Pitchers and catchers are reporting to the Orioles’ spring training complex in exactly one week. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 17.
I’ve been asked about leaving for “spring break” since December.
There’s a difference, including how you won’t find me dancing poolside on MTV. It isn’t all fun and exhibition games. It actually qualifies as work - with only one day off in six weeks - but the sunshine kills the pity factor.
I won’t be penning a love letter to Sarasota because it sabotages the work argument, but I do recommend that fans bookmark it as a vacation destination. And not only because of a facility that’s become the jewel of the Grapefruit League.
The city and its surrounding areas have a lot to offer beyond baseball.
But what about the baseball?
Competitions will break out on the back fields and during Grapefruit League games. The rotation and bullpens aren’t settled. A 26-man roster increases the bench options.
Who’s going to play the outfield beyond Anthony Santander, Austin Hays and Trey Mancini? Who’s going to be kept as utility players from a group that includes Richard Ureña and Pat Valaika, but also could be fattened if Stevie Wilkerson stays in the organization?
Wilkerson can play just about anywhere, but shortstop isn’t one of his strengths and it’s pushed him below the others.
Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco are the favorites to again share the catching position, but the latter will be pressured by a group of candidates that include Austin Wynns and non-roster players Bryan Holaday and Taylor Davis.
There’s also the possibility of someone else popping up on the waiver wire, as Severino did last March. He showed up late and won a job.
Judging Sisco is tricky because he always seems to hit well down in Florida. He batted .382/.533/.765 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 15 games last spring and was 15-for-35 with five doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs in 18 games in 2018.
Improvements behind the plate could tilt the competition in Sisco’s favor. This is mainly how he’s going to be evaluated. But the .181/.288/.269 and .210/.333/.395 slash lines over the past two seasons in the majors are part of the process.
The Orioles must determine whether Rio Ruiz can be the everyday third baseman or is plopped into a platoon, and how they’re going to keep Hanser Alberto in the lineup. He’d appear to be the first option at second base with Jonathan Villar gone.
None of this is going to interest the national media. The lack of compelling storylines and drama will give the beat crew lots of room to operate.
The arrival of shortstop José Iglesias in camp, Alex Cobb’s recovery from hip and knee surgeries, and Chris Davis’ explanation of any adjustments made to his offseason workouts are going to attract a limited audience.
Mancini will explain again how he wants to be part of the rebuild. Hays will talk about the freakish injuries of the past. Hunter Harvey will talk about the possibility of being the closer. Ryan Mountcastle will talk about how he keeps experimenting with new positions. John Means will recount how he didn’t expect to break camp with the team last year and became the staff ace.
The morning stretches and daily bullpen sessions will be videotaped and photographed for tweeting purposes and the high-speed cameras will be referenced at least a dozen times. It’s what we do.
Right after applying the sunscreen.