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Midway through his team's Wednesday morning workout at misty Ed Smith Stadium, Orioles manager Buck Showalter boarded a golf cart bound for the pitchers' training facility, where rehabilitating starters Dylan Bundy and Johan Santana were scheduled to throw bullpen sessions.
"We spent a lot of money putting in those rehab mounds, so you better believe we're going to use them," joked Showalter, who came away impressed with what he saw in a righty-lefty combination that the O's are hoping will provide a big boost to the rotation in the season's second half.
"They're right where they need to be. Nothing else that happens today is going to be better than what those two guys showed," said the Orioles skipper of a session that saw Bundy throw 15 pitches and Santana toss 25 off of flat mounds. "It's crazy, but there are times when seeing someone put a shoe on a white piece of slab can really make your day."
Later, as Showalter prepared for his club's afternoon matchup against Tampa Bay -- a contest the O's would lose by a 7-4 score -- he was asked if there were other, unique aspects of Ed Smith Stadium and the team's spring training complex that were particularly beneficial to his team.
"Oh my God, where do you start?" he mused.
"Really, what it all comes down to here is baseball functionality. From a baseball perspective, everything's in the right place here. The main locker room is right next to the auxiliary locker room, the training room is right next to the weight room ...
"There's just a nice flow here that you don't see in other places, and that makes it much easier to train and get our club ready for the season."
According to Showalter, the stadium's player-friendly design was the product of a collaborative effort in which a team of architects, headed by Showalter's Mississippi State classmate and now-former Oriole vice president Janet Marie Smith, secured input from the organization's baseball people in order to create a state-of-the-art playing facility.
"Take the hitting background as an example," said Showalter, directing his focus to center field. "It's twice as wide as those you'll typically find and it's high, so you can really see the ball. It's the best in spring training.
"Also, a lot of ballparks don't have much padding, but look around. We have it everywhere. Our players have the safest spring training field in baseball."
There are many subtleties to the stadium's design that would likely go unnoticed by most observers but are not lost on Showalter, who has long been regarded as baseball's quintessential, attention-to-detail manager.
"The height of the dugouts and the way they're designed make them function the way they're supposed to function, and that's a direct result of input provided by baseball personnel," he notes.
"Also, we didn't put mirrors in the dugout bathrooms because someone's going to break them, for sure."
Showalter becomes equally enthused when discussing the facilities that rest beyond the stadium's outfield fences, particularly Camden Yards Field -- a dimensional replica of Oriole Park -- which serves to simulate the game of baseball as it's played in Baltimore.
"Everything's exactly the same ... the height of the fences, the foul territory, the distances from home plate.
"We can do cutoff and relay drills, work on flyball priority and outfield calls and really feel that we're ready to play in Baltimore."
Ed Smith Stadium was not overly kind to starter Wei-Yin Chen on Wednesday, as the Oriole left-hander was roughed up by Tampa Bay for six runs and 10 hits in 32/3 innings of work in a 7-4 loss.
Chen surrendered two home runs on the day -- a leadoff blast by Wil Myers off the hitting background and a two-run shot by Sean Rodriguez that capped a three-run third.
Adam Jones collected his first home run of the spring -- a sixth-inning smash off right-hander Steve Geltz -- along with a double in three at-bats. The Oriole center fielder scored three of his team's four runs on the afternoon to account for nearly all of the Baltimore offense.