SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Four months and a day after their first postseason appearance in 14 years, the Baltimore Orioles got a head start on preparing to try for another run into October.

Pitchers and catchers reported Tuesday and position players are due in two days, but almost everyone was at camp Wednesday ready to go.

“It’s a good feeling. It just shows that nearly everyone is ready to get started,” shortstop J.J. Hardy said. “Hopefully finish where we left off last year.”

The Orioles don’t begin their season for nearly seven weeks, but Showalter said that it’s not a bad thing to have almost all of his players here.

“It’s one of the things I don’t concern myself with, but I’d rather pull a guy back than push him forward. You don’t want to say: `Hey nobody come out and work out in January,”‘ Showalter said.

Star center fielder Adam Jones, who will leave the Orioles early next month to play for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic, took batting practice in the morning and told manager Buck Showalter he’d like to play in more exhibition games than usual before leaving the team early next month for the tournament.

The Orioles’ first game is on Feb. 23 against Minnesota and Showalter has nearly a dozen candidates for five rotation spots and lots of opportunities for them to pitch.

“There’s going to be plenty of innings,” Showalter said.

Showalter said that there were no injuries during the first workout and that left-handed pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, who missed last season after elbow-reconstruction surgery in May would begin throwing in three to four weeks.

Despite winning 93 games in 2012, and taking the New York Yankees to the fifth game of their division series last October, Baltimore has brought nearly 60 players to spring training. Most of last season’s key players are back with few new additions.

“I think it’s a much more mature team and it should be a more competitive and confident team because they proved to themselves that they can compete against the best teams in the league,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said.

“This is a new group of players. This is a new season. We have new challenges,” Duquette said. “This is effectively a new team, but I can tell you this: The consistency of the leadership from the manager and the work ethic of the players instilled last year, that should carry over.”

NOTE: Orioles INF Danny Valencia, who was acquired on waivers from Boston last November, reiterated his denial that he was connected with Biogenesis, the Miami-based anti-aging clinic that allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs. Valencia denied having contact with Biogenesis’ founder, Anthony Bosch. “I’ve never had any contact with those people. I’ve never met Tony Bosch, never seen him, never been to that clinic, never heard of that clinic until the New Times story first broke. That being said, I’ve never ever taken a PED in my life, never failed a drug test in my life and I never will,” Valencia said.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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