Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said he keeps waking up with the mindset that he has “47 things to do” as part of his day.
Then reality sets in, a new normal that he can’t escape.
There is no baseball for a man who’s never home on this date. He’s supposed to be deciding on the final roster cuts before opening day. Setting his rotation, bullpen and bench. But the coronavirus pandemic is changing lives.
Hyde’s days are spent in Sarasota, but with his wife and children and away from the ballpark. His concerns are more about their safety than the team.
“I’ve been doing pretty much what everybody else is doing right now and that’s waiting,” Hyde said this afternoon during a conference call. “Making sure my family was in a safe spot. We’re spending a lot of time together. I am on conference calls quite a bit with Mike (Elias) and the front office and our medical team. Keeping in touch with players. But it’s a lot of waiting around and spending a lot of time with your family. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing the last week.”
Plenty of competitions remained active as baseball shut down its games on March 12. The Orioles still have 50 players on their camp roster after making four cuts yesterday.
Hyde and Elias need to determine winners without the opportunity to keep watching them play. Workouts are going to resume at some point, whether at the Ed Smith Stadium complex or in Baltimore. Little else is known.
Clubs are walking blindly down the same paths.
“I think there are just so many things that aren’t clear right now,” Hyde said. “We’re just in a waiting game of what it’s going to look like, what the season’s going to look like, what spring training is going to look like. How long we have to prepare for the season is unclear.
“Whether it’s a normal spring training or more of a sprint to start the season, I think that’s obviously yet to be decided. But I really liked where we were when everything was put on hold. I thought that we were making a lot of strides with our major league club. I thought it was a real competitive camp and guys were competing for jobs and making it hard on us to make some tough decisions that were going to happen here at the end of spring training. So that’s going to continue.
“Whenever that is, I just don’t know.”
Most of the players have returned home, the complex occupied now by a few who are rehabbing injuries and a group living outside the country. The departed were given instructions on how to keep getting ready.
“It was a strange time,” Hyde said. “We had a lot of discussions organizationally, we had a lot of discussions with the players. I was on some conference calls with players, I was on conference calls with our front office and medical team, and just really discussing things every day there were new developments - not only in the baseball world, but the world. Discussing those situations and how we were going to handle them.
“I thought our medical team initially and our front office did an amazing job of giving us knowledge of what was happening. We talked about the possibility of this a while ago. I was just really appreciative of how our medical staff and the front office of the Orioles kept everyone in the loop of what was going on. So we kept the players in the loop as much as possible. Those conversations are ongoing. We’re keeping track of everyone, making sure everyone got home safely. And the conversations will continue as we go along and wait. But it was just a week of a lot of talking with various groups and making sure everyone was in a safe spot.”
Hyde is going to balance what he saw for a month in spring training and what transpires after its resumption to make his final roster decisions.
“A combination of both,” he said. “I don’t know. It’s such a unique situation and one that we’ve never been in. I want to look big picture, I want to make sure that I’m giving everyone a fair opportunity. I think we were doing that for the month that we were together. That will continue for the week to 10 days if that’s what it is. I have no idea how long of a second spring training we’re going to have before the season starts. So I think it’s going to be a combination of the two.
“We’re always going to do what’s right for the Orioles and the player. (But) we don’t even know what any of the new rules are going to come into play with roster size or anything, so I think there’s a lot of questions still to be answered and I wish I could give you better answers, but it’s a lot of unknown right now.”
The pitchers have been given individualized throwing programs and workout plans for home while unable to throw in groups or visit performance facilities.
“That’s the challenge right now is with the pitchers,” Hyde said. “We were getting guys built up, and now with the layoff we have no idea how long it’s going to be, so that is a challenge.”
It’s a fuzzy timeline to get them ready.
“I think we’ll hopefully have a better idea as we go along,” Hyde said, “but as of right now, it’s a real individualized plan for everybody that our medical team as well as our trainers, strength coaches, pitching coaches, have all gotten together with on conference calls and how we were going to really talk and put these plans in place for our pitchers. And those will be adjusted and ongoing as we go along. But the first thing was to get our pitchers in a healthy place, a safe place, and now we’re talking about what kind of throwing program that they’re going to be on here for a while with an unclear date of when that’s going to end.”
Left-hander John Means tweeted that he’s throwing live batting practice Saturday to his wife, Caroline, and offered to stream it.
“Well, I’m not going to evaluate that, per se,” Hyde quipped.
The use of video will be limited in grading pitchers outside of camp. It’s fine for scouting, but not a method that Hyde wants to use in order to set his roster.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of FaceTime calls, there’s going to be a lot of video sent back and forth, there’s going to be a lot of coaching that we’re going to be doing through video and through FaceTime,” Hyde said. “Whether we’re going to evaluate to make a major league club because of that, I really doubt that. That’s not going to happen.
“It’s more of making sure these guys are on track, following the plan, how they look with their mechanics, how they feel physically, those types of things. And they’re continuing to work on the same things that they were working on a week ago, just making sure they’re on track with that, but evaluating them to make a club through video, that’s not something we’re going to do.”
Meanwhile, one idea that’s been speculated to increase the number of games played is to insert a few doubleheaders into the schedule.
“I’m open to anything,” Hyde said.
“I’m just looking forward to the day when we get our team back together, we get the second spring training going and we start our season. I think everyone wants to see baseball played, everybody wants to get back into uniform. We were ready for games to start. We were getting closer to games starting and everybody was getting excited about that. We’re still in that mode.
“Whatever they do season-wise we’ll be prepared for it. If it’s play more doubleheaders ... I’m OK with anything, to be honest with you. That’s something that the league and the players association, those are conversations that I’m sure that they’ll have. But I just want to see our team play, so whatever they tell us it is - whether it’s no off-days, doubleheaders, whatever it may be - I’m good with it.”
A few teams have announced surgeries for players during the shutdown, but Hyde said the Orioles don’t have anyone set to undergo a procedure.
Hyde has been exchanging text messages with Trey Mancini, most recently on the outfielder’s birthday earlier this week. Mancini has left the hospital after undergoing surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon.
“He’s in great spirits,” Hyde said. “His texts to me are extremely positive and uplifting. I’m trying to uplift him and he uplifts me. He’s obviously a real special guy as we all know, and thinking about him and feel really good about where he is mentally.”
Hyde will check on Mancini again later, as he’s doing with all of his players. From his spring training home. Away from a complex that’s been closed.
He’s been texting other managers, as well, to see how they’re handling it.
“We’re all kind of doing this together a little bit,” Hyde said. “It’s a strange period of time, but we’re staying positive and we’re going to get through this thing, But yeah, there’s not a whole lot to do right now.
“Right now, we’re in a holding pattern that we’ve never been in before.”
One that is going to last well beyond the scheduled opener on March 26 against the Yankees at Camden Yards. At least a few months.
“Opening day is such a special day and there’s a lot of emotions that go through everyone involved in an opening day ceremony,” Hyde said. “It’s something you never forget. And this year is going to be pushed back. We’re going to wake up that morning wishing we were playing, but we’re not and we’ll come to the realization of that. And now we’re going to be looking forward to the 2020 opening day, whenever that is.
“It’s going to be a weird day knowing that we’re not playing that day, but there are a lot bigger things than opening day right now and there’s a lot bigger things going on in the world, and that’s where our hearts and are thoughts are. Trying to move past this and to stay positive through what we’re going through. So looking forward to the 2020 opening day, whenever that is. But right now, we’re just hoping everybody stays safe.”