The Orioles are one day away from having their pitchers and catchers report to spring training, though the number of early arrivals since they moved to Sarasota makes the official date seem insignificant.
Players start trickling into the facility in January. They’ve already been throwing.
It’s become more of a report date for the media.
My life is broken down into thirds. I have my spring training, regular season and offseason routines - and family and friends learn to adapt.
Manager Brandon Hyde will get used to having a camp roster that matches the population of a small town.
The current number is 66 and it could increase. For instance, the Orioles are expected to add another veteran starting pitcher. A player could be designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, be outrighted and return as an invite.
Boom, 67 players.
“It’s a big number, but I’m looking forward to the competition that we’re bringing into camp and I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for a lot of guys,” Hyde said during Friday’s Birdland Caravan stop in White Marsh.
“Especially kind of where we are right now, the more guys that we have competing for jobs, the better. So I’m looking forward to it. I’m happy with the number that we have. And the challenge is in six, seven weeks to get guys the amount of innings and at-bats, but there are ways to get creative with that with B games or intrasquad-type things to make sure everybody gets their fair shot.”
“That was the theme last year. Obviously, we had a ton of opportunities for guys and looking for guys to step up, especially out of the bullpen,” Hyde said.
“Last year, a lot of those guys had that great experience that they got. The majority of them pitched in all sorts of different roles, different parts of the game, and I hope that they learn from that and take it into this next year.”
The camp setting will be more comfortable for Hyde because he isn’t surrounded by strangers. He knows his players. He isn’t rushing through the get-acquainted process.
Hyde even has crossed paths with some of the invites.
“Familiarity is a big thing for me, not walking in blind and not knowing many players. This year I know most guys, so that’s a lot easier,” Hyde said.
“I want guys to step up and I want guys to learn from the experiences they had last year. I talked to almost every single guy coming into camp. Everybody’s had a great offseason. I think guys are really driven, I think guys are going to play with a chip on their shoulder, and I just want guys to compete.
“I think guys are aware that it’s not like this in every camp, where there’s multiple jobs to win. A lot of the more veteran teams, winning ballclubs that have had success in the past few years, there might be two spots available. It’s not going to be that way in our camp.
“I like the arms that we have, that we’re going to bring in, and I just want guys to learn from past experiences and take the next step.”
John Means won’t be a surprise inclusion on the opening day roster. He’s got it made this year, which enables him to lose the offensive lineman’s uniform number.
Means has switched from No. 67 to 47. Digits worthy of a pitcher and perhaps the opening day starter.
Unless, of course, the Orioles are using him as an H-back.
Dilson Herrera, a utility and third base candidate, has been assigned No. 2. That’s got to be good for his confidence.
Ryan Mountcastle will wear No. 6, but he hasn’t been assigned a full-time position. His major league debut should come later in the summer.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias told members of the media on Saturday that Mullins is going to compete for a spot on the opening day roster. That shouldn’t come across as a surprising development. The real news would have been a declaration that Mullins, the opening day center fielder in 2019, suddenly had no shot.
Again, someone has to back up in center field if Austin Hays earns the job. Mullins can assist in center and serve as a defensive replacement at the corners. He can run. He has value.
Catcher Adley Rutschman will wear 76 in camp before dropping down in digits with a Single-A affiliate.
His days at major league camp are numbered, but they’ll be fun while they last.
“I think everybody remembers their first major league camp,” Hyde said, “and it’s going to be great to have our major league coaches - have Cuz (Tim Cossins) and Fredi (González) - (and) for him to be around some of our catchers who have been through it a little bit. He’s going to get a lot of experience out of that. It’s going to be a camp that he’s never going to forget.
“No matter what you’ve done, there’s something different about your first major league camp, so we’re all excited to have him in camp. We’re excited for him to get this experience. Just looking forward to watching him play.”
Hyde and Rutschman were part of the first-day Birdland Caravan that included stops in Aberdeen, York, Pa., Fallston and Timonium.
“Being out in the community and seeing the passion people have for Orioles baseball, you lose sight of that sometimes when you’re in the grind of a six-month season,” Hyde said. “So to be able to take some time to go visit fans is really rewarding.”