Manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette have both made it fairly obvious that the club is going to put a greater emphasis on situational hitting and on-base percentage this season.
Duquette said during the final months of the offseason that he is always on the lookout for good on-base hitters, and Showalter said Sunday that he wants to see hitters do more this year to squeeze the most out of every at-bat.
"We put a stat sheet up of percentage of our guys with a man on third and less than two outs, how many times they got him in," Showalter said. "… We were slightly above the league average, which surprised me. Nolan [Reimold] has got really good numbers. He did last year."
Reimold also was one of the hitters last year who did a good job of working pitchers and getting deep into the count, something that was not lost on his manager — especially on a team with some big strikeout guys and a designated hitter (Vladimir Guerrero) who wouldn't take a walk if it was on a moonlit beach with Jennifer Aniston.
"I wouldn't say [Reimold] was the only one, but it was part of his game," Showalter said. "It's something we'd like to get better at as a group. It doesn't always show up in the base on balls either. Nolan's had a pretty good grasp of that for awhile."
Showalter hasn't outlined how he'll use Reimold this year, but it is looking more and more like he'll give him a chance to establish himself as the everyday left fielder early in the season.
"I've got a pretty good idea of what I'm doing with him," Showalter said, "but I don't want to go there yet, and even with him yet. I think at some point that he would benefit by knowing, but I just don't think we're there yet. He seems to be functioning very well with the mindset he's got. He seems comfortable. There's a different look to him this spring, too."
Roberts takes a big step
Brian Roberts was on the field Sunday and doing sprint drills with conditioning guru Brady Anderson. He appeared to be running at close to full speed, which was certainly good news to his manager.
"I talked to him in the clubhouse and he seemed pretty upbeat," Showalter said.
Then Showalter knocked on the desk to signify that he — like Roberts — isn't taking anything for granted.
More injury updates
Right-hander Jim Johnson remains on schedule as he rehabs a sore lower back. He pitched off a regular mound Sunday and said that — if all continues to go well — he'll be able to throw batting practice to hitters in about a week.
"Everything went well," he said. "My arm felt good and my legs felt good and there was nothing with the back. I'd have to check my schedule, but I'll probably throw again in a couple of days."
Showalter said after Sunday's workout that Zach Britton continues make to progress in his rehab program. He's throwing hard off flat ground from 120 feet without discomfort in his shoulder.
Jason Berken, who suffered a left hamstring strain last week, said he is feeling much better.
Around the horn
The new artificial turf infield at Ed Smith Stadium is finished. Showalter and some of the coaches test-drove it Saturday evening, hitting and fielding some ground balls. … There is relatively little construction work still going on around the facility, which is expected to get final legal approval from Sarasota County officials Monday.
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