Rickard waiting for confirmation on roster spot

SARASOTA, Fla. - The hints keep coming that Joey Rickard will be with the Orioles on opening day, perhaps in right field at Yankee Stadium.

Rickard is tearing up the Grapefruit League again and is a virtual lock to break camp with the team, whether as the starting right fielder or a rover of sorts. The competition keeps thinning out, including the Orioles’ decision yesterday to release veteran Eric Young Jr.

Prospects Austin Hays, DJ Stewart, Anthony Santander and Yusniel Diaz already have been cut and the roster is down to 34 players.

Is Rickard, who turns 28 in May, feeling confident that he’s made the club?

“Not quite,” he said.

I truly believe it. This isn’t Rickard trying to be modest.

rickard-joey-scores-orange-spring-sidebar.jpg“There’s still a few days left and there’s a reason why there are some guys here,” he said, “but as far as the spring, I think it’s gone well. I think everybody’s kind of pushed each other and it’s showed so far and everybody’s just having fun.”

Rickard should be having a blast. He began last night’s game against the Blue Jays with a .395/.426/.605 slash line, seven doubles, a triple and 10 RBIs. And he’s outlasting players who could have pushed him aside.

Manager Brandon Hyde likes the way Rickard plays. The at-bats, baserunning and defense. Another beneficiary of the fresh eyes in camp.

The old ones saw Richard slash .152/.282/.182 last spring in 15 games. The Orioles kept Santander - who still had Rule 5 status - Colby Rasmus and Craig Gentry.

How did that work out?

Rickard played in 79 games for the Orioles during the regular season and batted .244/.300/.413 with a minus-0.1 dWAR, per Baseball-Reference.com.

What’s happening in camp now is reminiscent of his 2016 spring training as a Rule 5 pick, when he batted .397/.472/.571 in 28 games and 2017, when he hit .291/.451/.473 with three home runs in 31 games.

What’s been different for Rickard compared to last spring?

“Not much,” he said. “I just talk with the hitting coaches every day and kind of just form a game plan, at-bat to at-bat, pitcher to pitcher, and they really force me to really trust the preparation before a game. And so far it’s going well.”

To say the least.

Rickard started in right field last night and went 0-for-3, but he almost threw out Teoscar Hern├índez going first to third on Justin Smoak’s single in the fourth inning. Mike Wright raised his fist while backing up on the play, but didn’t get the call.

Hyde was given the unenviable task yesterday of calling Young into his office and delivering news of the veteran’s release.

“Awful,” Hyde said later while sitting in the visiting dugout at Dunedin Stadium. “That’s why I’m in a bad mood. Not fun at all. It stinks. Spend all spring with a guy, during the season you’re with guys ...

“It’s been a while since I had to do it. Since I was farm director one year. That’s when I had to let guys go. I was always the guy bringing guys into the office, so to be sitting there doing that, it’s not fun. It’s hard to do.”

The dispensing of happier news, including Rickard’s status, is put on hold. Hyde is hesitant to make promises to anyone with the possibility looming that an outsider could infiltrate the roster.

“That’s why my answers have to be really careful, because I don’t know what’s going to happen waiver wire-wise. And we’re No. 1, right?” Hyde said.

“We can kind of give our best guess of what we’re going to do, but then things might happen, too, in the last couple of days. I think Mike (Elias) has been clear about us trying to get more talent in our organization. So if a talented guy becomes available, I’m sure our guys are going to dig into it.”

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