This, that and the other

The Orioles can’t be assured of anything next season based on their success in 2022. It might be a launching pad. It might raise hopes and expectations that can’t be met.

If momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, it can’t be relied on to sustain through the winter and spring. The slate is clean for everybody.

Though it’s still early, with the last game played only a month ago, the Orioles are anticipating a return to absolute normalcy.

The pandemic shut down spring training in 2020, chopped the schedule down to 60 games and destroyed the minor league season, and its influence remained in 2021. The expiration of the old collective bargaining agreement last December led to a prolonged shutdown, late start to a shortened spring training, and significant adjustments to the schedule and how earlier games were managed.

Everyone had the same challenges, but the field wasn’t level. Some teams were better equipped to handle the strife than others.

As the many obstacles that the Orioles cleared this season were recited to manager Brandon Hyde on Oct. 5, he said, “Been a lot of unusual things the last few years.”

“This year, with kind of a sprint spring training, less off-days during the season, too,” Hyde said. “There were a lot of things to overcome this year, and I thought our guys handled everything great.”

The Orioles will get used to the new scheduling plan in 2023, with fewer divisional games and having to face every team, and the absences in spring training caused by the World Baseball Classic. A walk in the park compared to everything that’s happened.

The Winter Meetings and Rule 5 draft return. The Orioles can hold minicamps again in January. Pitchers and catchers can report to spring training without any restrictions. And the front office can rework the roster as it chooses, with no delays in negotiations.

Players on the 40-man roster won’t be isolated from the team. Just like the good ol’ days.

Opinions vary on where the Orioles must improve the most to take the next step. To get out of fourth place and at least snatch a wild card spot.

The two most popular targets are the middle of the lineup and the top of the rotation.

“I think offensively. We need to improve offensively, and I think we will,” Hyde said.

“Last year, I would have said ‘pitching,’ and we did that. Pitching and defense. We made huge strides on the mound and defensively. For me, that’s why we won 80-plus games. But offensively we need a little more consistency, better at-bats throughout the order on a nightly basis in order to compete.”

And meet the rising expectations.

It’s going to be different. Probably the last of the 61-win projections for a while.

“Good,” Hyde said with a laugh.

“That was not fun to look at or have people tell you. I’m glad. Bring on the expectations. I love the fact that people are going to be talking about us, and rightfully so.”

* Ramón Urías doesn’t know whether he’ll break camp next spring as the starting third baseman, shortstop or second baseman. He doesn’t know if he’ll be a starter anywhere or settle into a utility role.

A Gold Glove is a nice honor, but he can’t always bring job security or clarity in the same month that it’s won.

One change that’s definitely coming is the ban on the infield shift. Teams must have two players on each side.

Urías was asked yesterday during a video call how the new rule will impact his defense and whether it will highlight his athleticism.

“I think it’s going to make a real change, but more with the middle infielders,” he replied. “The second baseman I think is going to be a position that’s going to have more impact in the game, because of all those lefties that we shift in the past. But I don’t know. Obviously, I don’t know how it’s going to look and how we’re going to treat that. We’ll just see next year.”

Jorge Mateo’s range could be an asset at second, where he didn’t play a single inning in 2022.

* The Arizona Fall League moved its Fall Stars Game to 4 p.m. Sunday to avoid a potential conflict with Game 7 of the World Series.

The AFL game can be viewed on MLB Network if the World Series is over by Saturday. Otherwise, it will stream exclusively on

Rosters will be revealed later today.

Outfielder Heston Kjerstad, the second-overall selection by the Orioles in the 2020 draft, will participate in Saturday night’s Home Run Derby.

Kjerstad began yesterday in a four-way tie for first with five home runs for Scottsdale, and his 30 hits and eight doubles ranked first in the league. His 17 RBIs ranked second, his .353 average was fourth and his 1.009 OPS was sixth.

MLBPipeline's Jim Callis on Heston Kjerstad's play...
Urías reacts to first Gold Glove and updates knee ...

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