The Orioles would have been hosting the split-squad Nationals this afternoon if spring training had proceeded without interruption. More roster cuts would have been made in order to get closer to 26.
To at least get out of the 50s, which I’d love to do.
Instead, players are returning home or waiting for the next directive. Workouts turned informal and then became discouraged.
Trying to stay unified is admirable, but no longer seems practical. At least in large groups.
Owners are clinging to the hope that they can play a full 162-game schedule. There’s a better chance that I’ll tumble out of my 50s.
What did we learn about the Orioles before the shutdown?
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias didn’t stray from his rebuild plan as it pertains to starting pitching.
Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer are ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk. The inability to sign another veteran for the rotation didn’t alter their travel plans. Neither did Kohl Stewart’s sore biceps muscle or Tommy Milone’s sore trapezius or the decision to return Rule 5 picks Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker to their respective organizations.
Brady Rodgers didn’t throw a pitch in a Grapefruit League game before the Orioles reassigned him to minor league camp.
Didn’t matter. Akin and Kremer aren’t going to be rushed.
Akin had the better odds of making it to Baltimore based on his 24 starts with the Tides last summer, but he wasn’t a true candidate. His debut is on hold - like everything else right now - but it’s coming.
Kremer could be right on his heels depending on how he’s pitching. Prospects are going to filter onto the roster.
John Means is going to be the opening day starter.
The Orioles didn’t get the chance to make it official, but manager Brandon Hyde lined up his starters and laid out their work schedules in order to give Means the ball against the Yankees on March 26 at Camden Yards.
The date is going to change. The opponent is likely to change. But it’s Means all the way, followed by Alex Cobb now that his blister is going to have months to heal.
The decision extends beyond Means’ All-Star 2019 season and how he came out of nowhere to become the staff ace. He dominated the Phillies for three innings on March 1, retiring all nine batters he faced. He was sharp on the side and in simulated games. Nothing happened to dent the trust given by Hyde, pitching coach Doug Brocail and director of pitching Chris Holt.
Cobb was the only real competition for the opening day assignment. He would have handled it last year except for the injury that eventually led to hip surgery.
Hyde and his staff still believe in the hidden starter trick.
Cobb pitched in one Grapefruit League game, though the blister was responsible for the switch to a simulated game last Thursday. Means didn’t make an exhibition start after March 1, Asher Wojciechowski after March 2, Wade LeBlanc after March 4.
LeBlanc’s other start was the Feb. 23 home opener.
The Orioles don’t like exposing their starters to division opponents, which is tricky because they keep playing the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays. Simulated games are deemed a compromise.
Meanwhile, there isn’t much that can be hidden these days. Scouts are everywhere, video is everywhere, Means isn’t working on a knuckleball.
Cobb was supposed to start against the Twins - a non-division opponent - but the blister forced Hyde to give the assignment to Bruce Zimmermann. The game was cancelled, along with the rest of them.
I’m pretty sure that the Twins already are familiar with Cobb’s work.
I’ll be revisiting this topic later in the week as I slip back into offseason mode and try to come up with ideas.