Baltimore's time of change

Updated: February 26, 2012, 10:22 AM ET
By Buster Olney

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette gave a quick tour of the Baltimore Orioles' gleaming new facilities Saturday, with the massive hydrotherapy pools and the rooms of diagnostic equipment and the gym where the players work out, which could be referred as a weight room warehouse, given its size.

More change is needed on the Orioles' roster (more specifically, better pitching) before Baltimore climbs into the thick of the AL East race, but the improvement in the team's working conditions, through the renovation of Ed Smith Stadium and the surrounding grounds, is a start. "I'd put this facility up against anybody's," said Showalter, who was instrumental in the changes. "It's part of the culture that people here are trying to develop, and it doesn't come free.

"It eliminates excuses."

There is an enormous hitters' background for the practice field closest to the facility, to replicate the conditions of the regular-season ballparks, which is not standard for spring training parks. There is a half field, used by infielders, or, as was the case on Saturday, for bunting. The whole place is trimmed in Orioles orange, from the covering around the central tower to the padding on the edges of the fences to the numbers painted on the outfield fences.

The Orioles have long been spring training nomads, with their minor leaguers and major leaguers working on different sides of the state of Florida for many years, and with the major leaguers training in cramped conditions in Ft. Lauderdale.

But now they have state-of-the-art facilities. If you want to get work done on a day with less than perfect conditions, there will be a field with FieldTurf, like that used in Tropicana Field. If the trainer wants you to climb into a tub of water to treat soreness, you won't have to wait. It's a step forward for the Orioles, and Showalter sees other signs of progress.