SAN DIEGO – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde took his turn in front of the media this afternoon at the Winter Meetings, talking about new starter Kyle Gibson, the desire for more pitching depth, the process of recruiting free agents to Baltimore, veteran leader replacements and Jorge Mateo’s snub in Gold Glove voting. He also fielded premature questions about the message he'll send to the team and positions on opening day.
Where to begin?
Gibson signed a one-year, $10 million contract yesterday to give the Orioles an experienced starter, though they aren’t done negotiating with others.
“I’m excited to add Kyle,” Hyde said. “Talked to him a couple times and traded texts last night. Excited to bring somebody with the career he’s had and playing on a World Series club. Somebody with his veteran aspects that he brings, it’s going to be huge for us.”
Hyde has participated in the video calls with pitchers on the market, a manager who also works in sales, highlighting the advantages of joining the Orioles while trying to build an early connection.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Hyde said. “We haven’t really been doing those the last few years, and now to speak with guys about our organization and how we feel like we can help them and talk about our team, it’s been a lot of fun to get to know a lot of these guys. It’s been a cool experience.
Hyde said the conversations touch on “what we did last year, how we can build off last year, the talent that we have on our team, the talent that we have coming. It’s an attractive place to play. And the division that we’re in and type of talent that we’re going to have, and that we’ve really turned the corner.
“We’re proud of turning the corner, what we went through the last few years. And now we’re in a different mode. Now it’s a winning mode and we’re trying to add guys that can help us win.”
Every manager has a wish list to fill out the team. Hyde referenced the transparency in executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias’ targeted areas, beginning with starting pitching depth and continuing with a veteran presence.
“I think more experienced major league players and seeing how they fit on our club,” he said. “I think that’s going to be important to help our younger guys who don’t have playoff experience, who don’t have winning …
“For me, that’s what our veteran guys brought us last year was an attitude of, we’re going to win, we’re better than how we’re playing and we need to improve quickly. I thought our guys that never won before, it changed the mindset of our club, and I think we just need to continue to add onto that. I think now our guys know that we are good, we have talented dudes, we have guys who have talent coming, and we just need to continue to play like we did, honestly, from June on.”
A cautious note is struck here. The 2022 season is over and there’s no carryover in victories to 2023.
“Just because we’ve grown in talent and we’re a little more exciting to watch, I think we still have a lot to prove,” Hyde said. “We haven’t been in the postseason yet, and that day is coming but we still have a lot of work to do to get there.”
Hyde knows that he has a balancing act to perform with veterans arriving and young players in the organization who earned a chance. To make certain that no one is blocked. But to also adhere to the ultimate goal.
“It’s pretty much who can help us win. That’s the bottom line right now is we’re in to win right now, and I think the attitude’s changed a little bit in the past of giving a lot of guys opportunities because we’re trying to see who can stick in the big leagues. Well, now it’s about winning and, honestly, what we did from June was win a ton of series and beat some good clubs. So, you want to give young players opportunities, but at the same time we’re not going to sacrifice our team's wins and losses because of that.”
Leadership has been subtracted from the clubhouse with Jordan Lyles, Robinson Chirinos and Rougned Odor hitting the free agent market. It must come from other sources.
“I want to believe that guys with another year under their belt are going to step up,” Hyde said. “I think they just had some great examples of leading in three different ways, being around them for a full season. I think that’s going to be impactful for our guys to now take that next step. Some guys are going to step up into that type of role and be more comfortable talking in meetings and holding guys accountable a little easier.”
The Orioles haven’t settled on a backup first baseman, with their focus on a left-handed hitter who can provide rest for Ryan Mountcastle and also rotate into the designated hitter spot. But Hyde said he isn’t worried about Mountcastle’s durability.
“Young guy, athletic, I think he’s going to be an impact middle-of-the-order bat,” Hyde said. “For me, that’s not a huge priority.”
Here are a few more items from Hyde:
Is Gold Glove third baseman Ramón Urías a super-utility player next season?
“I’m really comfortable putting Ramón in a lot of different places. I think he’s going to do a lot of things well and play well at second base. I think he can (play) shortstop and be consistent over there for us, also. He just proved he can be an elite defender at third base and I think he can be a good second baseman, as well. We’re going to see where we are roster-wise and see what the fit is.
“That’s what’s so great about Ramón is the versatility, and the more guys we can have like that that we can move around the field, it just kind of fits us and helps us guard from injuries and guys out, etc. To be able to have more guys play in different spots.”
What conversations have been held regarding Adley Rutschman’s usage?
“That’s an area that (executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias) and the group are looking at, too, is backup catcher and who’s going to be with Adley. See how it goes, honestly. But something we’ll discuss is Adley’s playing time next year.”
How difficult would it be to go into next season without an established No. 1 starter?
“We’ll see where it lands here at the end. There’s still a long way to go between now and March. But I feel great about the progress that some of these guys made last year. What Dean (Kremer) did the second half, what (Kyle) Bradish did the second half, what Tyler (Wells) did in the first half. Grayson (Rodriguez) is going to be a part next year. It feels good knowing we have some real starting pitching candidates who have an opportunity to be good players.
“If it stands the way it is right now, I feel good about our guys. Now, we’re going to add more, that’s great. The more depth the better, the more experience the better, so we’ll see what happens.”
Is DL Hall in the rotation breaking camp, or potentially in the bullpen?
“We haven’t even talked about it, but probably right now if we go into spring we’d build him up to be at least a multiple-inning guy, then we’ll see what the rotation looks like and see what the bullpen looks like from there.”
How will Gunnar Henderson be used next year?
“Love the way he played third base. Didn’t play short much because of Jorgie, but when he did, he really impressed. We’re going to have some good problems in spring training, potentially, of some really good players that we need to play and are looking forward to playing.”
Any possibility that Henderson plays second base?
“We haven’t talked about that right now. That was probably unfair to him when I did that. It was mainly because I wanted to get all those guys in the lineup at the same time and Ramón was playing so well at third base, and kind of put Gunnar in a tough spot to play a spot in the big leagues. He already played two and then put him in a third. I wish that wouldn’t have happened.
“It’s hard enough to play defense in the big leagues at one spot, and to ask him to do what I asked him to do was challenging. But if he had reps he’d be able to do it. He probably could play anywhere.”
What are you thinking about with Kyle Stowers in spring training?
“I think if the roster stays right now, he’s going to have an opportunity to win a major league job. I thought he did some impressive things late. … Kyle’s got a ton of ability. We believe in him as a hitter. He’s going to have huge power. He’s going to make some adjustments at the plate and continue to improve. He’s going to be able to play corner outfield defense. I like what we have in Kyle.”
Any health updates?
"Only positive. I saw a few guys in Sarasota. I saw (John) Means. Means looks unbelievable. I saw Urías. He looks great. Everybody’s on track, where they should be.”
Disappointing that Mateo wasn’t a finalist for the Gold Glove?
“Very disappointed. I thought the Fielding Bible got it right. I felt like he should at least have been a finalist. Just the impact he made for us defensively, the shortstop that he played, the work he put in. I wanted to see him get rewarded for the work that he put in. Never being an everyday player in the big leagues and playing every day at short and doing the job that he did was outstanding.
“It’s nice up the middle how we’re looking right now with Adley behind the plate and Mateo, the way he can play shortstop, Ced (Mullins), what he does in center field, Ramón, what he did at third base, Austin Hays, the kind of defense he plays in left. For me, our defense doesn’t get talked enough about, how much improvement we made defensively to help out our pitchers but also the ability to get off the field and stay in games.
“We did a great job defensively last year and these guys aren’t old, so they’re going to continue getting better.”