More questions surrounding the Orioles in 2020

The 2020 baseball schedule in all of its truncated glory may not become public until after the spring training report date of July 1.

That would be Wednesday. Not this weekend.

Everything is subject to change this year, including access to bars and public beaches. And spring training complexes, of course. But I’m not expecting to know the identity of the Orioles’ first opponent and the location of the series for at least a few more days.

Camps open Wednesday, but the Orioles’ first workout likely will be held a few days later. Players and staff must be tested for the coronavirus and isolated.

Did we ever get confirmation that John Means is the opening day starter? The announcement, as I recall, was put on hold while we headed back home.

It was so long ago I could have forgotten.

The Rangers already confirmed that Lance Lynn will start their first game. Means was lined up to do the same for the Orioles and he didn’t sustain any injuries while pitching to his wife, Caroline.

A bigger curiosity is whether Asher Wojciechowski can become more consistent and stave off the line of prospects trying to filter onto the pitching staff.

Give him more games against the Red Sox.

Wojciechowski made three starts last summer and allowed two runs with six walks and 20 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. Brock Holt was the only player to hit a home run.

Mookie Betts was 2-for-9 against him before heading to the Dodgers.

I’m also curious whether the Orioles will break their Baltimore camp with Ryan Mountcastle on the roster or wait until later in the summer to unveil him. He wasn’t going to be on the opening day roster in March. Now they must decide whether to include him among the 30 on opening day or place him on the taxi squad that works out at one of their minor league facilities.

The same decision must be made on left-hander Keegan Akin. My guess is he joins Dean Kremer, Bruce Zimmermann and other pitching prospects on the taxi squad, still projected to be the first one promoted.

What happens to outfielder Yusniel Diaz?

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias stated over the winter that he expected Díaz to reach the majors in 2020. But Díaz hasn’t played above the Double-A level and there’s no minor league season to give him experience and the necessary steps in his development at Triple-A.

When you ponder which prospects are most impacted by the shutdown, Díaz is a name that definitely comes to mind.

DJ-Stewart-During-BP-Bearded-Sidebar.jpgTrey Mancini won’t play in 2020. Does DJ Stewart get first crack at right field?

Or maybe it’s Anthony Santander, with Stewart playing left field.

Or Santander is in right and Dwight Smith Jr. is in left, where he’s most comfortable.

In other words, how are the Orioles going to replace Mancini?

The production and leadership won’t be duplicated, but the Orioles need a right fielder. And having Stewart in the discussion is interesting because he likely would have gone on the injured list in March after undergoing ankle surgery five months earlier.

The shutdown has enabled Stewart to become an outfield option on opening day. He shouldn’t need the 10-day injured list (and certainly not the 45-day list) as long as he doesn’t reinjure the ankle.

Hector Velázquez hasn’t thrown a pitch for the Orioles after they claimed him off waivers from the Red Sox on March 8. He’s viewed as a multi-inning reliever/swingman who should really come in handy as starters are eased into their workloads.

That is, if he makes the 30-man roster.

Kohl Stewart made one Grapefruit League start on the same day that Velázquez joined the organization and allowed three runs and five hits in three innings against the Yankees. A sore right biceps muscle kept him sidelined earlier in camp and damaged his chances of making the club, but he remained a possibility and certainly is a consideration in July.

Asked after the March 8 start whether Stewart was in the mix for a spot on the opening day roster, manager Brandon Hyde replied, “A lot of guys in the mix. Yep. We’ve got about 50-something of them. It’s a big mix.”

And Hyde said this before the implementation of the 60-player pool, which will be finalized on Sunday.

Stewart could be an extra pitcher on opening day with the ability to provide some length or he could be working out with a large group of veterans and prospects.

Teams can take three taxi squad players on the road, including a catcher. A pitcher and utility infielder would make sense.

A 30-man roster also can hold a third catcher if Hyde chooses to do so, and I’m curious whether Pedro Severino is joined by Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns, or if Bryan Holaday earns a job. Hyde really likes Holaday’s work behind the plate and his handling of the pitchers.

I’m also curious whether the Orioles can practice social distancing in the rain room.

So many questions.

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