SARASOTA, Fla. - Injuries forced the Orioles to redesign their bullpen before Opening Day, burning parts of the bridge to their closer. They swerved at the last minute while composing their rotation, moving away from their top pitching prospect. They resisted the temptation to carry a non-roster left-handed bat in a reserve role.
The final product is almost complete barring a last-minute change prior to rosters being set by noon. No Grayson Rodriguez or DL Hall, the top two pitching prospects who report to Triple-A Norfolk. No Dillon Tate or Mychal Givens, whose right forearm and left knee, respectively, landed them on the injured list.
Expected behind the plate in a reserve role is Anthony Bemboom, who lost his spot on the 40-man roster after signing a split-contract, watched the Orioles trade for James McCann, received an invitation to spring training and made his second straight Opening Day roster. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but pain in McCann’s left oblique, however mild, most likely has altered the team’s plans.
Oddsmakers and assorted experts view the Orioles as a fourth- or fifth-place team, ahead or behind the Red Sox. MLB.com’s panel of “experts” excludes them from the playoff picture. PECOTA , which never seems to calculate a successful season for them, has the win ceiling at 74. ZiPS is only a tad more optimistic with 80. Online site SportsBetting.ag sets the win total at 77 for over-under wagers.
(BetOnline.ag has Brandon Hyde 9/1 to be the first manager fired. Don’t waste your money. That isn't happening.)
Playoff aspirations inside the organization held steady as camp broke, and that’s all they cared about. Outside noise was muted last summer and it can’t break through the barriers in 2023.
“We’re right in the thick of things,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said Monday during his last spring training media scrum. “We don’t have it easy and we’re still young and some of these guys are going to make steps forward, some of them are going to regress. But I think it’s a really talented team. I think we’re starting off with a solid rotation and … that’s a pretty exciting group kind of backing them up in Triple-A. The bullpen’s a little banged up right now. Hopefully, some of these guys that are going to get a shot at covering for Tate and Givens will step up and show us something like some of the guys did last year. And then, the positional group is really strong I think beyond one to nine. I think we’ve got great options at every position and it’s a really good lineup, so it’s going to be a really entertaining, exciting season.
“I think that we’re going to be scraping and clawing the whole way and my goal is that we get to the trade deadline and we’re in it and we’re looking to add to this group for the first time since I’ve been here. We’ve got to go out and play the games now, but I thought the coaching staff did a great job keeping almost everyone healthy. We’re going up there with all our starting position players healthy and our five starting pitchers healthy, and you can’t ask for more than that at the end of camp.”
Even if some players regress, as Elias said, he doesn’t think the team as a whole will do so. And that’s where it can buck the odds and kick down the door to the playoffs.
“I think they’re young and they’re talented,” he said. “I think we have depth, we have different people we can go to if some people aren’t working out or they’re hurt. We’ve got flexibility to do that. And I think it could be hard for projection systems to capture that.
“That said, I am not ignorant to them. We have our own that we look at internally, and we like this team, we like our chances. We’ll see how it goes. I feel very firmly that we’re on an excellent trajectory here, that this group is going to help us keep taking a step forward, and that we’re going to have a great season and it’s going to be a second in a row exciting season of Orioles baseball. And I’m really proud of this group that they’ve kind of gotten us over that hump and that we’re talking like this right now. But we’ve got to go beat the Red Sox, the Blue Jays, the Rays and the Yankees, and we’re respectful of what they bring to the table. That’s for sure.”
A perk of covering spring training for most or all of the six-week period is getting a sense of what players think about the team and its chances. Words are spoken on the record. They’re also uttered in private conversations and don’t always match what’s offered for public consumption.
What was stored in my recorder and scribbled on my notepad parroted what I heard in casual chats. The Orioles truly believe that they’re improving on a 2022 season that introduced them as wild card contenders. And they couldn’t wait to get out of Florida and begin proving it.
Opening day starter Kyle Gibson
“I think everybody, once you get to the last week, you kind of start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and you start to see those meaningful games coming. I think Opening Day adds a little bit of excitement for me. It will only be the second time I get to put a uniform on, so that’s exciting. Being in Fenway, one of my favorite parks, that’s exciting.
“I think as I look around the locker room, and I was talking to a couple people in the dugout, the team that we have and how it’s developing, I’m just excited to see these guys play. I’m excited to see how other teams approach them because there’s not many places in the lineup where there’s letup. We’ve got so much depth. I’m just excited to see what they do day to day because I think this is a team that’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be a team that does parts of the game that are really fun to watch, whether it’s steal bases, play good defense. We’ve got a team that’s going to do a lot of the things the right way and be fun to watch.”
“One hundred percent, 100 percent. I don’t know if there’s anybody in here that has a question about that.”
No. 3 starter Cole Irvin
“I think the word that I’ve said since I got traded and got here at camp is, I’m 'excited,' so we’ll keep the theme there. It’s going to be a lot of fun once these games start mattering. I’m anxious to get on the bird and get to Boston and have Opening Day right around the corner. There’s no better feeling just to get there and start these games. It’s going to be a fun year for us.
“This camp has really shown just the character of the guys and how we’re all going to prepare together and go to battle together.”
“Yeah. We’ve got the makeup, we’ve got talent, but it’s what matters on the field. We have to take care of the things we’ve practiced all spring, we have to take care of the things that we do as pitchers, we do as hitters, and be mindful of every pitch. That’s what makes championship teams. We take care of our things, take care of our little things, we’ll be fine at the end of the year. Long season, so it’s too hard to predict all that stuff, but we have to take care of what we have to, especially early in the season. We can see how those wins add up late in the year. Yeah, we’re ready.”
Center fielder Cedric Mullins
“It’s exciting. Coming back, things kind of slowing down for me after the excitement of the WBC, but feeling good body-wise, feeling healthy, feeling confident in the box. Just ready to get things going, minus the cold.”
“Yeah, I 100 percent believe so. What we were able to do last year was very special and we take that to heart. It’s something that for sure we can carry into the season. I’m just ready to see what these guys do, including myself. It’s going to be fun.”
Outfielder Anthony Santander
“Real excited. Really happy, man. Happy for this team. We’ve got a lot of young talent that’s really excited to start playing games and try to get what we really want, which his to get in the playoffs this year. I think there’s a lot of opportunity and I think that’s what I’m most excited about.”
“Oh yeah. Sure. The thing we showed last year wasn’t luck. Of course, we have to wait until the end of the season, but as professionals we look around and see this team looks really good. Our lineup looks really good from the start to the end. Defense, pitchers, relievers, it’s all good. We’ve got a chance to be in there. We go in there to compete every single game. We don’t always control the result but with energy and the heart that we have when we play is going to show good results.”
First baseman Ryan Mountcastle
“Super excited. Feel like the team is healthy and ready to go, and I think it’s going to be a great year and a lot of fun.”
“Yeah. Just watching these guys go about their business, and in the games, too. They’ve all been playing great. The pitching looks good, the hitting looks good, and it should be a fun year.”
Starter Tyler Wells
“Always excited to get the season going. There’s nothing like going out there on the first day of the season and kind of feeling that excitement that’s kind of buzzing around the stadium. It’s one of those days that you look forward to every single year.”
“Yeah. I think you’ve seen all camp just how much competition there is for every position, not just on the pitching side of things. I think we have a lot of great guys that are continually pushing each other, and that’s going to carry on in the season. I think for us to make playoffs, that’s not just a goal, but that’s the standard.”
Reliever Bryan Baker
“Definitely very eager. I’ve been ready for about two weeks now to kind of get out of here and get going to some more meaningful games, for sure. I think everybody’s pretty excited. I’m definitely optimistic looking ahead and really excited to compete with these guys. It feels like you’re separated a little bit during spring with everybody kind of split up and taking days off and that kind of thing, so having everybody together and getting back to the way we finished last year is going to be fun.”
“Yeah. I think depth-wise it’s night and day. Just the talent in this room. I think with the belief in ourselves and the talent combined, we can do some good things, for sure.”
Outfielder Kyle Stowers
“I think spring training is pretty funny because it feels almost timeless for the first five weeks of it, six weeks of it, and then all of a sudden it’s like, ‘We’re leaving in four days.’ A ton of anticipation to get it going. I think everyone’s worked really hard, and so I think everyone’s ready to kind of see what happens with the season, and ready to make our mark on the year.”
“Yeah. I believe we all have a lot of confidence in this group here. Everyone works really hard. There’s a ton of talent, a lot of competition, a lot of competitiveness, and I think that will pay off for us as the year goes on.”
Infielder Terrin Vavra
“It’s an exciting time of the year here. We’ve been here working hard, and excited to be able to put the hard work to the test in the regular season and to go after it.”
“No doubt, no doubt. I think last year, just being able to go and compete against some of those big boppers and those good arms that are in our division, but also throughout the league, to be able to go in and beat up on some of them. We definitely don’t feel invincible. We know that it’s going to be a grind and we’re going to have to work hard and continue to get better, but I think as far as having that experience is good going into this year.”
By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/