If it’s true that there’s strength in numbers, the Orioles will be able to out-flex the other teams in spring training. The bird logo will be replaced by a biceps muscle. The chalk lines will be drawn with creatine powder.
The current number of camp invites stands at 23 and doesn’t include left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who signed a minor league deal that becomes official after his physical in Sarasota. Reliever Branden Kline could make it 25 if he clears waivers after the Orioles designated him for assignment Thursday afternoon. Utility player Stevie Wilkerson could make it 26 if he clears and accepts an outright assignment.
A 40-man roster plus 26 would give the Orioles 66 players in camp, and they’re willing to go a little higher.
Coordinating the spring workouts and bullpen sessions and making certain that manager Brandon Hyde, his coaches and guest instructors get eyes on everybody is going to be quite a task.
Exactly how Hyde wants it.
“To be honest with you, the more the better for me right now, where we’re at. I want to create as much competition in the spring as possible,” Hyde said during Thursday night’s “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan.
“I think there’s plenty of time in camp to see guys. We have a lot of guys who wish they had better years last year and haven’t had a whole lot of major league experience and guys that shuffled up and down between Norfolk and Baltimore. And I’m just looking to see who’s going to be able to build on that from last year, learn from their experiences from last year, gain a little better command, understand what the major league life is, understand how to face major league hitters, especially in the AL East, and go win a job in spring training.
“So I’m excited about the competition that we have in camp. I’m just looking for guys to step up, kind of like what we did all of last year.”
Kline will be outrighted if he clears waivers, but a team might find him too tempting to ignore. As they say, you can’t teach 98.
Velocity wasn’t his downfall.
The Frederick native and former second-round pick out of the University of Virginia finally made it to the majors last year, the surgeries and setbacks behind him, and posted a 5.93 ERA and 1.537 WHIP in 41 innings. He kept riding the shuttle, making only two appearances in July and four in August.
Kline wasn’t charged with a run in nine September outings, but he allowed six hits and walked six batters in 8 1/3 innings.
“BK’s a great guy,” Hyde said. “I thought he flashed some really good moments last year. There were a few nights where he was 98, where the slider was sharp. I thought the split got better over the course of the year. It was just like the majority of our bullpen guys. Just really inconsistent. There would be some nights where you’re like, this is back-end stuff, and then I would try him in a back-end leverage situation and it didn’t work out.
“I just think that the inconsistency in his command, being able to repeat his delivery ... but it starts with fastball command with guys in the big leagues. Being able to locate the fastball to where you want. Just because there’s too many good fastball hitters, and so you have to be able to pitch in. You’ve got to be able to spot a fastball down and away for a strike. You’ve got to be able to elevate when you want to. And if you’re just inconsistent in your command, you’re falling into hitters’ counts and that’s never a good recipe for success.
“I just felt the nights that he had a lot of success, he was working ahead in the count, he was aggressive in the zone, he was able to get to his secondary stuff and put guys away. But there were some nights where there was a high pitch-count inning where he just couldn’t put guys away or he was pitching behind a lot.”
Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from noon-2 p.m. on MASN.