Spring shutdown left players like Wynns uncertain of status

The spring training shutdown did more than stop the workouts and exhibition games. It also led to the shredding of mock rosters, destroying all of the hard work put into choosing the 26 players who would head north for opening day.

If there is a 2020 season, it’s going to come with an expansion that might allow teams to carry 30 players and a hefty taxi squad. Those camp competitions that held our interest seem so insignificant under these revisions.

The idea of carrying a third catcher seemed preposterous a few months ago, though the Orioles kept it on the table. But it makes more sense now, especially if that catcher is capable of moving to another position.

Pedro Severino is a lock, but manager Brandon Hyde might not be stuck deciding between Chance Sisco, Austin Wynns, Bryan Holaday and Taylor Davis for one spot.

Hyde figured to keep two utility-type players, but he could broaden his plan. The Orioles can build an addition on their bullpen to hold more than the projected eight relievers.

Bubble guys are suddenly on more solid footing.

Players who knew they were on the roster or headed to minor league camp prior to the shutdown probably didn’t feel as unsettled as someone like Wynns, who returned home still unsure of his status.

Wynns-Play-at-Plate-White-sidebar.jpgNo one was handing Wynns a job and there was no writing on the wall that he’d begin the season at Triple-A. He hadn’t locked up a spot or punted his chances.

“You really don’t want to think about that when you’re in the moment because you just want to go out there and play, perform, do whatever’s best for the team and leave it all out there and force their hand,” Wynns said earlier this week.

“That’s all you can do. You can only control what you can control. You can’t control everything else.”

But many of us try.

Wynns’ family is safe and staying busy during the pandemic. Both parents and his older sister work at Costco. His younger sister is “on the front lines,” as he puts it, while working in the emergency room at a San Diego hospital. His brother is a broker who heads to the office each morning.

The 29-year-old catcher keeps busy with workouts and the occasional Zoom requests, whether coming from the Orioles or the Fieldhouse Pirates Baseball Club. He also uses the video calls in the more standard manner, keeping in touch with the people closest to him from long distance.

Reach out and Zoom someone.

“Booming, right? It’s everyone. It is booming,” he said.

“Everyone was doing FaceTime, but then Zoom was so we could bunch up all the calls together. It was needed for sure and I’m glad we were able to have that in our back pocket to use, to connect with family, friends and loved ones.”

The Orioles are using it to stay engaged with their players, to keep the instructional and information processes flowing without gathering everyone on the same fields.

“We’ve been touching base and just staying up to date with everyone and seeing how everyone is doing,” Wynns said. “It’s good. We are actively communicating at all times, which is important. We all do our part.”

Wynns also sat on one of the buses headed to Fort Myers for the March 12 game against the Twins that ultimately was cancelled, along with the rest of spring training.

“As soon as word came out we were like, ‘What is this? What’s going on?’ ” he said. “I remember I was on the bus with the guys and then we went in a loop. I think I remember your face. You were like, ‘Oh, the bus is back!’ I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ And then it was just a waiting game.

“We waited, and as soon as we got the word, everyone was on hold, shocked. You can use a lot of words. It was like, ‘Where do we go next? What do we do?’ Everyone probably reached out to their loved ones from that point on and was just like, ‘All right, this is what we have to do now and right now obviously we’re on hold.’

“Just a waiting game. That’s why it’s important that we do our part and be very cautious and aware.”

The shutdown came on the same day that outfielder Trey Mancini was undergoing colon cancer surgery. Emotions inside the clubhouse already were raw.

“It was like whammy after whammy after whammy,” Wynns said. “It was crazy, right? But with Trey, Trey is a strong man and the time that he’s in right now, he’ll be OK. He’s handling it very well. Good state of mind. He’s in good spirits. He has a good support system. He has his family, friends, fans and he’s strong. Strong mentally, and physically he’ll get back.”

Whether games are played in July or not at all remains a mystery. We only know that Mancini won’t be on the active roster before 2021.

Camps could reopen next month, perhaps keeping the Orioles in Baltimore rather than making a return trip to Sarasota. The postseason could be held in November. Divisions could remain the same, which appears to be the case in the current proposal. But little else would feel normal.

“I think we’ll have a season,” Wynns said. “I think everyone is ready. Ready for something to happen. But we don’t know. It’s hard to tell. That’s why I’m saying it’s important to stay ready, for all the players, but being smart. We all have to be smart, too.

“We don’t want to be not going by the guidelines. That’s why it’s important to stay indoors and train indoors. You see all these people hitting at home, working out at home. It’s a good thing.”

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