Hyde on pitching updates, roster flexibility and more

Orioles pitchers Alex Cobb and Mychal Givens will throw live batting practice on Monday after doing side work earlier in summer training camp.

They, too, are marked as present and active.

"Really good. They threw the ball well," manager Brandon Hyde said in today's Zoom conference call when asked how the two right-handers have looked after three days.

Cobb threw to hitters on a back field at the Ed Smith Stadium complex on the day that baseball shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. He was scratched from his start in Fort Myers after a blister surfaced on his right hand.

Hyde also said that executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias will speak with the media later this week and address the possible positive COVID-19 tests and the club's policy on releasing intake information.

Thus far, the Orioles haven't provided updates on the number of players shut down and isolated based on positive results or being in close proximity to someone who contracted the virus.

The Orioles remain supportive of any player who decides later to opt out due to health and safety concerns. Some big names around the majors are staying home, including Dodgers pitcher David Price, Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake and Braves pitcher Félix Hernández.

"I think anything can happen in 2020," Hyde said. "Anything can happen right now and I don't blame or fault the guys who are deciding not to play. Like I said the other day, that's your own personal choice and that's a personal decision, and if one of our guys decides that they don't feel like they're comfortable being in this environment, then I am in full support.

"Everybody has their own reason. I'm hoping that we're building a clubhouse and a culture here of guys having their own free thoughts and having their own choices and this is a choice that they're going to have, not only my backing but the organization's backing if somebody decides for whatever reason that they don't feel comfortable playing."

The Orioles will begin playing intrasquad games on Wednesday night to get guys acclimated to the lights and a more typical routine. There will be a succession of games, scheduled at the same time, along with three exhibitions prior to the July 24 opener that won't require much travel.

Stewart-K-Throws-BP-Orange-ST-sidebar.jpgToday's workout featured impressive live batting practice sessions from potential starter Kohl Stewart and high-leverage reliever Hunter Harvey.

Stewart was limited to one exhibition start due to a sore right biceps muscle. The former fourth overall draft pick of the Twins in 2013 didn't allow hitters to square him up this afternoon.

"I really liked his stuff today," Hyde said. "His fastball was sitting 94, some really good secondary stuff. I loved the amount of strikes that he threw. He really filled up the strike zone and forced guys to swing the bat. So I thought that was a big step from spring training.

"We got a real limited look in spring. Just one outing late before we were canceled. But I liked the way he threw the ball today a lot and we're going to (be) continuing giving him a long look here this month."

Harvey, with his mullet in midseason form, offered up a fastball clocked in the mid-to-upper 90s and slider and splitter that "looked good," Hyde said.

"Ball was coming out great," Hyde said. "That was a really good first day for him. Looks like he's in great shape. I know he really stayed on it the last few months."

The Orioles shut down Harvey in September based on his rising innings count and an arm that wasn't bouncing back as quickly as hoped. No reason to push him any further.

A 60-game season can allow the Orioles to proceed with a little less caution, but they won't get reckless with any pitcher.

"I don't know how much concern I had with him this year," Hyde said. "I think we were going to play it by ear through a 162-game season. Now with a little bit of a shorter sprint season, I'd like to use him as much as possible but not obviously push the limits on him. He's a really important part of the Orioles organization going forward and I'm going to do what's right for Hunter Harvey.

"I'm just going to listen to him every day and see how he feels and if this little break maybe helped him out a little bit. I'm not sure, but right now he looks great, feels great, and I'm just going to listen to him and the medical staff and the pitching coaches on a day to day basis with his usage."

A 13-man pitching staff can be increased now that rosters are holding 30 players on opening day. The Orioles are in the midst of figuring out how many to carry, with components at work that remain murky.

"I think it's really going to depend on the length of our starters, how built up our guys are," Hyde said. "I feel confident right now, but it's still really early on. I'll know better more the middle of the month of where we are on the mound, but that's really going to be a big factor, the length of the starters, depending on how many pitchers that you keep.

"Right now, I don't have any idea. Obviously, you love to have some flexibility on the bench offensively as well. I think that's going to be a real weapon for some teams, especially with the three-batter (relief) minimum, to be able to have a balanced bench where you can pinch-hit all the way down through the order and really make it hard on the opposing team's pitching staff. But right now, I don't know where we are. I don't think anybody does, to be honest with you.

"I don't think any team has a set number of how many pitchers and position players because we're so early on in this process that we don't even know. But I think we'll have a better sense later next week on where we are on the mound."

With four outfielders on the camp roster, and only Austin Hays and DJ Stewart seen by the media during the first three days of access, the Orioles could carry more than one utility player with experience beyond the infield.

The initial plan for a 26-man roster in March called for one super-utility type and one pure infielder.

"I think that you're going to see us moving around a lot of our players," Hyde said. "We have guys who have played center field in the past and feel comfortable with the reps they've gotten in the outfield. They're going to continue with that here the next few weeks before we start games.

"So guys like (Andrew) Velazquez and (Stevie) Wilkerson that have played some outfield will do a little bit of both. So it's important that we have pieces. (Dilson) Herrera has played in the corner. Pat Valaika has been out in the corners before. So versatility's enormous, especially in this situation, so I feel good that a lot of our guys have played multiple positions before."

Hyde wore his #F16HT T-shirt again this afternoon to honor Trey Mancini, who's undergoing chemotherapy treatments and won't play until 2021. The team's concerns are funneled toward his recovery from Stage 3 colon cancer, but there's also the baseball reality that it must find a substitute in right field and the middle of the order.

"We lost one of the best hitters, in my opinion, in the American League and a guy that had an All-Star caliber season last year and that's going to be very, very tough to replace," Hyde said. "Not only that, but him in the clubhouse and how he is with the guys and just having him around, it's going to be challenging. It is challenging. Not having him here is challenging. But we have to have guys step up.

"It's obviously extremely unfortunate to not have him here and we're thinking about him constantly. He's in our thoughts and I talk to him and text with him quite a bit. But to not only not have him in the lineup, but not have him around is something that, it's not easy."

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