Hyde on changes in Orioles camp, roles and more (updated)

SARASOTA, Fla. - In his first spring training as a major league manager, Brandon Hyde is bringing some of his previous tactics while running camps to the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota.

Music blared as the Orioles came onto the field for early stretching and warm-ups, the play list including two Pearl Jam songs, and the tunes switched to country later in the morning. The row of mounds on one of the back field areas has been expanded from four to six, allowing for more simultaneous throwing sessions. The entire staffs from the Triple-A and Double-A teams are working as instructors.

Another new twist involved position players who reported early taking batting practice on the stadium field instead of getting their swings on the Camden Yards replica field.

“It’s not new to me, to be honest with you,” Hyde said. “This is stuff that we’ve done for 13 or 14 years. I’m just trying to create a great environment that I’ve been a part of for years, whether that’s music or more mounds or being a little lighter in certain situations.

“The bottom line is I want guys to be pros when they’re out here. Get their work done. I’m really big on quality of work. I want to have a good atmosphere while they’re working. When you’ve been a minor league coach and been on Field 76 in the back and it’s 97 degrees out and there’s no music, I know what that feels like, so that’s the opposite of what I want here. I want guys with a little pep in their step. Whether that’s music or whatever it is, I think that’s important to create that kind of atmosphere.

“The six mounds for me, that’s just being able to have waves of more guys and not being out here for 14 hours, right? To have more mounds and be able to rotate off that a little bit easier, a little bit more efficient. I’m used to a 10-pack, so when we saw there were very few mounds compared to what we’re used to, we suggested that they add a couple just to get more guys throwing at once to be able to not be on the field for so long.”

Hyde wants the managers and coaches from Norfolk and Bowie to stay in camp and get a feel for the new environment that’s slowly evolving.

“I managed in Double-A,” he said. “I knew what it was like to be in big league camp. That was a big deal. To be able to listen to the major league coaches talk, to be able to see what’s going out on the field, I want that as much as possible.

“We’re going to have our big league coaches go down to the minor leagues at times. We’re going to be having full conversations. They’re going to be talking about their philosophies with minor league coaches as we kind of grow this organization. There are going to be times when minor league coaches come up here. Just to sit and watch and see how we’re doing things.”

It’s a way in spring to reduce the distance between the Ed Smith Stadium complex and Twin Lakes Park.

“I’m used to one complex where there’s everybody, and so this is different for me,” Hyde said. “We’ve talked a lot about how we’re going to do that, how we want to get everybody on the same page. Or just to hear our major league coaches talk.”

Alex Cobb was among the 14 pitchers who threw today. He missed starts or came out early during two portions of the 2018 season because of blisters on his index and middle fingers.

“I think it’s one of those things that certain pitchers are prone to,” Hyde said. “I know he had problems with it a couple times last year and at the end of the year. I haven’t talked to him about what measures he’s using, but I know it’s a pretty common deal and guys use all different kinds of remedies to try to keep their fingers strong. I’m sure he’s doing the same thing.”

Hyde met yesterday with Nathan Karns, who missed the 2018 season with elbow soreness and underwent thoracic outlet surgery the previous summer.

“He feels awesome,” Hyde said. “Our goal is with him to break and to break healthy, so we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that happens. Whether that’s slow-playing him ... We’re going to be talking to him every single day and rely heavily on the medical guys to let us know where he’s at.”

Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias signed Karns with the idea of having the right-hander compete for a spot in the rotation, but he’s also a candidate for more of a swingman-type role depending on how the roster shakes out and his effectiveness.

“He’s gone back and forth in his career,” Hyde said. “I think with our openings with how we are right now as a club I can see him do either one. I think we’re going to kind of base that on where we are, where he is health-wise, what we think maybe he’ll benefit from.”

Mike Wright Jr., Jimmy Yacabonis and Miguel Castro also are pitchers in camp who have experience in the rotation and bullpen. Most recently, Wright and Castro have been used primarily as relievers and Yacabonis made the transition last year to starter.

Hyde must decide how they should prepare.

“I think a lot of guys, we’re going to stretch them out and then we’ll make a determination at some point, which we haven’t decided yet,” Hyde said. “A lot of things happen over the next six weeks. We’ll make a determination at some point here in the next month of, are we going to continue to stretch them out or maybe shift them into more of a bullpen role.

“We’re keeping our options open with everybody, and anybody who’s got a chance to start, we’re going to stretch them out.”

Yacabonis-Pitch-Orange-sidebar.jpgIt doesn’t matter to Yacabonis, who made seven starts last year among his 12 appearances with the Orioles and 21 starts with Norfolk.

“I just want to be on the squad,” he said.

“I’m not really sure yet. I’m think they want to stretch me out and see where it goes from there. I think they want to get eyes on me first to kind of see what they really think. But I haven’t heard anything yet specifically.

“I got down here Friday, so I met with them a little bit and I threw off a mound Saturday. It was just small talk. Nothing too big yet.”

The preparation for Yacabonis is relatively the same. A gradual increase in pitches that enables him to be used in any capacity.

“I usually get to like 30 or 40 pitches by the time I leave Philly in the offseason, and when I get down here, I got up to like 25 before they made me a starter,” he said. “They said they were just going to get my volume up and then go from there. I think if I just get my volume up in throws, I think I’ll be all right.”

Mychal Givens’ role also is uncertain. Though he’s staying in the bullpen, he could become the primary closer to stay in a set-up role.

“I’ll tell you what his role is right now is to pitch in high-leverage situations, whether that’s closing or whether that’s the seventh or whether that’s the eighth,” Hyde said. “Obviously, we’re in a good spot when Mychal comes in a game to pitch.

“We haven’t determined roles or anything like that. Mike’s a class act, has pitched in big games, in postseason games, and he’s got back end bullpen stuff. So he’s going to be a big part of shutting down an offense for us.”

Hyde hasn’t spoken to Givens about closing.

“I haven’t even talked about his role,” Hyde said. “We’ve had just great conversations, but we haven’t even talked about what I look for six weeks from now from him. I just want him to be healthy on the mound. I want to see the same stuff I saw today. I want him to be himself and be the guy, the lockdown guy, that he’s been the majority of his career.”

Hyde said whether he prefers one main closer or a committee is “totally personnel driven.” Brad Brach led the team last summer with 11 saves, followed by Givens (nine), Zack Britton (four), and Darren O’Day and Paul Fry (two each).

“If you have an elite closer, a Mariano Rivera or an Aroldis Chapman-type, then you want them pitching at the end of the game in an ideal world,” Hyde said. “But there are high-leverage situations that happen the last nine outs of the game, so you’re trying to line up your guys to pick parts of the lineup to attack their hitters the best way that you can.

“I think the last three outs are different. For whatever reason. I wasn’t a pitcher, so I don’t know exactly, but you hear a lot of them talk about it. For whatever reason it is, it can be different for guys, so that stuff comes into play, as well.”

The media obsession over roles seems a bit premature after only two days of workouts, the first abbreviated due to rain.

“We have no idea what our roster looks like,” Hyde said, “so to even talk about any type of role right now, I’m not even considering or thinking about it. I just want to get the right guys on the club and we’ll piece that together as we go into the season.

“It will probably be flowing throughout the season. I’m trying to win games and I’m not going to manage to a save statistic, per se. I’m going to manage to try to win the game, and whether that’s certain guys pitching the seventh, eighth, ninth inning, might change nightly. Depends on what our club looks like at that point.”

Cael Brockmeyer reported to camp this morning after the Orioles summoned him from the minor league side to replace Jesús Sucre, who’s in Venezuela trying to obtain his visa. Brockmeyer had played in the Cubs system and signed with the Orioles in late January.

“I was getting ready to drive up here for Sunday for the early minor league camp,” he said. “They called me Wednesday, said somebody had some visa problems and could I come up here. Absolutely.

“I had some history with Hyde with the Cubs and Tim Cossins. Hopefully, some good history and they know me well. They asked me to come and help out with these guys and I was eager to jump on the opportunity and get a chance to come here. Hopefully, I can take advantage of it.

“I had contacted the Orioles before they had hired them and talked to some of their front office guys before then, and once I found out they had been hired here, it was an extra surprise and extra special, so it definitely helped me decide to come here. Like I said, I had good history with them, liked them, enjoyed them a lot, think they’re good baseball guys, so I’m excited to go.”

This is Brockmeyer’s first major league camp. The circumstances don’t matter to him.

“I’m going to be here, put my head down and work hard,” he said, “and hopefully open some eyes and put myself in a good position.”

Update: Infielder Jack Reinheimer has cleared waivers and been assigned outright to Triple-A Norfolk. He has recevied an invitation to major league spring training.

Pitchers-and-Palm-Trees-sidebar.jpgOrioles pitchers take the field for a workout at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

Field-Stretch-Spring-sidebar.jpgEach spring training workout begins with stretching.

Spring-Catchers-sidebar.jpgCatchers take their positions to catch bullpen sessions during a spring training workout.

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