The countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training has replaced the ball dropping in Times Square.
This one is better because it doesn’t require adults to stake out a spot for 18 hours and wear diapers.
The Orioles’ first official report date is Feb. 11, following by position players five days later. But the Sarasota, Fla., complex isn’t sitting empty.
There’s going to be activity next week that leads into spring training.
The team is holding another minicamp that features a significant number of young pitchers, as well as players who live in the area, including catcher Chance Sisco.
“It’s a big list. There are a lot of guys,” said manager Brandon Hyde.
There’s also going to be another coaches retreat, allowing new first base coach Anthony Sanders, major league coach Fredi González and bullpen coach Darren Holmes to become more familiar with the team and facility.
Other Orioles employees are invited, too. A smart idea given the amount of new hires in various departments.
“We’re going to have meetings and it’s pretty much getting together as a coaching staff, as well as our support staff with our advance guys and some analysts,” Hyde said.
“It’s pretty much just getting together, talking about spring training, talking about goals. Everybody getting on the same page. We have a couple new staff members and it’s getting familiar with each other before we embark on this journey.”
Former manager Buck Showalter came up with the idea of holding annual minicamps in Sarasota rather than bringing players to Camden Yards and exposing them to the winter elements. Bullpen sessions and pitching auditions were compromised.
The new regime ran with the concept and applied its own touches.
“We did that last year,” Hyde said. “We got together for a couple days. We met. It was good for me obviously and a lot of our staff because we got to know some of our players before spring training started. Watched some pitchers throw and get to know the complex before you go down there and the craziness starts.”
The minicamps, no longer open to the media in Sarasota, are held primarily to allow teams to check on their pitchers. Gauge where they are physically and watch them throw.
“It’s getting together with some pitchers that we’re inviting down there, as well as the ones who live there,” Hyde said.
The Orioles didn’t hold their usual fall instructional league in September, which allowed minor league players to continue working out under the supervision of coaches and staff members. They’re going to have their own minicamp this month, a practice that’s become more common in baseball.
Rest the kids and start them up again in January.
* Former Orioles shortstop and current MASN analyst Mike Bordick will be in spring training again as a guest instructor.