The Orioles would have been making the short drive to Bradenton today for a game against the Pirates if spring training had proceeded without interruption.
The trip back always takes twice as long because of the traffic, but it’s still the easiest one.
Many of the competitions are unsettled while baseball takes a long break, but shortstop is set. José Iglesias has the position locked down after signing a one-year deal with an option for 2021. He still holds the key.
Iglesias came across as a comfortable and popular fit in the clubhouse. One morning while the media still had access, I watched him greet Pedro Severino, Renato Núñez and Anthony Santander with hugs while working his way through the room.
Richie Martin is losing his job to Iglesias, but spoke about his high level of respect for the veteran and how much he’s been able to learn.
Iglesias carries a top-notch defensive reputation, but he wasn’t an automatic out in spring training. He collected seven hits in 18 at-bats, with a double and RBI, and could slot second in the lineup on some nights.
Getting the order right isn’t high on the list of concerns, but we’ll get there one of these days.
An updated mock lineup probably looks a lot like the previous models except for right field. Trey Mancini’s absence, for however long, could shift Santander to right and open left for someone else - the top candidates being Cedric Mullins and Mason Williams. Or manager Brandon Hyde could plug Mullins or Williams into right.
There’s also a scenario where the Orioles pluck an outfielder off the waiver wire. Baseball will get back to business eventually.
Austin Hays was 5-for-28 in 10 exhibition games, but he didn’t play his way out of center field. He stayed healthy, the No. 1 priority, and should break camp - or however this is going to work - as the leadoff hitter.
(We’ll find out later if the Orioles are going to hold a second version of spring training in Sarasota or just conduct daily workouts at Camden Yards in preparation for a truncated season.)
Sisco was hit by a foul tip and disappeared from the lineup. His last known activity was batting in simulated games.
Exhibition games tend to bring out the offensive best in Sisco, but not in 2020. He went 2-for-14 with seven strikeouts.
Hyde liked what he saw from Holaday.
“I heard really good things about Bryan Holaday before camp started,” Hyde said back on March 10. “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.”
It’s important to note that Hyde was asked about Holaday. He didn’t just blurt out a bunch of compliments out of nowhere. But perhaps he was tipping his hand regarding the backup job.
The Orioles could further justify optioning Sisco, as they did last spring, by pointing out the benefits of playing every day at Triple-A Norfolk instead of sharing the position with Severino.
The 40-man roster has one opening and more are coming. Non-roster pitchers and position players with chances to make the club include Williams, Holaday, left-handers Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone and infielder Pat Valaika.
Infielders Dilson Herrera and José Rondón also remained in the utility competition prior to the stoppage. Pitcher Thomas Eshelman had a disastrous start in Dunedin, but thrust himself into the rotation and bullpen conversations before the Blue Jays smacked him around.
Depending on the restart date for spring training and the regular season, of course.