SARASOTA, Fla. – Some of them may not have produced big numbers for the Orioles on the field last year, but veteran players like Rougned Odor, Robinson Chirinos and Jordan Lyles all were big for the Orioles young group of players. They encouraged them, they cheered them and at times led them and helped show them how to win.
Their veteran presence – something we hear a lot about in this sport – made a big difference for the 2022 Orioles.
Now a new group of veterans are on the team. They have heard about the group that was here last year and want to pick up the ball where they left off.
Right-handed starter Kyle Gibson, 35, a vet of 10 MLB seasons and 261 career starts, said the O’s young clubhouse has impressed him this spring. He is ready to lead and help where he can, but he also sees a young core group that collectively approaches the game in a very professional manner.
“You know what for having such a young team it just seems like a lot of guys understand the process of getting their work done and the process of being focused during the workouts and getting your reps,” he told me recently at Ed Smith Stadium. “Sometimes you have to do more work as young team because of simple mistakes or mental mistakes that are made a lot. This team doesn’t do that. It’s quick work and in and out because we are getting the job done and are doing it right.
“I just think the young guys have such good heads on their shoulders it has a really good chance of helping them reach their ceiling and reach their potential a lot faster.”
New second baseman Adam Frazier, 31, a seven-year MLB vet, said he heard about the great leadership the Orioles had last year. He hopes these new vets do the same for the club.
“Most of us have been places where we’ve had success and know what it takes to win a big league ballgame and that helps. For me being in Seattle last year, it was the same kind of deal. Bunch of younger guys I got to take under my wing and had a lot of fun with that. Looking forward to the next few months with these guys and being able to do the same.”
Just how can Frazier help in that regard?
“Sometimes it’s just about taking guys out to eat and learning about them. See what are their interests off the field, learn about their interests and their families. Just get to know them. That is how those relationships are built,” he said.
“That trust is built over time. If they trust you and want to come to you for batting tips or infield help, they will. Or the game in general. And that progresses. There is a lot there and it is enjoyable for myself.”
Frazier said helping younger teammates allows him to pay it forward in a respect. He said coming up in the Pittsburgh organization players like David Freese, Sean Rodríguez, Francisco Cervelli, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer helped encourage him and showed him some of the big league ropes.
“The amount of experience with that group was immeasurable in my eyes. They were very much established. To be able to have those guys show me what it takes each day – how to work, the little things in the game – I give those guys a lot of credit from me.”
Gibson said the 2023 O’s vets want to be as helpful and impactful as the previous group was.
“Yeah, I think it’s important,” said Gibson. “You just don’t see many teams that win without a veteran presence. And you don’t see many teams that win without a young presence. You have to have a mix. Because when push comes to shove and adversity hits, the young guys are going to look to older guys who have been through it as to how to react.
“Back in Philly last year, our season was probably saved by a group of three or four young guys that came up and played well at the right time. Even though we had all the veterans in the world that made All-Star games and had a lot of accolades, the season was probably saved by the young guys.
“So, some of these vets here like Frazier and (Cedric) Mullins and others, play a huge role. But it’s also about trying to be a sounding board for these young guys and stay out of their way. Let them be the great players that they all are. It’s just finding their footing in the big leagues. And the vets, we want to provide our own value on the field. It’s not just about being here to be a good guy. We want to produce on the field as well," he said.
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