ST. PETERSBURG -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he's been in kept in the loop with the officials who are in charge of renovations at the team's Spring Training complex in Sarasota, Fla. With the team just a short drive away for the weekend series against Tampa Bay, Showalter spent about an hour on Friday morning going over pictures and overheads of the plans for the Orioles' revamped facility.
"The one thing I'd like to do is make the Major League practice field, make it the same dimensions as Camden Yards," Showalter said. "Same foul grounds, same fence in right field, same angles, same everything. So when we work down there, we are dealing with the same challenges we have at Camden Yards. We can't do anything about the wind direction -- we tried that -- but we have to get Mother Nature to help us there."
The Orioles will also need a little luck if the Major League clubhouse will be completed, with the priority being having the stadium and surrounding fields done for next spring. Sarasota County won its lawsuits on virtually every front, as a judge ruled Thursday that the $31.2 million Spring Training contract with the Baltimore Orioles stands.
Baltimore agreed in July 2009 to move to Sarasota from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in a deal that was contingent upon $31.2 million worth of renovations being completed at Ed Smith Stadium and a Minor League complex at nearby Twin Lakes Park. Renovations at both sites were to begin in April, but a lawsuit filed against Sarasota County by a pair of citizen groups forced a two-month delay. Regardless, most of the renovations are expected to be completed by the time the team reports in mid-February.
"Some of the people that designed Camden Yards are involved with [Sarsasota's project], which is a good thing," Showalter said. "I know we come back [to St. Petersburg] in September, I wanted to make sure there wasn't going to be some much dirt moved around. We had to make a couple adjustments from the baseball functionability issues."
Roberts' return sparks Orioles' offense
ST. PETERSBURG -- It's no secret that the Orioles' resurgent offense has revolved around the return of a healthy Brian Roberts at the top of the order.
"Very few times has he had an at-bat and the team's not better as a result of it," manager Buck Showalter said of Roberts, who belted a solo homer on the 12th pitch of an at-bat Wednesday night. "He's not the type of guy that the other team can just go in there and fire fastballs at him to get him out of the way. They have to do some things, because he can hurt them. I think we've seen the product of what he means to our club to have him there."
Roberts suffered a herniated disc in his lower back during offseason workouts in Arizona and reaggravated the injury during the home opener on April 9. He missed nearly four months of the season, during which the Orioles' offense sputtered and ranked among the worst in the Majors in several areas, including runs scored and batting average with runners and scoring position, all of which are up considerably since Roberts came back.
The O's entered Friday with a team average of .297 and averaging 4.9 runs a game since Showalter took over on Aug. 3, and the switch-hitting Roberts has served as the team's igniter. He's hit .272 with two homers and five RBIs, posting a .337 on-base percentage in his first 18 games off the DL.
"I know the respect I had for him from the other dugout, and now seeing it firsthand, I know I got one right," Showalter said of Roberts, whose four steals is already tied for fourth on the team. "As he gets through the season and hopefully mentally feels better about himself physically, that means a lot to us going into next year.
"You start looking around baseball for leadoff hitters that do what he can do, there's not many of them."
Montanez activated, then optioned
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Orioles activated Lou Montanez from the 15-day disabled list Friday and optioned the outfielder to Triple-A Norfolk. Montanez was placed on the DL on June 26 with a strained left oblique suffered during pregame batting practice.
Montanez appeared in just 26 games for the Orioles, hitting .140 with three RBIs before hitting the shelf. He started the season at Norfolk, hitting .259 with five RBIs, and spent time on rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast League Orioles and Double-A Bowie.
Orioles reliever Jim Johnson (right elbow inflammation) is currently on rehab assignment at Bowie and tossed a scoreless inning Thursday night. Johnson is slated to throw another inning Saturday. The other injured Oriole, David Hernandez (left ankle sprain), has not begun throwing at the team's Spring Training complex in Sarasota, Fla., and manager Buck Showalter said Hernandez will be on the DL longer than the minimum 15 days.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.