Hess goes from optioned to an Orioles option for opening day

David Hess spent the offseason following a program created for him at Premier Pitching & Performance center in St. Louis. The same facility that changed John Means’ professional life.

He made it through the first version of spring training with a spot on the camp roster.

He lost that spot a week later when the Orioles included him among four players optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

He made it back onto the camp roster Sunday afternoon when the Orioles included him among 44 players announced for their player pool.

Hess is traveling a road to Camden Yards with a roundabout that almost made him dizzy.

“I feel like you play pro ball long enough, you start to roll with the punches a little bit,” Hess said yesterday while driving from Greenville, S.C., to Baltimore.

Hess and his wife Devin had stayed in Greenville since baseball shut down in the second week of March. The city is the home of the Red Sox’s Single-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League and Hess joined some other players at the team’s complex for workouts and games.

“I had a couple connections with people that I knew in pro ball,” Hess said. “We pretty much set up a group that was coming in four or five days a week. So we were able to do intrasquads and I was able to pitch to some guys. I feel like it was about as good a setup as I could possibly have.”

The experience also enabled Hess to practice the type of social distancing and learn more about the precautions that await him at Camden Yards, where players will begin reporting today to undergo testing for COVID-19.

The first official workout of spring training 2.0 begins on Friday.

“Really, there were not a ton of us that were going in initially,” Hess said. “I’d say it was probably five or six and then it kind of grew to be a little bit bigger. As we progressed it got a little bit more difficult, but we were able to do the social distancing pretty well. The weight room had a pretty good space, so we could go in, get our workouts in, do our conditioning out on the field along with throwing.

“Really, we were trying to be as safe as possible while doing it. Everybody had a lot of hand sanitizer. We wore masks when we could. We did everything we could to be safe while also trying to get some good work in.”

David-Hess-Fires-vs-SF-Orange-Sidebar.jpgHess isn’t certain of what awaits him at Camden Yards beyond the medical examinations. Workouts will be staggered to accommodate the 44 players in the Baltimore portion of the pool.

“I’m not sure what everything is going to look like quite yet,” he said. “The only thing I know for sure is it’s going to be different. Whatever different may look like. But I know we have the intake testing coming up, and once everybody is hopefully negative and cleared, we’ll start some group work.

“I don’t know the details of what that’s going to look like exactly, but right now I’m just excited to get back up and get back to prepping for a season.”

The Orioles informed Hess late last week that he’d be included in the 60-player pool. No longer optioned. No longer aimed at a minor league season that’s been canceled.

Travel and housing arrangements were set up for players who needed them.

“I was not sure exactly what that would look like since I got optioned a few months ago,” Hess said. “I was happily surprised by it and it’s something that I’m going to try to make the best of.”

The Orioles optioned Hess after he allowed five runs and seven hits with five walks and eight strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. He tossed two scoreless innings with four strikeouts against the Blue Jays in Dunedin in the final game before the shutdown.

“I had been home for a few days when they called me and told me, so I was caught a little off guard,” he said.

“I just used that as a little added motivation while we were home to work hard and to do everything I could to be ready when we were able to play again.”

Players received a handbook explaining the safety protocols and the Orioles sent out an email containing a video to break it down further.

“It’s going to be a lot different,” Hess said. “Talking to some of the training staff and hearing the things that they put in place, it’s going to be quite an adjustment, I think. But I was just telling some of my family that if this is what we have to do to play baseball, I think a lot of people are more than ready to make that happen.”

Some players on other teams have chosen this week to opt out due to safety concerns. Hess never considered it.

“For me, it wasn’t a very difficult decision simply because I’m still early on in my career,” he said. “Hopefully, there’s a long road ahead. But also, it’s really just me and my wife. She’s going to be coming down in a couple weeks. For me to be able to come in and be able to feel it out before she came down was really helpful.

“I know a lot of people, their biggest concern was about kids and exposing them to anything, and since we don’t have any kids right now, it was something that wasn’t really as challenging. But I know across the board it’s something that people are going to have to process and think through.

“I saw a few guys had already opted out and I don’t know if there will be more or what that number will look like, but you completely respect it and understand it. There are a lot of risks just involved in being in such a public setting and being in a different place than you’ve been accustomed to over the last few months. So personally it wasn’t as difficult for me, but I know that there are a lot of things on the table for other people.”

Beginning Friday, Hess and his teammates can resume preparations for a season that was put on hold back in March.

If Major League Baseball is actually able to play the season.

“I feel good about it,” Hess said. “Obviously, we’re in a time right now that is very unpredictable in terms of what outbreaks are going to look like if there’s any outbreaks and how to handle that. I think right now everybody’s excited. There’s a lot of positivity surrounding everything. And I’m sure over these next few weeks it’s going to be a pretty crucial time to see what’s going on with the control of everything.

“I think the most important thing to focus on right now is trying to be as safe as possible doing the hand sanitizing, washing hands, wearing masks and all the safety protocols put in place. If that’s followed, especially with no fans in the stands, I think that we’re probably in the best possible position that we could be with the virus being around us.”

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