SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles manager Brandon Hyde announced today that left-hander Wade LeBlanc will start Sunday afternoon against the Red Sox in Sarasota and Alex Cobb will start Monday versus the Phillies in Clearwater.
We’ve already learned that Chandler Shepherd is starting Saturday’s opener against the Braves in North Port.
“I think a few days ago I was asked ‘Are we ready yet? and I said, ‘No.’ Now I think we are,” Hyde said, smiling.
“It’s going to be fun to watch a lot of our guys play and I think it’s cool we’re playing in a new spring training site that we’ve never seen. That’s always exciting. It’s beautiful. They did a really nice job with that facility down there. So looking forward to starting.”
The true evaluations begin this weekend as Hyde figures out how to construct his 26-man roster.
“We have a lot of competition in camp and so it’s going to come down to how we feel like some guys have developed, how we feel like some guys, if they’re ready to be on the club or if it benefits to go back to Triple-A,” Hyde said.
“I hope that we have a bunch of tough decisions. That’s what I would love to have is guys playing so well that we have to make some tough decisions at the end of camp because of what they’ve shown in spring training. That would be an ideal situation where we have a number of guys that we feel like should be on the club and we have to trim down to.”
First baseman Chris Davis returned to workouts this morning after leaving camp the past two days with flu-like symptoms.
Davis was full-go, including the live batting practice rounds on the stadium field. And he twice drove the ball to the opposite field against left-hander Bruce Zimmermann.
In one comical sequence, Davis swung through a pitch and the bat flew out of his hands and spiraled down the first base line, forcing him to make the slow walk to retrieve it. He swung at the next offering and smoked the ball to left, his teammates howling their approval.
“I saw him swing the bat in BP. He looks great,” Hyde said. “Fortunately, his was just a couple-day illness and he looks good and ready to go.”
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias sat behind the backstop and Hyde joined him later.
“I was watching Castro in the stadium. Loved the way he threw,” Hyde said. “Cobb in the stadium ... thought he had good stuff and came off feeling healthy, so that was a positive.”
Cobb clearly was happy to be back on a mound.
He fielded a comebacker from Alberto, turned and fired the ball to first base. No one was covering the bag and he didn’t care.
It looked like two seasons of frustration were unleashed.
“He’s dealt with a lot of injuries and it’s been a tough year for him,” Hyde said. “He had a couple things that he had to deal with and he missed almost the entire year, so we’re definitely going to be careful with him, watch him closely, monitor him closely, do anything we can for him to break in the rotation and stay there and feel good for the sixth months.
“I think a guy like that, we monitor closer than others in that he’s a big part of our rotation and we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to have him break healthy.”
Kohl Stewart, the fourth-overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, also threw live batting practice while he attempts to crack the rotation. He’s made some adjustments, like so many others in camp, to become a more consistent strike-thrower.
“Kohl Stewart’s got really good stuff, so looking forward to watching him pitch in games,” Hyde said.
“It’s a guy who was a really high pick who would like to throw more strikes and his stuff really plays and so, to get him in the strike zone more, to get him to trust his stuff. I know our pitching guys have worked quite a bit with him so far this camp and are going to continue because we believe in his stuff and that’s why he was such a high pick.
“We’re hoping that it’s a good story, a guy that got a second chance and is taking advantage of it, because he’s going to have a lot of opportunities in camp to show that he belongs on the club.”
“We space out so many appearances anyway for them, we just had to push them back a couple of days,” Hyde said.
Pedro Severino still projects as the starting catcher. It’s just a question of how many starts he makes after the Orioles break camp.
“I see Severino as a guy that’s going to get a lot of playing time and a lot of innings behind the plate,” Hyde said. “Whether he’s starting opening day or not, I haven’t decided that, but he’s a guy who’s going to get a lot of starts.”