To live in the moment is only a part-time endeavor for Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. His baseball world isn’t that narrow.
Earning a spot in the playoffs and winning the division are spinning him in every direction. Much of it willingly.
The games still mattered to Hyde after the Orioles clinched the American League East for the first time since 2014. Three remained on the regular season schedule. Don’t lose focus. Don’t give away anything.
Permission felt granted to actually think about and talk playoffs. To consider how the roster would be constructed depending on the opposing team. How to set up the rotation. Which players to rest.
And then, there’s the past, which requires a strong stomach. Maybe one hand covering his eyes, fingers separated if brave enough to peek.
To Hyde’s credit, he gets sentimental over those 100-plus loss teams. It wasn’t all bad if able to look past the records. And he appreciated how players reached out to him as the champagne dried.
“I got a lot of texts from some of those guys, and so that was cool to see that they were watching and pulling for us,” he said. “We weren’t very good those years, but I have really good memories of a lot of those guys. Freddy Galvis and José Iglesias, guys like that, were texting me. Some of the guys from the ’19 team. Nice to know that people were pulling for us, and even though there were some tough years, I’ve still created some great relationships with some of those players and have a lot of good memories.”
The postseason is the present beginning today.
The Orioles are meeting to mull the roster possibilities, able to narrow them after learning that they’ll play the Rays or Rangers in the Division Series that starts Saturday afternoon at Camden Yards. Can’t be a nighttime event with the Billy Joel/Stevie Nicks concert at M&T Bank Stadium.
Asked if he had a preference between the two teams in the wild card round, Hyde said “nope” and waited for the next question. Better to get his opinion on Joel or Nicks.
Little has been revealed so far about the roster, partly due to the uncertainty over the opponent, but also because there’s no benefit to saying too much early in the week.
“We started the discussions and we have quite a bit of time,” Hyde said, adding that most of his focus was getting out of yesterday’s game totally healthy.
“To walk out of here like we walked in,” he said.
The bye offers much-needed rest, though yesterday’s game also served a purpose, with Hyde treating it more like spring training. The media was waiting to rush out of the press box and interview the starting pitcher outside the baseball operations building. Where were the palm trees?
Adapting to October life includes handling the bye. A reward with thorns.
A team can have too much of a good thing.
“I don’t know about five days (rest). I definitely would like a few,” Hyde said.
“I think our guys could really use it, just from what September looked like on our calendar and our schedule and how much we pushed. And the innings with our starters and our bullpen guys being on the high side just because of just not much track record. I think getting a few days off would be nice. Five’s probably a little much but that’s the way it is now. Same boat for everybody.”
Rosters go back down to 26 players, and the Orioles could do a 13/13 split or carry an extra position player. They seem to know the equation. It’s just the names that might be adjusted.
“With the shorter series, the five-game series with the off-day, it changes some things a little bit,” Hyde said.
Kyle Bradish is expected to be the Game 1 starter, but Hyde didn’t bite when asked about it.
“You guys are trying to get it really out of me of who the roster is going to be,” he said, smiling. “You know what it’s going to be? I’m not telling you. We’ll let you know.”
A taxi squad is allowed with no limits. Hyde said the Orioles probably would take “a few extra pitchers” and maybe a third catcher, who could be Anthony Bemboom.
That’s my speculation on Bemboom. The Orioles aren’t showing that card, either.
“I’m not telling you who it’s going to be,” Hyde said, having fun with the media again before returning to the clubhouse.
Hyde was on the Cubs’ coaching staff when they won the 2016 World Series, but this is his first managerial experience in the postseason. He has plenty of resources to offer advice, including former manager Joe Maddon, who remains a close friend.
“Kind of ask around a little bit, kind of see what people did,” Hyde said. “Some of the people might be playing, so they might not be giving me the full dope.”
What would they say?
“You take five days off and then you go,” he quipped.
Hyde didn’t admit before the game to a rooting interest in his first-round opponent. Of course not. Who needs that bulletin board material?
And there are no easy marks in the postseason. You want a free ride, stick out your thumb on the side of the road.
(Actually, don’t do that, it’s dangerous.)
“I’m just looking forward to seeing who we’re going to play,” Hyde said. “I feel like every team is really good and every team has their strengths. They’re all going to be really hard teams to play, Tampa included, as we saw this year.
“To get this far and to win as many games as these teams have done, the lineups that they put out there. We’re going to face really good pitching, also, whoever we play. So, it’s going to be a real challenge.”
The Orioles are champing at the bit to get started. One gate closed with yesterday’s 6-1 loss. They’re eager to bust out of the next one.
Down the stretch they come.
“It feels great,” said outfielder Anthony Santander. “As players, that’s what we are looking for when we go to spring training. We got this opportunity this year, and we’re excited.”