SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles began their three-day minicamp Jan. 8, but there are still many questions surrounding the team's makeup.
Spring training begins Feb. 13, and manager Buck Showalter knows much work has to be done on the 2018 team. Mainly, will Manny Machado be here when the team reports? And if he is, what position will he play?
Showalter isn't ready to reveal if Machado would stay at third base, where he's played regularly since his Orioles debut in August 2012, or move to short, which is clearly Machado's preference.
"We've got a pretty good idea," Showalter said. "We're going to let some things play out. We don't want to get too committed to something unless we're sure that everything is going to be as we think."
Showalter said the trade rumors, which began circulating during last month's Winter Meetings, won't disturb the 25-year-old.
"Manny's strong. He's strong with that," Showalter said. "He's seen enough. … I think he's a smart guy. He understands how it works. He knows that good players are mentioned this time of year, and he's a good player, a real good player. It's really an honor to have those types of things being said. I'm making plans for him to be on our team right now."
If Machado played short, Tim Beckham would likely move to third base or serve as a super-utility player.
"If that's the case … I think I've positioned us to maneuver regardless of what happens between now and the season starting," Showalter said.
In an offseason featuring an exceptionally slow free-agent market, the Orioles have holes which have yet to be filled. The team could add starting pitching, another left-handed reliever and others.
"The industry doesn't always cooperate with your time frame, so your time frame has to be adjusted," Showalter said.
Showalter said longtime Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman, who is currently a free agent and lives in Sarasota, is being allowed to work out at the facility.
The team maintains interest in Tillman, who slumped to a 1-7 record with a 7.84 ERA in 2018.
"Chris is better, capable of better," Showalter said. "We know. We've seen it first-hand."
Showalter also said the Orioles have interest in re-signing outfielder Craig Gentry, who was with the team last year. "He did a good job for us," Showalter said.
The team continues to search for a left-handed hitter. Of position players on the 40-man roster, first baseman Chris Davis, rookie catcher Chance Sisco and outfielder Jaycob Brugman hit exclusively from the left side. Outfielder Anthony Santander is a switch-hitter.
"It certainly was a challenge for us last year," Showalter said. "Just adding one is still going to be a challenge, but I'd rather have nine good right-handed hitters than a left-handed hitter that wasn't very good."
Showalter wants a left-handed hitter who can defend, and said the Orioles don't need a left-handed designated hitter. That presumably eliminates a third contract for Pedro Alvarez, who the team signed during the past two spring trainings.
"If our roster was constructed a little bit differently, he'd be really good for us," Showalter said. "I'm going to look to find a left-handed bat from within."
At the Winter Meetings, Showalter indicated that the team may go with 13 pitchers and three bench players. He backed away from that Jan. 8, and said his preference is a four-man bench.
NOTES: Showalter said closer Zach Britton's recovery from left Achilles tendon surgery is on schedule, and he expects Britton to be in Sarasota when spring training opens. … Left-handers Richard Bleier, Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes and right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis were the only pitchers to throw off a mound. … The Orioles named longtime assistant trainer Brian Ebel to replace the retired Richie Bancells as head athletic trainer. Former Norfolk trainer Mark Shires and Bowie trainer Patrick Wesley will assist Ebel.