NASHVILLE – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde can’t let it go completely.
The sweep in the American League Division Series isn’t causing him sleepless nights, but he said today that “it hasn’t eased for me.” The time hasn't healed the wounds.
“There was a lot of disappointment,” Hyde said during today’s media session at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. “I’m really proud of our season. I don’t want to take that for granted. To win our division, to win over 100 games, to have the individual performances and team performances that we had, it says a lot about our roster and our guys. We have some really good players, but you do that and then you fall short like we did, it takes a while to go away.
“It hasn’t gone away for me yet.”
The Orioles posted the best record in the American League, but they need to push further. Perhaps it happens through roster upgrades. Or maybe it’s just a natural progression after experiencing the rigors of October baseball.
“I thought our guys gained incredible valuable experience last year, a lot of things we did for the first time,” Hyde said. “Obviously, we made the postseason, but playing with a lead late in the season, being able to hold onto the lead, winning over 100 games and winning our division, it’s a big deal.
“For us, now it’s taking that next step and being able to advance in the postseason. I think our guys are going to come in really, really hungry. Just talking to some of them briefly throughout this offseason so far, our guys are going to be really driven this year. That was a great experience for us but we want to go further.”
Hyde views the three-game Rangers sweep as “a bad few days” and noticed the warning signs.
“We weren’t playing our best baseball the couple weeks going into the postseason, and then we had that long layoff,” he said. “We lost that close game in the first and we were out of the game kind of early in the next two, and we got beat by the World Series champion team that was playing extremely well.
“I think for our guys to experience that atmosphere, I think that’s going to be great going forward. I don’t look at it as a whole lot of positives because it just doesn’t sit well with how it ended.”
There’s also the reality of living in a division that won’t ease up and create an easy path for the Orioles to repeat.
“There’s going to be four other teams always that have World Series expectations, and so that’s who you’re competing with year in and year out. Now, there’s five teams, so it feels good to be part of the group," Hyde said.
“Those other teams are going to come in, they’re going to get better this offseason, and we’ve got to play good baseball next year.”
John Means didn’t pitch in the Division Series due to a sore elbow, a significant blow to the rotation, but the Orioles aren’t concerned about his health.
“I think if we had another few weeks or a month, John would have been fine,” Hyde said. “It’s unfortunate that he got sore there in that last start before the postseason.
“Missing a full year and a half, the way he came back and was throwing the ball the first three or four starts, it looked like 2019 John Means again. You never know how somebody’s going to bounce back off an injury, but he was really good and I expect him to be healthy and ready to have a good full season.”
The Orioles expect Dillon Tate to regain his 2022 form after missing the past season with forearm and elbow injuries, but they’re searching the trade and free agent markets for a reliever with closing experience.
“Losing Félix (Bautista) is a big loss for us,” Hyde said. “Such an important part of our team. I thought we managed it extremely well, the way our guys picked up the pieces for him the last month of the season. I thought our guys threw outstanding out of the bullpen. But also, you want to have more depth, and to get more talented down in the bullpen would be great. So I think a veteran presence would definitely be helpful.”
The roster isn’t set and questions about it feel premature, but the Orioles want to keep it flexible, which also keeps infielders like Jordan Westburg from settling into a position.
“That’s one thing that we have is so much versatility with so many of our guys that I think we’ll wait to see how this offseason plays out, what our roster looks like in spring training,” Hyde said. “It’s nice to have so many movable pieces and talented guys. He can play third base, he can play second base, he can play short if you need it. But we have quite a few guys like that.
“I think it’s going to be a mix-and-match. If the season started tomorrow, I think that he’d be moving back and forth between two positions, but we’ll see where we are in April.”
Adam Frazier and Aaron Hicks are free agents and Hyde said in a perfect world “you’d like to have some veteran presence.”
“But our guys are starting to turn into veteran presence now,” he added. “These guys are now in their fifth and sixth year. They’ve had a lot of experiences now, highs and lows, losing team to a 100-win team. We’re not as young as we used to be with some of our core guys. Weird to say, but some of our guys are turning into good veteran guys, and they’ve been led well these last couple years with some of the quality guys we brought in here.”
The Winter Meetings conclude on Wednesday. The Orioles might return home with no moves beyond perhaps a Rule 5 selection or two. The offseason doesn’t end after flights leave Nashville. But Hyde isn’t sweating it.
He’s convinced that the Orioles can repeat as American League East champions the way that they’re currently built.
“I do,” he said. “I think we’re really talented and I think our guys are going to continue to get better. I think we have two young starters that, they’re only going to get better with Kyle (Bradish) and Grayson (Rodriguez). Dean (Kremer) really established himself as a really good major league starter last year. Tyler Wells was arguably our best starter in the first half and then was lights out for us in the bullpen late in the year. So I’m excited about the talent we have on the mound, and we’re really, really athletic position player-wise.
“If we started tomorrow with what we have right now, I’d be more than happy with it.”