Morning talk about a race and a replacement for the hose

SARASOTA, Fla. – Jackson Holliday flashed the speed tool in his kit during Thursday’s game against the Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium, lining a pitch into the right-field corner and reaching third base without a slide for his first spring triple.

He had no shot at catching the guy in front of him.

Enrique Bradfield Jr., last year’s first-round draft pick with the 80-grade speed, had entered the game as a pinch-runner for Tyler Nevin and scored on the play. Holliday was busting it and couldn’t close ground on his teammate.

Holliday laughed about it later while waiting to speak with the media outside the baseball operations building. Asked whether he thought he might pass Bradfield, baseball’s No. 1 prospect shook his head at the absurd notion that anyone could beat the Vanderbilt blur. The kid who stole 46 bases in 46 attempts as a sophomore. You've got to be kidding.

Jorge Mateo wouldn’t mind taking a crack at it.

Everyone in the clubhouse agrees that Mateo is the fastest player on the team. But along comes Bradfield, who isn’t a spring invite but has served as an extra in games.

There’s only one way to settle it, of course. A match race of some sort. Maybe a 40-yard dash – wagering optional.

One player said it would be a lose-lose for Mateo. Win it and do what he's supposed to, like getting a hit off a position player in a blowout, or lose and be subjected to endless teasing and ridicule.

Another player agreed that a race would be fun, “until someone pulls a hamstring.” Now there's a buzz kill.

A third veteran, told of that disastrous scenario, envisioned manager Brandon Hyde’s reaction to it.

“Whose idea was that? Step into my office!”

Some Orioles haven’t actually seen Bradfield play because they came out of the games early, showered and dressed, and left the complex. Mateo, however, is becoming quite familiar with him.

“He has tremendous speed and I think it’s really incredible,” Mateo said through interpreter Brandon Quinones. “Obviously he’s still young and he has to learn how to run the bases and do all those sorts of things, but he’s really fast.”

So, who would win a race?

“I don’t know,” Mateo replied, expressionless. “We’d have to try to see.”

A stone cold sprinting killer.

That leaves one final question, of course. Would Mateo be willing to find out?

“For sure,” he said in English. “Why not?”

Well, there’s the whole hamstring thing. But it’s an intriguing idea that teammates apparently would rally around.

On another subject of equal unimportance in the grand baseball scheme but still fun, players aren’t sure what’s replacing the homer hose as this year’s dugout celebration.

It isn’t 100 percent official that the hose is history, but that’s the assumption based on past changes. The championship belt and home run chains are stored away and the hose is unveiled. The water works – it led to the splash zone, after all – but it’s so 2023.

One player said, “We’ll probably switch.” Another one pointed out that the hose was “organic,” something that just happened and was so darn perfect, and he doesn’t know how to match or top it. Or how it will even happen.

Another player said, “I would assume it’s going to be something new.”

“But,” he added, “if they break out the hose, I’ll drink from it.”

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