SARASOTA, Fla. - As the pages of the calendar flip to a new month on Sunday, the chances of the Orioles bringing in a veteran starter could be moving further away from reality.
Time is running out to get a pitcher ready for opening day and the preferred scenario doesn’t include innings and arms built up in extended spring training.
Manager Brandon Hyde must proceed as though he’s got to choose from among the pitchers already in camp.
“I think you have to,” he said. “We go on the mindset right now that this is the group that we’re going in with. I think everybody’s realistic that things change and guys get taken on and off the roster all throughout the league and we’re always looking to upgrade the talent level in our organization, (but) you go in as a coach with the mindset that this is the group we have and this is the group we’re going to try to get better. But knowing that things could change, also.”
In a spot consumed with deadlines over the course of a year, the Orioles must have a date in mind when it’s no longer feasible to hand out a major or minor league deal for a starter.
Trying to get a veteran free agent ready “is getting more challenging as we get closer,” Hyde conceded.
“We’re 24 days away now, so there’s three weeks to go. If he’s in another camp somewhere and gets taken off the roster, that changes things, too. But yeah, as we get closer to opening day, that is a little bit more challenging to have a guy ready for opening day.”
Working out at home isn’t a real solution.
“You can’t simulate game stuff,” Hyde said.
The Orioles can sift through the names who became cautionary tales, most recently Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb. They can go back further to Ubaldo Jiménez and Yovani Gallardo.
Undergoing a normal spring training hasn’t become outdated. And the Orioles don’t want to rush a pitcher onto the roster simply to fill out the rotation.
“I think we’re always going to think player first, what’s the best thing for the player,” Hyde said. “And if we sacrifice some time to make sure they’re right, then we’ll always do that.”
Cobb is scheduled to throw a simulated game Sunday morning on one of the back fields in Sarasota while the Orioles travel to Clearwater to play the Phillies.
An illness forced Cobb out of Monday’s start in Clearwater after one inning.
“He’s feeling fine,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I just want to work him up, get his pitch count up in a controlled environment. Don’t have to worry about a game situation.”
Stewart and Rodgers are competing for rotation jobs and have fallen behind due to the arm soreness that’s kept them out of games.
“We’re going to try to build them up as well as we can,” Hyde said. “They’ve missed some time now, so that’s not ideal, but there is still time. We’ve still got a few weeks to go. Hopefully we can get them ramped up and we’ll just see how it goes. I can’t really forecast anything there.”
The competition for a utility job was a topic again this morning, with Hyde mentioning how the ability to play center field could be a tie-breaker “depending on how many true outfielders we carry.”
“If we feel like we need an extra center field option, then I think that does help,” Hyde said. “If we’re carrying four or five outfielders that are versatile and can also play other positions, then maybe not. So we’ll see. I have no idea.”
Hyde said he’s taking every position player on the trips to West Palm Beach and Jupiter for games Tuesday and Wednesday against the Nationals and Marlins. One group will be sent back to Sarasota after the first game.
Only the pitchers who aren’t going to throw will stay at the Ed Smith Stadium complex for workouts.