The Orioles would have been traveling to Fort Myers today for a game against the Twins if spring training had proceeded without interruption.
They tried it last Thursday and didn’t get a mile from the complex before the buses pulled back into it. Four left turns and they were exactly where they started.
A pretty good hint that Major League Baseball was shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It won’t attempt to start the regular season before the middle of May. No one would be floored if the stoppage leaked into June.
The offices in the warehouse are closed until March 29, with the release issued by the club stating that “the most important action we can take during this time is to practice social distancing and follow the advice of medical experts in order to prevent the spreading of COVID-19.”
The Orioles also joined the 29 other clubs in contributing $1 million to assist ballpark employees who are unable to work without baseball.
“Over the past 48 hours, I have been approached by representatives of all 30 clubs to help assist the thousands of ballpark employees affected by the delay in the start of the Major League Baseball season,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Motivated by desire to help some of the most valuable members of the baseball community, each club has committed $1 million. The individual clubs will be announcing more details surrounding this support effort in their local communities.
“The timing of these announcements will vary because of the need to coordinate with state and local laws as well as collective bargaining obligations in an effort to maximize the benefits realized by each group of employees. I am proud that our clubs came together so quickly and uniformly to support these individuals who provide so much to the game we love.”
So, what else did we learn about the Orioles before the shutdown?
Only Stewart was anticipated after his October ankle surgery. He seemed to be ahead of schedule in camp, but hadn’t been cleared to play in games.
The concerns for Mancini extend far beyond the field. He underwent surgery on Thursday to remove a malignant tumor from his colon, and lab results and recovery timetable are supposed to be available later this week.
Phillips pitched twice before the Orioles shut him down with elbow soreness. He had an MRI earlier this month, received a second opinion on March 5 from Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles and managed to avoid surgery. However, he was facing a prolonged inactive period before beginning a throwing progression.
Phillips had a chance to earn a spot in the bullpen, but it dissolved in the Sarasota heat.
Chris Davis still can’t catch a break.
If he isn’t hitting into the shift, he’s benched by a pandemic.
Davis showed up 25 pounds heavier - all of it “good” weight and giving him a more muscular appearance - and exhibited a much better approach at the plate. He was driving the ball to the opposite field and following through on a pledge to be more aggressive.
Hoping to keep his roll going through the rest of the spring and into the regular season, Davis is done for an indefinite period after going 7-for-15 with three home runs, nine RBIs, nine walks and seven runs scored.
He struck out only three times.
Fans began to proclaim on Twitter that Davis was “back.” They dared to get their hopes up. Now they have no idea when baseball will resume and whether Davis, who turned 34 yesterday, can pick up where he left off.
Rio Ruiz remains the first option at third base.
Hanser Alberto still projects as the second baseman, which leaves Ruiz at third. And it isn’t by default.
Ruiz had one of the most productive springs of any Orioles player. He collected 11 hits in 25 at-bats with three doubles and a home run in nine games.
He showed up in hit mode and didn’t stop until forced to do it.
No one on the club had more hits than Ruiz. Alberto and Anthony Santander were next with 10.
Only Davis at 1.682 posted a higher OPS than Ruiz (1.144).
These are small sample sizes, but that’s spring training. And they’re much smaller in 2020.