The Sarasota portion of camp ended for the Orioles on March 12, almost four months passing before they could reconvene at Camden Yards for unprecedented summer sessions. The roster has undergone some changes, with 45 players plunging into a pool and 15 others expected at the alternate site in Bowie.
Manager Brandon Hyde won’t block out everything he saw at the Ed Smith Stadium complex and during Grapefruit League games. It still counts.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said yesterday after leaving his seat behind home plate. “We’re still trying to find out about a lot of guys on our roster. I really was encouraged by the momentum that we had in camp. I thought we played well. I thought our work days were fantastic. We’ve talked about that, really trying to capture that momentum again here in these next three weeks. Continue to play like we were in the spring training games.
“We just had a couple bad games. Besides that I thought we played good baseball. The work was really good. I’d like to just continue on that and keep that going and capture that as much as we possibly can and go into these next three weeks to really prepare our guys to compete in a major league season.
“I know that our guys, we’ve had a lot of communication, a lot of conversations these last few months. Our guys are itching and ready to go. They really want to play. I feel really good about where our team is mentally. I thought we’ve done a really nice job of keeping up on them physically and they’ve done a nice job of taking accountability for themselves and their careers and come in here in really good shape.”
The younger players will try to become established in the majors, or at least work into the mix and hop aboard the taxi squad, during a season that’s down to only 60 games. The pressure expands as the schedule shrinks.
“This is such a different scenario than anybody could have ever imagined. It’s just a different set of circumstances,” said first baseman Chris Davis.
“To think that guys would be judged solely off 60 games, especially under these conditions, to me it seemed a little farfetched. But at the same time as a younger player you want to make your mark anytime you get the opportunity. It’s definitely a tall task, but to be honest with you, I was encouraged by the way the guys showed up today.
“Our pitchers looked like they had been on a throwing program, they looked like they were doing things to keep their stuff fresh and keep their arms fresh. And some of our position players, I got to see some of the guys take BP. I felt like everybody looked sharp. They looked like they didn’t take any time off, like they took advantage of whatever avenue they had. Whether it’s at home, whether they were in Sarasota, whatever it was, it looked like guys were serious about their business and didn’t slack off. It was nice to see that.”
Hyde is going to organize as many intrasquad games as possible prior to the maximum three exhibitions allowed. This is how he’s going to heat up the competition and determine which 30 players are on the opening day roster. Fifteen cuts must be made from the current group.
“I think that anything can happen,” he said. “I think that we’re going to do the best we can to see as many people as we can, still. We’re still in evaluation mode in a lot of ways.
“We’ve got 15 guys to narrow this down and I think there’s going to be a ton of competition these next few weeks.”
The workouts are set up over the next few days for pitchers to be on the field in the morning and position players in the afternoon. Media access today is 1-3 p.m.
“Every pitcher’s in a little bit different program,” Hyde said. “Some guys might have a side that day, some guys might have a live BP, some guys might have a throwing program that day. So we grouped them in those certain categories. The live BP guys were the third wave, so our position players who are coming in the afternoon could hit off them.”
Infielders and outfielders were split up yesterday after hitters took their swings off a group of pitchers that included Thomas Eshelman, Tommy Milone and Paul Fry. Hyde conceded that it was a long day for the four catchers.
“We’re just doing the best we can, especially this early on, to space out guys, to really make sure that the groups aren’t big and the guys have plenty of time and plenty of space to get the work in that they need.”
The season is now described as a sprint. Quite unusual for a sport that relishes the comparisons to a marathon.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Hyde said. “We’re in first place in late July. That’s really exciting for all of us. We don’t have a ton of experience in our clubhouse and to be right in it with 60 games to go is going to be a lot of fun.
“I think these last few months have actually brought our guys closer together. I think they’ve done a really nice job of staying in touch with each other. We had a Zoom call (Thursday) night. Just wanted to see everybody. They were kidding each other like they normally do. Everybody’s in really good spirits. We have 60 games, we’re going to prepare as well as we possibly can and make the best of this really, really unique situation.”