BRADENTON, Fla. - Orioles manager Brandon Hyde broke out a sheet of paper this morning with the list of players who are recovering from injuries and illnesses and the next stages of their individual progressions.
Too many names and tasks to memorize with so many other activities happening at the complex.
Hunter Harvey, who’s been able to shake his flu-like symptoms, threw a simulated game today in Sarasota.
Kohl Stewart (biceps) and Alex Wells (oblique) are throwing in the bullpen Saturday. The club will determine later whether they need another side session or are ready for live batting practice or game action.
Brady Rodgers (arm) will throw on flat ground Saturday morning. He’s the furthest behind and watching his chances to make the rotation slowly crumble.
Hyde doesn’t have an exact role in mind for Harvey.
“I think you saw last year what he brings and how much better our entire bullpen was when he was here and healthy,” Hyde said. “You saw last year he was able to pitch in a high-leverage situation and kind of can slot guys around that and feel really good about him on the mound when the score’s close or we have the lead. You take your chances with a guy who throws 100 with that kind of stuff.
“I just want to see him healthy and I thought the experience he had last year is really going to be beneficial. He could be a big part of our ‘pen”
Perhaps as the ninth-inning specialist. If the club can afford the luxury.
“I think he definitely has closer stuff,” Hyde said. “I’ve thought about things, but I don’t know where we’re going with all that stuff yet.”
Meanwhile, Ryan Mountcastle makes his first start at first base today after playing left field in previous games. His two primary positions.
“We’re going to play him in first and left this year,” Hyde said. “I wanted to give him a few starts out in left field first and get some time out there. He’ll be playing both spots this spring.”
Utility competitions don’t create much of a buzz, but the Orioles have a good one brewing.
Pat Valaika played second base yesterday and made a terrific relay throw to nail a runner at the plate. He also hit his second home run of the spring.
Andrew Velazquez showed off his range at shortstop earlier this week, reaching ground balls headed up the middle and into left field. He threw from the outfield grass on the latter, but couldn’t get the runner.
Valaika stayed back in Sarasota today, but Velazquez is playing center field
Stevie Wilkerson is in right field today after playing center field and second base.
“I think that we have some nice options now,” Hyde said. “I’m looking forward to seeing a little bit more of Andrew. Didn’t get to see him much. He’s a guy who’s played the outfield, also. It really increases his versatility.
“I’ve seen Pat Valaika a lot when we were in the National League and I know what kind of player he is. He’s having a good camp so far. He’s a pro, he catches the ball, he’s really reliable defensively and he’s taking good at-bats so far. So it’s going to be fun.”
Valaika appeared in 231 games with the Rockies over the past four seasons, and experience matters to Hyde. Just as it does while deciding how to fill out the rotation.
“I think that’s helpful in our situation just because we’re pretty inexperienced,” Hyde said, “but we’re going to give a long look at a lot of these guys who can play multiple positions and pare down as we go along. But we’re so far away, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Martin Cervenka is on today’s trip after hitting a home run yesterday at Ed Smith Stadium - a special swing with his parents and sister in the stands.
Filip, Renata and Karolia were visiting from the Czech Republic, their timing just as good as what Cervenka displayed at the plate. They’ve been in Sarasota for about a week.
“Last year my mom came here, but this year they all kind of decided to come here,” Cervenka said. “It’s a vacation for them to come and see me play.”
They’ve watched Cervenka play in person prior to yesterday’s exhibition - usually in the summer while his sister is out of school - but he provided a nice, memorable moment against the Braves.
“I mean, any home run is special,” said Cervenka, who lives in Prague in the offseason, “but the fact that my family got to see it is pretty cool, too.”
Their reaction was, as Cervenka tells it with a smile, a bit understated.
“They just said, ‘Good job,’” he recalled. “We don’t get too excited as a family.”
Left-hander Keegan Akin starts Saturday against the Marlins in Sarasota. Miami is starting Sandy Alcantara.