SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles pitchers and catchers report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex today, an official date that doesn’t preclude anyone from showing up early.
The place isn’t surrounded by a moat - unless there’s heavy rain, because it’s Florida and a little flooding is required by state law. Security guards will allow entrance to employees.
The days of players waiting until the final hours or just phoning their manager with confirmation that they’re “in town” began to wane after the Orioles moved their spring home to Sarasota. No one rushed to Fort Lauderdale Stadium, which featured a cramped clubhouse, tiny trainers’ room with zero privacy from the media and a tent in the parking lot that served as a weight room.
It’s drastically different in Sarasota. The amenities can spoil a well-traveled veteran, let alone a youngster in his first or second camp. Everything is top-notch. The food room should be Zagat rated.
Former manager Buck Showalter used to joke - I think he was joking - that some rehabbing players grew too comfortable here and didn’t seem in a hurry to come off the disabled list. The underwater treadmill and the whirlpools made it hard to leave.
“We need to get him out of Sarasota,” he’d say.
Current and former players have bought homes in the area. Position players aren’t due to report until Sunday, but plenty of them will be unpacked this week.
Manager Brandon Hyde learned how to navigate the facility during last month’s minicamp and surely can envision how workouts will unfold on the back fields. Including the “little field” named after Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, the artificial turf field and the replica Camden Yards field.
I’ve been asked in interviews and by friends and fans how Hyde will run spring training compared to Showalter. Will he be hands-on, though maybe without the trademark fungo bat that Showalter carried? Will the instruction be a collaborative effort, like pretty much everything else?
We have no way of knowing until we watch it. Hyde hasn’t managed in the majors and there isn’t a pattern to follow.
Will Tim Cossins’ catching instruction differ in any way from the methods of former bench coach John Russell? Stay tuned.
Arnie Beyeler’s outfield instruction? José Flores’ infield instruction? The players who worked under former coaches Wayne Kirby and Bobby Dickerson can compare and contrast.
No one should rush to judgment. Just hustle on the basepaths.
I’m not certain if one field will be a gathering spot for lectures on analytics or if that’s going to happen in the meeting room. The latter seems more ideal for PowerPoint presentations, but players will need to carry the data outdoors.
But seriously, I don’t know what to expect in the mornings and afternoons that follow besides times that the clubhouse opens to the media and players take the field for the pre-workout stretch. Hyde and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias will be available for questions later today.
They can talk about outfielder Eric Young Jr., signed to a minor league deal with a spring training invitation, and pitcher Nate Karns, signed to a major league deal and given the opportunity to win a spot in the rotation.
Young gives off a Michael Bourn vibe to me. Hide the football.
Elias won’t lay out all of his roster plans, especially since the market can influence how he reacts, but he’s going to stress again the importance of evaluating young players in the organization and minimize the chances of handing out big multi-year contracts. The Orioles won’t commit beyond one year.
Karns might have received the last major league deal offered by the club, but nothing is certain in the second week of February except for report dates.