LAKELAND, Fla. - Drew Jackson’s ability to handle the outfield corners, with today marking his first game in right, could influence manager Brandon Hyde’s roster construction prior to opening day.
Jackson figures to make the club as a second Rule 5 infielder along with Richie Martin, but he’s been used in a utility role in camp and the resume is expanding.
“He’s so versatile. He can play a lot of different positions,” Hyde said this morning while the Orioles took batting practice.
“We’re still evaluating that. I’m going to continue moving him around. He’s going to play a little bit of infield, he’s going to play multiple spots in the outfield and we’re just going to continue seeing his versatility, as well as some other guys.
“We still have a lot of decisions to make in the next week.”
“We have some versatility in the outfield,” Hyde said. “(Joey) Rickard can play different spots, (Cedric) Mullins has moved around a little bit. I would be comfortable with him being the fourth outfielder, but we’re still a ways away. We still have other guys who are in the mix for sure and guys that have done things in the big leagues. EY and D-Smith and some other guys. So there’s a lot of factors there.”
So Rickard and Mullins have made the team?
Hyde smiled before responding.
“No,” he said. “I haven’t told anybody that they’re on the team. I’m waiting to see if ... I haven’t told anybody they’re on the team.
“You never know what’s going to happen. There’s a waiver wire that happens every single day and in our situation we’re always trying to add talent, so I’m not making any promises to anybody right now.
“I’m looking forward to getting our numbers down. I’m really enjoying watching our guys play and I love this group. But yeah, at this point you’re ready to get your 25 and go play somebody with 40,000 in the stands. When that day comes, I’ll be excited about it. But in the meantime we still have 20 decisions to make.”
Asked if he has a date in mind when he’d like to inform certain players of their status, Hyde replied, “The 25th.”
“There’s a lot of different factors. Certain guys have outs, we have three Rule 5 guys. We’re stretching this out as long as possible because of so many question marks. That’s why I can’t give you any concrete answers because, honestly, I have no idea about so many guys. Some spots in the bullpen and what our outfield situation is like. Catching situation.”
Hyde said he hasn’t spoken to catcher Jesús Sucre about his March 22 opt-out.
“Núñez is a little bit sore, and so we just gave him a day and we needed a DH spot and Ryan Mountcastle got the start,” Hyde said. “So great experience for him.”
Mark Trumbo isn’t on the trip today after getting two more at-bats yesterday to raise his spring total to eight. He’s still a possibility for opening day.
“Mark just needs at-bats and he needs time on the bases,” Hyde said. “Coming from a tricky injury he just needs to get out there and play. He hasn’t played in a long time and just really started a running progression type of thing, so he just needs to get out there on the bases, he needs to slide, he needs to do baseball activities.”
Richard Bleier will pitch again today and appears certain to be in the bullpen on March 28.
“Bleier looks great,” Hyde said. “He’s throwing the ball really well. He feels great. I’m just going to hope that he continues to throw the ball the way he is right now and continues doing what he’s doing.”
Among the data available to Hyde is how starters fare the third time through the order, which can dictate when he goes to his bullpen.
“For sure,” he said. “A lot of things going into pitching decisions and whether to use the opener and who to use in the opener, if we’re doing a bullpen day. Whether it’s opponent, how you see your guys match up, how you see the game plan of the game develop and who you’d like to see in there middle part of the game and try to get to the seventh. So yeah, a lot of factors with that. The third time through the order is definitely one.”
The latter is easier for a manager to implement with the starters aren’t resistant to it.
“I don’t think any pitcher is happy to come out of a game,” Hyde said, “but I think there’s so much written now and so many teams use that stat as something that’s important that I think guys are very aware of that, so I don’t think it’s a surprise anymore when maybe four years ago it would have been.
“I came from a heavy analytical team and very privy to being involved in those discussions and those conversations and why things are important. It opened my eyes a lot the last four years being there and watching us have success. I’m open to everything. I want all that information. I want projected numbers and I want projected third time through the order stuff and I want projected splits and all these types of things.”
A rainy forecast for Sarasota threatens Tuesday afternoon’s game and could bring the first cancellation of the spring.
“You always have a Plan B rainy day schedule. That will be a cage day,” Hyde said.
“It’s not actually a horrible thing right now, to be honest with you. Some players could use days. But from the pitching it kind of screws you up a little bit. But we’ll see what happens. It’s the weather, you never know.”
Update: Nicholas Castellanos hit an opposite-field home run off Andrew Cashner with one out in the first inning to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Update II: Jonathan Villar delivered a three-run triple into the right field corner with the count full and one out in the fifth and pinch-runner Jace Peterson scored on Trey Mancini’s triple to center to give the Orioles a 4-1 lead and end Jordan Zimmermann’s day.
Mancini scored on Mountcastle’s single up the middle. Chance Sisco singled for the second time today and Mountcastle scored on Rickard’s sacrifice fly for a 6-1 lead.
Update III: Smith hit a two-run homer in the seventh for an 8-1 lead.