Orioles prospects primed for Spring Breakout game, doing a number on Holliday

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Orioles are venturing into a unique part of the exhibition schedule today. Not a split-squad, which has been done twice already and is happening again Sunday and March 23. The first Spring Breakout game will be played tonight in Bradenton as the back end of a doubleheader against the Pirates.

Is it over-hyped. Oh God, yes. And the matchup between Jackson Holliday and Paul Skenes, the last two first-overall draft picks, already played out in Sarasota. We’ve seen it, much to the chagrin, I’m sure, of Major League Baseball.

Holliday grounded out on the second pitch thrown by Skenes, and the right-hander was done after the first inning. You blinked at your own risk.

Skenes is starting again tonight in this battle of top prospects, and Holliday probably is leading off again and expecting to play five innings. They probably will square off at least twice.

“I think any time you get to face somebody, it gives you a better idea of the second time you get to face them. So I’m excited about that,” Holliday said this week on a conference call. “It was awesome. It was a really cool experience to have so many No. 1 picks on the field. I don’t think that happens too often. It’s a really talented group down here in the Sarasota and Bradenton area, and it was a lot of fun.”

“The Orioles have a really good lineup,” Skenes said, “and I’m excited to see how our farm system stacks up against them.”

The Orioles are starting left-hander Cade Povich, the organization’s No. 10 prospect in the latest MLB Pipeline rankings who was reassigned to minor league camp yesterday after allowing one earned run (two total) this spring in seven innings.

“I think it being the first one, and one and two as far as farm systems go, it’s definitely an honor being asked. And then being able to be a starting pitcher for that game,” Povich said.

“At the same time, it’s still spring training, so still trying to work on some things before the season. Continue building up pitches and innings.”

Skenes won’t be on the Opening Day roster after leading LSU to the 2023 national championship, but he’s the real deal, with a fastball clocked at 102 mph against the Orioles. Povich won’t have to hit but he’s the opposing pitcher. The spotlight touches him, too.

“It will be cool,” Povich said. “Being from Omaha, I used to go to the college World Series all the time, and I still watch it from growing up. Obviously, seeing what he did last year and being the No. 1 overall pick, it’s going to be really cool going up against him.”

“It’ll be fun, interesting for sure,” said second baseman Connor Norby. “Skenes is throwing, I think, so that will be fun. Pirates have a lot of guys like us. I don’t know who they’re throwing out there, but I like our team, whoever we field out there, more than anybody. There’s a lot of hidden names in this org, which wouldn’t be hidden in other orgs, and they’re going to get to go play. And it’ll be cool to see and play with those guy that I played with maybe in High A or Double-A even.

“Even the younger guys like (Enrique) Bradfield and (Jud) Fabian, a couple of those guys. Been talking to them a lot, so it’ll be cool.”

The prospects can be seen on MLB Network beginning at 7 p.m.

“I think it’s good for them, good for the game,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “To be on national TV is kind of a showcase for them and get them used to maybe a little bit of media stuff and extra things you have to deal with when you get to the big leagues.

“I think it’s going to be a good experience for them.”

Double-A Bowie manager Roberto Mercado will manage the Orioles, with the Baysox pitching coach Austin Meine and hitting coach Josh Bunselmeyer also on the staff.

Additional coaches are Felipe Rojas Alou Jr. (High-A Aberdeen manager), Ryan Goll (Aberdeen development coach), Elbis Morel (Dominican Summer League manager) and Miguel Jabalera (DSL fundamentals coach).

Holliday is wearing No. 87 in camp. He didn’t request it, and it doesn’t hold special meaning. He’s a middle infielder with a tight end’s digits.

Holliday gladly will relinquish it after he reaches the majors, whether that’s Opening Day or later. But what’s the alternative?

The kid knows his Orioles history or is asking the right people, because he understands that No. 7 is unofficially retired for Cal Ripken Sr., architect of the Oriole Way and last worn by son Billy in 1988.

Holliday wore No. 18 with Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, but Hyde owns it with the Orioles.

I speculated last month that Holliday could take 12, which belonged to Adam Frazier before he signed with the Royals. Holliday wore it during the Perfect Game National Showcase in 2021.

I also recommended No. 1, last worn by Richie Martin in 2022. Holliday looks like a one. He’s the No. 1 prospect in baseball and a first-overall pick, which is 1/1.

Holliday would consider it, but he also is thinking about No. 15, which his father, Matt, wore with the Cardinals because Albert Pujols had No. 5.

Jack Flaherty wore 15 after the Orioles acquired him last summer from the Cardinals. Before Flaherty was catcher Chance Sisco, infielders Johnny Giavotella and Paul Janish, and catcher Craig Tatum.

It isn’t retired.

Matt Wieters had a shot, but his career didn’t quite get him there.

Anyway, the current Holliday number favorites are 1 and 15, for anyone mulling a jersey purchase.


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