Hyde on Holliday: "Hopefully he can just relax and play confidently and have fun out there"

BOSTON – Manager Brandon Hyde prepared for tonight's game against the Red Sox but also relived the “tough decision” made in spring training to reassign 20-year-old Jackson Holliday. Again.

How Holliday was playing a new position, how the first-overall draft pick in 2022 needed more exposure to left-handed pitching.

“Just to get him more Triple-A experience, and he did,” Hyde said this afternoon, before Holliday did some stretching with teammates and took his first major league batting practice.

“He got 10 or so games in there defensively, played really well, took really good at-bats. We watched all of them. And we just felt like at this point, at this time, he was ready to come up.”

Holliday was told last night and flew out of Richmond with wife Chloe. The Orioles made it through the early gauntlet of opposing left-handed starters, facing right-handers in all three games of the Red Sox series. They'll see at least one this weekend against the Brewers at Camden Yards, after former Orioles left-hander DL Hall on Friday night.

“That was part of it,” Hyde said. “We knew we were going to face five out of nine starters that were left-handed and some left-handed bullpen guys. That, coupled with the fact of, he has played hardly any second base. He made huge strides in spring over the course of a month and a half. We felt like the right thing to do when we broke was to have him play some more games at second base defensively, take some more at-bats. He hasn’t had that many Triple-A at-bats, either. And he did extremely well, so we’re happy to have him.”

Holliday is batting ninth tonight but should gradually rise in the order. Feet get wet before a young player is thrown into the deep end.

“Spring training I hit ninth a few times,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be here no matter where I’m at.”

The infield gained baseball’s No. 1 prospect but lost much of its flexibility.

Gunnar Henderson is the everyday shortstop and Holliday is playing second in most games. Jordan Westburg must play third if the club is going to keep him in the lineup.

“I think on paper right now, probably,” Hyde said when asked if it’s a set infield. “So many things happen throughout the course of a six-month season that you always want to keep your options open and continue to have versatility, because somebody might be down for two weeks. Who knows what’s going to happen?

“Right now, Gunnar’s going to play the majority at short, Jackson will play the majority at second. That moves Westy to third base in a more permanent role. But we’re also going to mix and match, and (Ramón) Urías is going to play. Urías won the Gold Glove two years ago. He’s one of the best third basemen defensively in the league. So we’re going to be playing a little bit of everybody. I think how it looks tonight is probably going to be how we’re going to go for a while the majority of nights. But a lot of things can happen over the course of a season.”

Hyde is no stranger to prospect arrivals. They’ve become an important part of his job, lowering the average age of the roster but increasing the talent level.

You always take that trade.

“A guy making his major league debut is always exciting for everybody,” Hyde said. “It’s going to be fun to watch. Excited for the kid, excited for the family. It’s a real special day.

“It’s an overwhelming day for Jackson. I just hope he can relax as much as possible like the other guys, Gunnar and Adley (Rutschman) when they made their debuts. There’s a lot to process and there’s a lot of hype, and hopefully he can just relax and play confidently and have fun out there.”

Holliday’s locker was set up between Rutschman and Henderson. Colton Cowser and Jordan Westburg dressed in the same row. Holliday didn’t have to look far for advice.

“I think it’s helpful to have guys in your clubhouse who have had similar experiences, especially ones that are so close in age,” Hyde said. “He’s comfortable here, especially with our club, just because he was with the club so much this spring and he’s already been friends with a lot of these guys. That’s helpful, also.”

Henderson had flashbacks to his own debut on Aug. 31, 2022 in Cleveland.

“You get to put yourself in those shoes again,” he said. “I hope he just kind of takes his time and takes in the whole day and the experience of it all.

“I felt like I did a good job of soaking it all in, but it’s kind of hard to in the moment at some points because you want to play well, obviously, so you’ve got to lock in for that. Just take everything in, don’t take everything for granted on that day because it only happens once.”

Ryan O’Hearn is the only player in the lineup who reached the majors with another club. O’Hearn and Anthony Santander were the only ones who weren’t drafted and developed by the Orioles. Santander was a Rule 5 pick from A ball, so much of his development came through the organization.

“It’s just a testament to the guys the Orioles have developed and it’s been really awesome seeing them all come up and just the guys that they’ve become,” Henderson said. “How they’ve all meshed together is really cool and really blessed to be a part of it.”

Is this the lineup Hyde envisioned three or four years ago?

Don’t be too quick to dismiss 2023.

“We won 101 games last year, so I thought we put together a pretty good lineup last year, also,” Hyde said. “We’re a little younger. We’re a little bits more inexperienced. But we’re really talented.

“This team’s got a long way to go to where we want to go. We don’t have a ton of experience on the field. It’s going to be fun to watch. These guys are really, really talented kids. There’s going to be learning along the way, too, and there’s going to be growth. There’s going to be some tough nights. But it’s a really, really cool group to be around.”

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