SARASOTA, Fla. - Want to get under Luke Scott's skin?
Are you nuts?
It's probably not a good idea, but here's one suggestion if you're in that sort of devious and daring mood: Suggest that he's only suited to be a designated hitter. Then run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.
That's been Scott's primary role with the Orioles, but he's projected to be the starting left fielder in 2011. A future Hall of Famer is taking over his former duties. You might have heard of the guy - Vladimir Guerrero, hitter of bad balls, grower of good goatees.
Anyway, Scott will remind you that he's played a lot of outfield - 337 games over six major league seasons, to be exact. And we're talking left and right. This isn't his first rodeo.
This year's camp has a different feel for Scott, and not only because he's being critiqued by a different manager and coaching staff.
"It feels different because last spring training, I actually took more work at first base than I did in the outfield. The outfield's my natural position," he said earlier today.
"I was out there doing normal drills yesterday and things are coming back to me pretty quick. But during the whole time that I was DHing, I got my outfield work in every day with T-Bone (Shelby). But yeah, it's a little different. It looks like I'm going to be playing left field more than any position.
"I adjusted my long-toss program. Instead of throwing like an infielder, I'm trying to elongate my throwing motion a little bit. Just getting ready on that end."
(I interrupt this quote to point out that I've never typed the word "elongate" in an entry until today. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog, already in progress.)
"Taking ground balls at first base, I don't know yet. Whenever they ask me to do that, I'll go in there and do that. It'll probably be a good idea, just to stay sharp and work on my footwork, just so Buck (Showalter) has that option."
Showalter views Scott as a backup at first base, so there's no doubt that taking ground balls at the infield corner will be a requirement.
"Even if I don't get pulled aside in workouts and drills, I'll probably go and do it on my own for extra work, just to make sure," Scott said.
Scott kept unleashing accurate throws to home plate during Monday's drill. That part of his defensive game is sharp.
"My arm's not in shape to where I need it to be, but I've been an outfielder most of my life, most of my career," he said. "It's not like it's rocket science. The last few years when I was the DH, I didn't take any days off. I'd go out there and take my fly balls and work on my footwork and make my throws. And I'd come in and do my work at first base. The only thing that's going to be a little different is just getting consistent repetitions at game speed, and that'll come just like that. I don't think that's going to be a problem."
Scott's aware of the perception around baseball that the Orioles are sacrificing defense in left field by moving Felix Pie or Nolan Reimold to the bench. He doesn't celebrate it.
"All you have to do is look at the past," Scott said. "I've always played good defense. There was no reason why I moved from left field to first base because of my defense. It was because of my offense. When Aubrey Huff moved to first base full-time in 2009, well, who was the best candidate for DH? They looked up and down, and it was me. We had options in the outfield. We had two guys who could play left field, right- and left-handed, so what do you do? Both of those guys are ready for the big leagues. We don't have a first baseman that's ready for the big leagues, or a DH-type who's ready, so who's the best candidate? I am, because I can do it. The ball fell in my court because I was the best candidate.
"It wasn't something I volunteered to do, it wasn't something I wanted to do. I don't want to be known as a DH. I like to play the outfield, I like to play first base, I like to play defense. It's something I take pride in. But at the same time, this game is individual, but it's also a team game. Every player that puts on this uniform has their dream situation and their goals and what they like. Yeah, I'd like to play defense all the time, but then it comes down to, what's the team's situation? What's going to be best for the team? Sometimes, you have to take one for the team, you have to do things that aren't exactly the way you want to do it, but it's going to help the team if you do. That's what happened. The ball fell in my court to do that, and I made the most with the situation.
"It was hard for me to learn to DH at first. It took me a while, but once I learned it, now I know how to do it. I've got a routine in my head and I know what it takes for me to be prepared to be successful at it. I figured that part out, which is good. Now, we have options. I've got three positions I can play successfully. It gives Buck a lot of options. It's a good situation for him to be in, just in case things happen, because these seasons are long and stuff happens with injuries and trades and whatever.
"That's how this game works. You have your desires, but whatever the team asks you to do, that's when you have to separate personal goals from professional goals. I'll do the best I can with whatever they ask me. If I'm the best option to catch - and I'm just talking out of my rear right now - but if I'm the best option to catch, then even if I don't want to be back there, that's where I'll say, 'OK, I don't want to do it, but I'm going to do the best I can,' because that's what I get paid to do. They're the boss."
The ball keeps falling in Scott's court. He'll try his hardest to keep it from falling in front of him or over his head.