SARASOTA, Fla. – The Orioles held a light workout this morning leading into Tuesday’s first full-squad gathering. No bullpen sessions or live batting practice. Mostly some conditioning and fielding drills, followed by an early exit from the complex.
Manager Brandon Hyde said Anthony Santander will get some work at first base after returning from the World Baseball Classic, though it isn’t a priority. Santander took ground balls before games last season.
“A little bit maybe toward the end, maybe when he comes back. Probably not too much early,” Hyde said.
“Definitely want to keep it an option for him when he comes back.”
The backup first baseman could be a joint effort, with Santander, catchers Adley Rutschman and James McCann, and perhaps infielder Terrin Vavra if he’s on the club.
“We’ve got about 10 of them,” Hyde said.
Asked whether he could rattle them off, Hyde laughed and said, “not really.”
“Just look at the roster,” he said. “There are a lot of guys who played first base. We have some versatile infielders, too.”
The camp has plenty of non-roster considerations, and the team is showing a preference for a left-handed hitter.
The roll call includes Lewin Díaz, Ryan O’Hearn, Franchy Cordero, Josh Lester and Curtis Terry – all of them with major league experience and only the latter batting from the right side. Díaz and O’Hearn had brief stays on the 40-man roster.
“I think that we’re going to keep our options open over there," Hyde said, "but take a look at a lot of the … we’ve got a few non-roster guys here that have played first base in the big leagues that we want to take a look at.”
Cordero was primarily an outfielder before the Red Sox tried him at first base for 11 games in 2021, three of them as a replacement. He made 47 starts last season and is viewed as a work in progress with the mitt.
“He’s one of them,” Hyde said. “We saw him in Boston, played first base, also. There’s kind of an open competition there for a bench bat or two, but also the ability to play first base we feel like is important for us. We have a lot of guys in the mix.”
Hyde said Rutschman could get some reps.
“Not right now,” Hyde said, “but it’s possible down the road.”
Rutschman and Vavra also took ground balls and worked out at first base during batting practice last year. Rutschman played the position in college and the minors. It’s a new endeavor for Vavra.
“It’s way more complicated than I think people understand, playing first base,” Hyde said. “I mean, you can play over there, but to be able to be a serviceable, good first baseman, there’s a lot of detail that goes into that. There’s footwork around the bag, there’s the ability to catch a ground ball, the right footwork for feeds at second base. A lot of things that go into it.
“It’s not (like) you can just stick somebody over there a lot of times. You want to give them some time to work over there and feel comfortable.”
Mountcastle is playing his fourth position since the Orioles drafted him in 2015, and his improvement last summer provided one of the highlights for Hyde.
“That was for me one of our success stories last year, honestly was how much better he got defensively at first base over the course of the year and how much he’s grown defensively,” Hyde said. “Gained a lot of confidence throughout the year. Became a really good first baseman.”
* The first exhibition game is Saturday afternoon against the Twins in Sarasota. Hyde isn’t ready to announce his starter.
Don’t read too much into it.
* Hyde appreciated the latest round of support from Orioles chairman and CEO John Angelos, who said during yesterday’s media scrum that the manager would be here “for the long haul.”
“We are all fully vested,” Angelos said, including executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and himself. “We’re not going anywhere and nobody’s a short-timer, nobody is expiring in a year or two years or anything like that.
“I hope you guys respect that, it’s just not great policy for me to talk about people’s personnel relationships, but we’re all here under contract long term.”
Details of Hyde’s contract aren’t made public. However, it certainly appears that he received an extension.
“Ownership has been wonderful to me, front office, Mike and his group, have been amazing to work for and with,” Hyde said. “It means a lot, the patience that everybody’s shown with getting this team where we are today. I’m obviously really happy to be here, proud of what we’ve done so far, and looking forward to seeing it through.”