chance to contribute to the team dynamic this spring.

"We're trying to utilize our Minor League people here to teach," he said. "They're not here to just hit fungoes and throw batting practice. I want them to teach and I want them to feel as if the input they have is valuable. The more information we can give, the more we can teach and utilize the experience of the people we have here in camp is good for everybody."

The genesis of that philosophy, of course, comes from Trembley's two-decade run as a Minor League manager. He knows what it's like to come to Spring Training and feel like an afterthought buried deep in a corner of the clubhouse.

"You come to Spring Training and you feel like you're just kind of there as a horse to do the physical work," he said. "I think it's important for the organization that we get these guys feeling like they're important and involved."

Missing in action: Reliever Danys Baez hasn't been at camp for the past few days, but it's been an excused absence.

The veteran, who's still in the early stages of a recovery from offseason surgery to replace ligaments in his throwing elbow, has been doing his physical therapy at the same Miami facility where he worked out during the winter.

"Baez is not going to do a throwing program here," Trembley said. "He's going to do his throwing program down in South Florida. He's not where Chris Ray is [in his recovery]. When he gets to that point, he'll be with us."

Visas: Trembley said he doesn't expect any of his position players to be late to camp due to immigration issues. The Orioles will have their full team intact early in the week, and Trembley's looking forward to that development.

"I've read in the papers about visa problems and stuff like that, but I haven't been notified of any of those things as far as any of our guys are concerned," he said. "Off the top of my head, I don't know who that would affect."

Quotable: "The first step is simply utilizing our current scouts. You have to first get to a point -- and we're at that point now with Andy MacPhail -- where we're utilizing the staff in the United States to go outside the country. That hasn't happened anywhere near the level that it's going to happen now." -- Stockstill, on the scouting program

Coming up: More position players will begin to trickle into camp on Monday -- the team's requested reporting date -- and the Orioles will hold their first full-squad workout on Tuesday.

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