SARASOTA, Fla. - We’ve reached the penultimate day of spring training, with the Orioles breaking camp following Monday afternoon’s game against the Mets at Ed Smith Stadium. Boxes already have been loaded on the truck for delivery at Camden Yards. Player cars already have been removed from the premises via carrier trailers.
(Carrier pigeons would have taken too long, PETA would have objected and it just wasn’t worth the aggravation.)
The Orioles were tweaked again in Florida with today’s split-squad games. The timing isn’t ideal, to say the least, but everybody hurts sometimes.
Paul Fry will be used as an opener this afternoon against the Phillies in Clearwater, but most of the local media is staying back in Sarasota for Andrew Cashner’s outing against the Pirates. Can’t be in two places at the same time.
The Orioles used Evan Phillips as an opener on Sept. 17, though former manager Buck Showalter avoided the term. Phillips worked the first two innings and Sean Gilmartin covered the next 4 2/3.
“Young pitching staffs usually get hurt by the middle of the order,” said pitching coach Doug Brocail. “For me, when I look at an opener, it’s to eliminate my starter having to face three times through and face the meaty order early in the ballgame. It plays. It’s played well for some teams. It’s not played well for others. But the concept is, can I take my younger guys on the staff who struggle with the meaty order and maybe not have them face the meaty order one extra time?”
Miguel Castro would be an intriguing choice as an opener with his upper-90s fastball and a slider that gained admirers in camp. The old regime tried to convert him to a traditional starter last spring and the experiment failed.
An inning or two to begin a game? It just might work if the spring version of Castro carries into the regular season. But you need someone to follow who can cover a substantial portion of the game.
Maybe Fry is an option as an opener if the Orioles go that route, but manager Brandon Hyde warned against reading too much into today’s assignment.
“That’s not like we’re experimenting with an opener,” he said. “That’s more of we have two games and Cashner is throwing the other one and we have some guys who are going to get some innings in both places.”
Fry doesn’t expect to make drastic alterations to his pregame routine.
“I’ll probably try to keep it like a reliever,” he said. “I’m only going a couple of innings, so we’ll go from there.”
Fry made 35 appearances last season as a rookie, all coming out of the bullpen. He’s totaled 10 starts among his 211 games in the minors, including one last summer with Triple-A Norfolk. He had three starts with the Tides in 2017.
Spring training is a time for experimentation. With the idea of using an opener still on the table, it makes sense to run Fry out there in the first inning and perhaps the second.
Guess it’s OK to read a little into it.
The decision came relatively late, with Gabriel Ynoa listed as the starter until Hyde revealed the switch to the media Friday afternoon in Dunedin.
(With Alex Cobb’s groin strain and other uncertainties in the rotation, perhaps the Orioles should include three openers in the starting five.)
Fry won’t be utilized in a specialist role out of the bullpen because of his reverse splits. Left-handers hit .264/.381/.321 against him last year and right-handers hit .218/.292/.264
The Rays and Athletics achieved success using an opener last season, and Hyde and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias are intrigued by the idea. It may take hold out of necessity.
“I was surprised by it, basically, just the mindset those (teams) had and the strategic edge it gives teams,” Fry said. “I’m here if they want to do it and I’m sure other guys are, too.”