Spring training is over and the Orioles have moved into the next phase of their 2019 season.
The games are starting to count, even for teams that are focusing on the bigger rebuild picture.
The Orioles will visit the Naval Academy today - touring the grounds and facilities as guests of the baseball team and having lunch with 4,400 Midshipmen in King Hall - before holding their workout at Camden Yards and heading to New York.
Major League Baseball requires teams to take an entire day off, which makes Wednesday a date worth circling on the calendar.
MLB also demands that the Orioles open Thursday against the Yankees in the Bronx, with no regard whatsoever for the 115 losses that piled up last summer.
It’s time for Brandon Hyde to manage in the majors, and not on an interim basis. This, too, is for real.
“I’m obviously really excited,” he said. “This is just a practice run. Obviously, you can’t take too much into account with spring training because now it’s the real deal and now we’re going to face guys that are big league players for nine innings and good competition. I can’t wait for it to get started.
“I obviously have a lot of respect for that (Yankees) organization, and that’s a special place. To make your managerial debut there is pretty cool.”
Hyde won’t be making his first visit to the Bronx. The Cubs played the Yankees in April 2014 when Hyde was the first base coach.
“Snowed out. Doubleheader. Two-hit both games. Yeah,” he said.
The Cubs actually had three and six hits, but they were shut out in both games. You get the idea.
“It was absolutely fantastic,” Hyde said. “We were terrible, too, in ‘14. We got a doubleheader and we just got shut out. So that was my experience at Yankee Stadium.”
Meanwhile, I’ve come across a recurring question while sifting through my mentions on Twitter - besides the usual “how do you even have a job?” It’s born out of frustration from last season, more unflattering projections in 2019 and the succession of prospects who had excellent camps and still were optioned or reassigned.
“Give me one good reason why I should watch this team?”
I’m not putting a lot of thought into it because I have to save brain cells for a 162-game season after six weeks of spring training, but here are a few reasons:
* You’re a loyal fan who supports your team through thick and thin.
* You’ve been told and understand that a rebuild doesn’t happen overnight and requires patience.
* You can’t yell “blow it up and start over” and then complain about the rubble.
* It isn’t a set roster and players you wanted to see on opening day could arrive later.
* Camden Yards remains a gem and there are lots of cool promotions.
* The beer and sodas are cold.
* It’s baseball.
I mean, would you rather do yard work?
My Yard work is a pretty nice gig.
Many people wondered how the Orioles would treat a rebuild. Specifically, would they toss a bunch of prospects and other younger players into the major league pit and allow them to take their lumps while learning on the job, or would they keep this group in the minors as part of the development process while searching for placeholders?
We have our answer.
The Orioles will launch them when deemed ready.
Only nine players on the opening day roster last year made it again in 2019: Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, Richard Bleier, Mychal Givens, Mike Wright, Miguel Castro, Pedro Araujo, Chris Davis and Trey Mancini.
Eight new players are heading north in Pedro Severino, Jesús Sucre, Nate Karns, Richie Martin, Drew Jackson, Rio Ruiz, Hanser Alberto and Dwight Smith Jr. Severino and Smith weren’t in the organization when camp started. Sucre was marked absent due to work visa issues in Venezuela. Alberto was claimed off waivers by the Giants and reclaimed by the Orioles.
How many people guessed earlier this month that Alberto was going to make the team? How about Smith following the trade?
Liars, all of you.
Cedric Mullins isn’t new to the organization and he arrived in camp in a timely manner, so I’m shifting topics again.
If you do decide to watch this team, let me know if you notice anything different about Mullins in center field. Here’s a strong hint:
“We’re backing him up a little bit defensively a few steps,” Hyde said, “just to give him a little more range to cut off extra-base hits.”
You’re going to notice two new catchers. Sucre has made a fast impression after a slow trek from Venezuela to Colombia to the United States.
“I think he’s received the ball well,” said Cashner, the opening day starter with Alex Cobb on the injured list.
“Throws the ball real well. Great game-caller and I like the target.”
I’ll report back later from the workout, though there won’t be much that hasn’t already been written in Florida. It’s just going to be colder.