Hyde: “I know our players are unbelievably energized”

The curiosity over manager Brandon Hyde’s first spring training with the Orioles is building as the days melt away in the winter cold.

How much will it resemble or differ from past years under former manager Buck Showalter? The instruction, hours spent on the field, player availability to the media. All of the important stuff.

Hyde explained at FanFest why Orioles camp won’t duplicate how the Cubs operated in Mesa, Ariz., while he served as bench coach. He also pinpointed certain areas that must be upgraded.

Hyde-Presser-Grin-sidebar.jpg“I think you handle springs differently,” he said. “In Chicago, we played so deep into the year for a few years that we were very, very patient and we had more of a veteran team that we believed in rest and we thought our guys needed some days off and recoup time from playing almost into November every year. But in this situation it’s a little different. This is more of a, they didn’t play in the postseason, they had a longer offseason.

“I know our shortcomings from last year. We’re going to dive into really the fundamentals. I believe in simple, I believe in being the best baserunning team in the league, I believe in catching the baseball. So a lot of the defense, baserunning component, that’s something that we’re really going to focus on.”

It’s necessary to stress again that Showalter and his coaches felt the exact same way. Anyone visiting camp and watching the workouts on the back fields could attest to this, with all of the stations and emphasis on the same points raised by Hyde.

There were numerous fielding and baserunning drills, there was a bunting station, but you need the horses. Square pegs don’t fit into round holes and certain infielders didn’t fit at certain positions. A first baseman is playing left field and trying his hardest to improve at it. The lack of speed limited opportunities to swipe bags.

The Orioles had to dance with who brought them. Only the slow songs.

(Of course, I’ll still get pushback from people who think high error totals and poor defensive metrics are signs that Showalter didn’t care and the club never worked on those areas, which is wrong and really annoying.)

Jobs will be won in camp. It’s important for the young players to understand that spring training matters, that they’re not in Sarasota only to work out and wait for their minor league assignments.

“Competing matters to me,” Hyde said. “Watching them compete, watching how they prepare. It’s a clean slate with me. I came from a pretty good spot. In spring training, maybe there was a spot or two open when camp started. This is different, this is more how it was in ‘12, ‘13, ‘14, where there were a lot of young, interesting guys that we can’t wait to start developing. And whether they’re ready to make the big league team or not, I can’t tell you right now, but I think it’s a great situation for a lot of guys.

“There’s going to be, obviously, innings on the mound, and there’s ABs to be had. To have the opportunity to win a job, I think, as a player, that’s what you want.”

“It’s a good time to be a young guy in Baltimore,” said outfielder Austin Hays, who spent last summer at Double-A Bowie or on the disabled list with shoulder and ankle injuries. “It seems like that’s the memo that everybody’s getting. We’re going to come in, everybody’s going to get opportunities. It’s just, can you take advantage of them?

“Dealing with the stuff I dealt with last year, just getting healthy and coming in and trying to take advantage of those opportunities this year.”

Hyde senses that players and fans are on board with the rebuild. It’s been a fairly easy sell, though he’ll find out later how quickly the fan base becomes restless and demands results. Patience and understanding in sports have a shelf life.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with positive comments and people have been really, really nice,” Hyde said. “I just want to dive into us being positive and feel good about the direction our team is going. I feel like that’s kind of been the message and the feeling.

“I know our players are unbelievably energized. You get that sense on the phone. There’s a sense of, we really want to be good. Whatever that timeline is, I can’t tell you, but I think we’ve taken really good steps so far. And I want to feel like there’s a good feel from the fans, but I know there’s a good feeling from our players.”

“It’s a fresh start,” said outfielder DJ Stewart, who made his major league debut in September and posted an .890 OPS in 17 games. “Don’t really know what to expect. We really haven’t gotten to meet (the coaches) that much, but just talking to them the little bit that we’ve been here, seems like a very good vibe. Everyone’s positive. They seem to want to have fun and obviously it’s rebuilding, but we’re going to have fun doing it.

“I talked to some of the guys who were in minicamp just to see how they felt about everything, and it was a very positive vibe from them. And then meeting them ourselves, it’s someone you can just sit there and have a conversation with. Obviously, we all have to do our job, but it’s very positive.”

Trey Mancini appreciated the enthusiasm at FanFest, though the announced crowd of 8,000 was lower than those of past winters.

“You see everybody out there today, it’s just as many people, I feel like, that always come here, and everybody’s really excited,” he said. “We’re going to come out every day and play hard and not give in, and if we do that I think we can exceed expectations.

“It’s obviously different. It’s been the same core group here since 2012 to 2018. So yeah, it’s a totally different feel, but it’s actually really exciting, too. Just to have a lot of young guys here. It’s going to be a really energetic team and I’m really, really excited to get started.”

Veteran Mark Trumbo was asked why players are so enthusiastic after the Orioles lost a franchise-record 115 games.

“Putting last year to bed. And not trying to wonder why something’s not working up to the level that it should on paper, I guess,” he replied.

“I mean, you get kind of a new start. The expectations are going to be far more modest than maybe they were last year, and I think that’s what you have to do to kind of get some momentum and confidence going for younger guys as opposed to, ‘Why aren’t you producing?’ Give them a little bit of time to work their way in and start winning a few games. I don’t know how long the timeline is, but hopefully in a few years this team is at the top of the leader board.”

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