Players arranged flights home, hopped in their cars or weighed their options.
Reliever Keegan Akin normally drives straight through to Michigan, but didn’t know if he’d need to stop somewhere overnight with the Orioles playing a doubleheader on Wednesday. Center fielder Cedric Mullins was heading down to Georgia, with planned visits along the way as if checking them off his list.
Infielder Tyler Nevin needed to repack and get back into baseball mode this week. One season was over, but he committed for the first time to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
Nevin wanted to get more at-bats and try to gain an edge before spring training, hoping that the Orioles give him another shot at making the roster while infield prospects keep infiltrating it.
An uneven season for Nevin, with stops in the minors and stretches on the major league bench, left him with a .197 average and .560 OPS in 58 games and 184 plate appearance in his second full season in the organization.
“It’s been a good experience,” he said last week. “I think I’ve learned a lot about myself this year, stuff to work on going into next year. Nothing too specific. Just more, learning from the older guys here and what they’ve really brought to this team this year, and I think it’s going to be a great foundation going forward.”
Nevin said he already cleaned up “some of those things” at the plate after the Orioles optioned him for the last time on Aug. 31, 10 days after his most recent game and 11 after his final at-bat.
“I was playing more every day and I could try to work on a few things,” he said. “It’s just overall consistency. Being able to have a repeatable move more often is crucial up here. Just with the limited mistakes that are given, you’ve really got to take advantage of them. You don’t get away with as much.
“I’m excited to work out that and bring that into next spring training.”
Staying in a lineup was how Nevin found it easier to accept, if not embrace, his return to Norfolk. The Orioles didn’t recall him again until Sept. 28 after placing infielder Ramón Urías on the 10-day injured list with a sprained right knee.
Nevin had 191 plate appearances with the Tides and batted .291/.382/.479 with eight doubles, a triple and seven home runs spread over 44 games. He finished September with two doubles, four home runs, 15 RBIs, 11 walks and a .353 on-base percentage in 20 games.
“I couldn’t throw a pity party. That wouldn’t have done anybody any good,” he said.
“While I was up here I was working on some things, you don’t get the opportunities in games to really test them out. It’s hard. So, next year I hope I put myself in a position where that won’t be the case and I can be a productive member of this team.”
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias won the 2020 Mychal Givens trade with the Rockies, however Nevin’s career proceeds. Givens has been on three other teams since the deadline deal. Nevin, infielder/outfielder Terrin Vavra and minor league outfielder Mishael Deson came to the Orioles.
Vavra made his major league debut this summer, ahead of Gunnar Henderson, baseball’s No. 1 prospect. Henderson started at third base in 18 games, 12 more than shortstop because Jorge Mateo was a fixture. If Mateo is back, Henderson could hunker down at third again while waiting for Jordan Westburg’s arrival – which might happen on opening day since he’ll be in major league camp and is the organization’s minor league Player of the Year. Or if shortstop Joey Ortiz gets the call.
Nevin, 25, is a corner infielder and outfielder who must hit his way onto the roster.
He sees what’s happening around him, even when it isn’t visible in the clubhouse.
“This organization is loaded with talent and this league is loaded with talent, so I think you’ve always got to focus on yourself first and foremost to get better, and you can’t be looking at who else is on the roster,” Nevin said.
“I played with these guys for a couple years now and it’s a great group, and I’m so happy for all the kids who are coming through this system. I’ve seen Gunnar since I got traded, at the alt site, and everybody knew what he had in store, and to see what kind of person he is. Same with Westburg and Ortiz and those guys that everybody hasn’t really gotten to see them yet. It’s just a great wave of players.
“It’s my job to try to be a part of that group. It’s a group I want to be with, so I’m going to do everything I can to.”