NEW YORK - Let’s get the nuts and bolts out of the way first before transitioning into the emotional.
Alex Cobb is making good progress in his recovery from a groin injury and remains in line to start the home opener April 4.
Hyde hasn’t told any of the pitchers of their potential assignments Saturday behind “opener” Nate Karns. He needs to find out how many relievers are used this afternoon.
“Hey, this is my first time doing anything like this.” Hyde said. “We’ll figure that as we go, but there will be a lot of thought put into it after today.”
The idea of making Karns an opener gained momentum about a week ago and discussions picked up after Cobb sustained his injury on Saturday.
“He’s started before, he’s coming off a couple injury-plagued years, and to be able to not have to rush him in the bullpen to get him in the game and be able to start with a normal routine was definitely a big factor,” Hyde said.
Many considerations factored into today’s lineup, which includes speed in the upper third with Cedric Mullins, Dwight Smith Jr. and Jonathan Villar, Chris Davis moved down to seventh and Trey Mancini serving as the designated hitter.
“There’s a lot of factors,” Hyde said. “Opposing pitcher, splitting up left-right, defense, a little bit of who’s on your bench and how you can navigate that with their bullpen later in the game. A lot of things go into it.”
Outfield defense is stressed today with Smith in left and Joey Rickard in right.
“No doubt,” Hyde said. “Like we talked about in spring training a lot, we’re going to try to put our best defensive club out there on the field, and I feel good about the team we have out there today.
“Can’t give up runs in this league, and you can’t give up extra outs. It’s something we put a high emphasis on in spring training and it’s going to be the same way during the season.”
Davis has hit in every spot in the order in his career and has made 167 starts batting seventh. He did it 18 times last season.
“I want Chris to get off to a good start, so I’m going to try to do everything I can to take pressure off him,” Hyde said. “I want to see him succeed as well as everybody else does. We’ve talked a lot with him about picking the right spots for him to play. (Masahiro) Tanaka is a good matchup for him, so he’s in there.
“That was just splitting up a left-right situation, but Chris is going to be a big part of our lineup.”
Hyde didn’t think a special meeting was necessary to lay out his lineup plan. Conversations with Davis happen on a regular basis.
“I’m really happy with how our relationship started and how it’s grown,” Hyde said. “I think especially this last week of camp, I thought he really started taking some good at-bats. Whole camp long he really bought into the culture of what we’re trying to create, and I give him a lot of credit. Coming off a really, really tough year, to how he approached spring training has been fantastic.”
Mancini was told yesterday that he’d serve as the designated hitter.
Some players abhor it. Mancini is an exception.
“I’ve always said before, I like DHing, I don’t mind it at all,” he said. “Some people prefer to play in the field and don’t like it too much, but it’s definitely something I embrace. It’s a little different mentally, just having a little bit of a game plan and routine throughout the day, but it’s definitely something I enjoy.”
Hyde can’t stick with one set lineup. The names, positions and slots in the order will change.
“Especially in our situation where we have some versatility,” he said. “We don’t have a ton of established major league players, right? We don’t have a ton of track records. So I think mix-and-matching is going to be how we go about it on most nights.”
Hyde handled all of his pregame responsibilities, including multiple media obligations, and joined executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias on the field while the Orioles took batting practice. The PA system blared music at the usual eye-watering decibels.
No tears were shed by the manager, but the emotions kept trying to bubble to the surface.
“Didn’t sleep much last night,” Hyde said. “This is the real deal, and if you can’t get up for this, you can’t get up for anything. Obviously a really special day. Even more so at Yankee Stadium with all the tradition. Can’t wait for it to get started.”
Hyde has his wife, children, parents, in-laws and assorted friends, reaching way back into his past, offering their support today at Yankee Stadium.
“There’s quite a few people here,” he said. “It’s quite a pass list. I think I’m coaching for free today. But it’s so worth it. So grateful for everybody to come.
“It’s going to be a fun next few days.”
The joy runs deep for the 11 players on their first opening day roster: Smith, Mullins, Richie Martin, Drew Jackson, Renato Núñez, Rio Ruiz, Pedro Severino, David Hess, Jimmy Yacabonis, Paul Fry and John Means.
Hyde was given the honor of spreading the news that they’d be going to New York.
“Whenever you get that kind of news, man, that makes your day and that is what it’s about,” he said. “To tell a couple guys that they’re going to make their major league debut, they made the club, that’s special.”
Martin is the starting shortstop, as expected, after the Orioles made him the first overall pick in the Rule 5 draft from the Athletics organization. Hyde offered some basic instructions on Sunday.
“I said, ‘Hey, listen, I just want you to focus on your defense and catch the ball in the middle of the field and do what you did in spring training defensively,’” he said.
“It’s a tough league and he’s making a big jump, and I just didn’t want him to get discouraged offensively. However he starts offensively, I just really want him to focus on his defense and compete at the plate. But he did such a great job defensively in spring training that I want him to continue that.”
Martin didn’t exhibit any nerves in camp or come across as rattled while his average sank to .224.
“He’s a cool customer. There’s no doubt,” Hyde said. “He’s got a lot of confidence and I love that. To play the game at this level you’ve got to be confident, and Richie walks around with this aura that he belongs and I’m into it. I think that’s a big part of the battle in this game at this level, and we saw that early on in spring training. Now he’s here and I’m excited to watch him.”
The calm demeanor will be put to the test playing shortstop at Yankee Stadium.
“I don’t think anybody can prepare for that,” Hyde said. “But when you have that much confidence in yourself ... and if anybody’s ready for something like that, he is. He’s got some strong mental makeup and he’s a tough kid.”
Mancini is a grizzled veteran by comparison, but the novelty of opening day hasn’t faded.
It just changes locations.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “We had a great spring training, I thought, and really meshed well together as a team. And now it’s kind of put that into practice during the season.
“And this opening day is a little different because we’re not opening up at home. I’ve had two so far prior to today, and they were both at Camden, so obviously I’m extremely excited about next week, opening there. But opening away, especially at Yankee Stadium, is a pretty cool thing as well, and something that, if you told me that when I was a kid, I was playing here on opening day, I would have been pretty pumped, I think. So yeah, it’s definitely a special day, for sure.”
Mancini inherited Adam Jones’ old locker in Sarasota and at Camden Yards, but the streak is over. Andrew Cashner is dressing in Jones’ former location at Yankee Stadium.