Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was able to joke tonight about his experience Monday at the team hotel in Miami, how he ordered a delicious cheeseburger for lunch with a side of sweet potato fries. He definitely recommends the fries.
Hyde was preparing for a game but instructed his players to stay near their phones. Don’t leave their rooms. And take advantage of the 24-hour food service.
Guys are trying to keep it light, but the last few days have been unsettling. The reports on the positive tests for COVID-19 among the Marlins. The Orioles being unsure whether they’d play or go home. Not knowing which opponent would be joining them this week.
Worries that the protocols laid out by Major League Baseball and implemented by teams won’t be able to keep everyone safe, no matter how closely they’re followed.
“It was a little unnerving to sit there and just see everything that was unfolding and how quickly it was being reported,” first baseman Chris Davis said tonight in a Zoom conference call.
“I think going into this there was a good possibility that something like this was going to happen. I think we all kind of in the back of our minds knew that there was a possibility of something like this happening, but you hope for the best. If anything, it should serve as a reminder how important it is that we follow these health and safety protocols. If it’s important to us to play every game on the schedule, then we’re going to do what we can to make sure that we’re staying safe.”
Asked whether the level of concern among players is higher this week, Davis replied, “I think it has to be.”
“When something like this happens, whether your club is directly affected or not, I think it kind of makes everybody raise an eyebrow and make sure that they’re doing everything they can. Or at least I hope it would.
“It was going to be hard to get through this whole thing without something like this happening. Once you start to get guys together in a single area and they’re in the same consistent areas that have been cleaned and have been marked with the six feet of distancing and all the sanitation, I think it would be less of a chance, but at the end of the day, you can’t control what guys are doing away from the field. So I hope it alarms everyone league-wide and makes them really focus in on what they’re doing and making sure that they’re doing the right thing.”
Said Hyde: “I think that you’re always going to have concern going in. I think we’re trusting the process of how we’re going about things here. But, yeah, it’s natural when numerous guys on one team that tested positive, I think there is a little bit of concern, but we want to play, our guys want to play. We feel comfortable about things are here right now and we’re going to continue to follow closely all the guidelines in place because our guys really want to be on the field.
“This was something that was possible. It’s extremely unfortunate. But I know that our guys want to play baseball, so I think we’re taking it very, very seriously.”
Davis is considering wearing a mask at first base during Wednesday night’s game against the Yankees at Camden Yards. He’s talked to his family, which includes three young daughters about the risks.
“I would say I’m definitely a little bit more concerned just as far as they’re considered,” Davis said. “Ultimately, I’m not going to be able to protect everyone, I’m not going to be able to protect anyone other than myself, and I think that’s kind of where my head is as far as the mask is concerned. If I can do everything in my power to alleviate that stress at least in my own mind, I think it’s probably the best thing for me.
“I can’t even think about bringing this thing home, but it’s the risk that I’ve assumed. My wife (Jill) and I have talked about it on more than one occasion and I think it’s something that we both feel like it’s worth at least going out there and giving it a shot before we just call it quits. So I’m going to do everything I can to protect myself and hopefully be able to get through the season with no hiccups.”
The Marlins and Phillies have been temporarily shut down, and the Yankees boarded their buses earlier today and headed to Camden Yards as a substitute opponent.
Davis, the team’s union representative, said it was an easy decision to play a two-game series against the Yankees rather than stay idle.
“We weren’t sure at first who it was going to be, if we were going to try to reschedule the game with the Marlins, if we were going to push it back to next week or what we were going to do,” Davis said. “Obviously, there are a lot of unknowns with the number of guys they had test positive, and guy didn’t want to put themselves in harm’s way.
“I think as an organization and definitely as far as our team is concerned, the guys we have in the clubhouse, I feel like we’ve done a really good job of wearing our masks, doing the things that we need to to stay safe. Once the game starts, we’re going to have to make a few adjustments on the field. ... But, yeah, once we were able to kind of figure the logistics of everything out, I think it was pretty much a no-brainer.”
The team didn’t take a vote on whether to play the Marlins, but the group shared its apprehensions.
“Obviously, being in Miami for a night, we were a little concerned about that,” Davis said, “but I think if anything it really just reiterated how important it is to follow these safety protocols and these guidelines that have been laid out of us. I think once guys understood the situation, the gravity of everything and how really this can affect so many people so quickly because of the way it spreads, I think it was just a good reminder that we’re going to have to do a lot of things by the book, so to speak, to make sure we get through as many games as possible.”
The Orioles have done a nice job of policing themselves and won’t tolerate someone taking unnecessary risks and going against the protocols.
“I think we’d be discouraged, but at the same time, we’re putting a lot of faith and a lot of trust in guys to do the right thing, and that’s not just with our club, that’s league-wide,” Davis said.
“I think players assumed the responsibility on their own and I hope that guys would be doing everything that they can and taking all the precautions and going to the extremes to protect themselves. Social distancing, staying in their hotel rooms or at home, wherever they’re living. And I think it’s just going to be disappointing to find out if guys weren’t following those guidelines. But at the end of the day, you can only control what you can control, and for me, my responsibility is the other 29 guys in that clubhouse to make sure that they know what they need to do, how they need to go about their business, and I’ve been really proud of our guys and how they’ve handled themselves so far.”
The Orioles flew from Boston to Miami after Sunday afternoon’s win, woke up the next morning and were thrust back into an uncertain baseball world. After only three games.
“It’s been an unusual day or two for sure, but we’re happy to be home, we’re looking forward to our home opening day tomorrow,” Hyde said.
“Yesterday was just kind of a crazy day where we were on the phone a lot, finding things out by the hour, the minute, like you guys were. It was just hang tight and we’ll see what happens. So now we’re back in Baltimore and are looking forward to having our home opener tomorrow.
“We continue to talk every day. We were hoping something like this wasn’t going to happen. We feel like we’re doing our best to follow the protocols and follow the guidelines. We’re being really vigilant about it here. It’s really, really unfortunate. I know a lot of people over there (with the Marlins). A lot of people were there when I was there 10 years ago. It’s an unfortunate situation, but it’s just the way it is right now and we’re trying to do our part to be safe and healthy and do things the right way here.”
The Orioles were prepared to play the Marlins. The advance work was done.
“And then as the day went along, things started to change and there was a little bit of question about what was happening,” Hyde said. “I was following along like everybody else to see what we were doing. But I don’t remember a specific time when we thought that we were definitely not playing them. It was over the course of the day as there was more conversations and meetings that it might look that way.”
Asher Wojciechowski will make the start Wednesday night and left-hander John Means is probable for the following night after coming off the injured list. Kohl Stewart was supposed to pitch Tuesday and Tommy Milone on Wednesday before the postponements.
The Yankees are starting Gerrit Cole and J.A. Happ.
Players worked out tonight at Camden Yards, with the Yankees taking the field later. The roster won’t undergo any changes, according to Hyde.
Hyde doesn’t know whether the Orioles will be sticking to the schedule and playing the Yankees in a three-game series beginning on Monday at Camden Yards.
“We’re handling things day to day that we’ve never handled before,” Hyde said. “I’ve been in professional baseball since 1997 and there are a lot of firsts this year, so it’s constantly adjusting. A lot of Zoom meetings and a lot of relying on advice and help and conversations to try to make this the best year that we possibly can.”
Johns Hopkins nurse Mahala Thomas will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the home opener. Thomas works in one of the COVID-19 units.
The Orioles will pause to observe a reflective moment of silence in honor of those lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and the victims of racial injustice, as well as the members of the organization’s family who were lost over the past year.
Superfan Mo Gaba passed away tonight, hours after finding out that he’d be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. Condolences are pouring in on social media.