Notes on rotation, Velázquez, Santander, Holaday and more

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles manager Brandon Hyde held his daily pregame scrum this afternoon outside the dugout and at arm’s length from the media.

Not the way he wanted it to happen, but he was going along with the increased safety measures around the ballpark that also eliminate autographs and handshakes for fans.

“People know a lot more than I do that are higher up,” he said. “I’m going to follow the regulations that MLB put out for us and just hoping for the best going forward. But it’s something we’re going to stick to right now and follow what they tell us to do.”

Left-hander John Means is throwing a simulated game on Wednesday and Alex Cobb is starting Thursday night against the Twins in Fort Myers.

Means entered camp as the favorite to land the opening day start on March 26 and he’s lined up for the assignment, with Cobb to follow in the rotation.

Thomas Eshelman, making a push for a rotation or bullpen spot, is starting Wednesday afternoon against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Left-hander Tommy Milone threw a bullpen session today and will pitch in a simulated game Thursday before the Orioles slot him back into the rotation.

Infielder Ramón Urias, recovering from shin splints, fielded ground balls earlier today and might be cleared to play on Wednesday.

New reliever Hector Velázquez threw in the bullpen this afternoon. Hyde already is familiar with the right-hander, who made four appearances against the Orioles last summer and allowed three runs and eight hits with six walks in eight innings.

“I feel good about it,” Hyde said. “He’s somebody we saw quite a bit last year. I think he opened against us a couple times. He’s a guy who has done a variety to roles, from an opener to long relief to a late inning guy. He’s done a little bit of everything, so adding him in the mix gives us some versatility with our bullpen.

“He hasn’t thrown in a while, so he just got a side today and then we’ll readjust from there.”

The Orioles view Velázquez as a long relief candidate, someone capable of consuming innings if a starter is removed early.

“I think a long man definitely helps, especially early in the year when sometimes your starters aren’t built all the way up,” Hyde said. “A lot of our bullpen guys historically are one-inning guys, so to add somebody with length is really valuable.”

Anthony Santander is in the outfield for the first time this spring. Hyde limited him to the designated hitter role as a precaution after Santander developed shoulder soreness in September.

“I’m not going to throw him out there for eight innings today,” Hyde said. “He’ll probably play half the game defensively and then I’ll ramp him up a little bit more defensively as we go along.”

Holaday-Catching-White-ST-sidebar.jpgBryan Holaday gets another start tonight behind the plate in his bid to win the backup job.

“I heard really good things about Bryan Holaday before camp started,” Hyde said. “Didn’t know him real well, seen him play a little bit, but I’ve been really impressed.

“This is a veteran leader. He’s really engaged with what our pitchers are doing. He’s done a really nice job of helping our pitchers get through innings. He can really call a game. And I think his at-bats have been pretty good, too.

“He’s just got a lot of experience. He’s caught really good pitchers, especially his early days in Detroit. He’s a veteran leader possibility, a guy that we don’t have a ton of experience in our clubhouse and that’s definitely on his side.”

Hyde said he’s noticed an improvement in Austin Hays defensively in camp.

Hays made a series of highlight-worthy plays last September. Where could he possibly improve?

“I think everybody has something defensively to improve upon,” Hyde said. “For me, I think his jumps have been really good this spring. He’s always been able to really go get it. I just feel that his jumps are better. When your eyes go to the ball from the dugout, you see the ball hit, you take your eyes there and he’s already moving a lot of times. So I just noticed his jumps being a little bit better.”

Hyde repeated that DJ Stewart could be game-ready sometime next week. Stewart gets back on his running progression on Wednesday.

Pitchers listed tonight behind starter Keegan Akin include Cody Carroll, Miguel Castro, Paul Fry, Travis Lakins Sr., Dillon Tate and Branden Kline.

Carroll has allowed one run, walked one batter and struck out six in five innings.

“Cody Carroll’s been throwing lights out since he got here,” Hyde said. “His velo was up even more the other day in Charlotte County when he was throwing 98-99. He gave up that run, but it was not because of erratic command or walks, which is huge, but attacking hitters with really good secondary stuff.”

Cole Sulser also remains in the bullpen mix with one earned run and eight strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.

“Especially the last two times out, he’s thrown the ball extremely well,” Hyde said. “His velo has been up, his split has been better. I thought he was feeling for it a little bit early, which is very, very normal and natural, but now he’s starting to ramp up. I just think he’s more comfortable on the mound and his stuff is ticking up.

“Both of those guys are competing really well and trying to earn a spot in our bullpen.”

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