Orioles manager Brandon Hyde is trying to set up the rest of his rotation without No 1. starter John Means, who’s on the injured list with left shoulder fatigue. He appears to have made decisions through the first road trip.
Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc start the last two games in Boston and Asher Wojciechowki gets the ball for Monday night’s series opener against the Marlins in Miami. Hyde is leaning toward using Kohl Stewart the following night before the Orioles head back to Baltimore.
The spot currently is listed as TBD, but Stewart has the inside track.
Means is eligible to return on Thursday night and face the Marlins at Camden Yards.
“If everything progresses the way that we feel like it should,” Hyde said, “we’re hoping he makes that start.”
“All three for different reasons,” he said.
“Holaday for the third catcher, a catcher with experience that’s caught a lot of really good pitchers in this game, a guy who’s had a really nice summer camp. I love the leadership qualities. He’s got big-time intangibles. He works really well with pitchers. So having him around is a huge bonus for us.
“Tom Eshelman is a guy who’s had a great summer camp. A really nice spring training also, just a couple hiccups. But besides that has really pitched well, especially his last start, when he went four-plus against the Phillies’ varsity lineup and threw the ball outstanding. That was a tough decision to leave him off (the active roster). A guy who can really give us length. We wanted to bring him in case we do need somebody who can give us some length, either in the rotation or out of the bullpen. Feel comfortable with Tom big-time.
“Dilson is similar to the other two in that they’ve had really good summer camps. Dilson offers us flexibility, can play more than one position. Is a right-handed bat, would be a nice complement to some of our other guys in possibly a platoon situation or off the bench. I like Dilson’s bat and I like his versatility. So if we have to add these guys to the roster, I’m comfortable with all three.”
Both teams are trying to proceed as if it were a normal opening day, knowing that the task is impossible. The best that they can do is make the necessary adjustments and not allow the changes to become a distraction or ruin the experience.
“It’s a lot different in a lot of ways, but we’re extremely grateful, proud to be here,” Hyde said. “It’s opening day, so it’s a special day for all of us and there’s so much work put in by so many people for us to be sitting in the Red Sox clubhouse right now ready to go out for batting practice and get ready for the season to start. So we’re extremely grateful as a club, and it’s an opening day, so it’s always a great feeling. I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
“It’s definitely different. It’s a lot to take in,” said first baseman Chris Davis.
“I didn’t even realize, to be honest with you, that this is my 11th opening day, 12th opening day, something like that, and they go by quickly. But opening day is always special just because it signifies the start of a new season. It gives you a chance to kind of start over and rewrite the last few chapters of your story, whether that’s good or bad. I think it gives you a chance to just start over again.”
No one could use another mulligan more than Davis.
“I think it’s a big year for everybody, just with everything that’s going on,” he said. “I mean, just walking in today, seeing the setup, kind of seeing the challenges that we’re going to have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, it’s a big deal for everybody. Personally, I feel good, I feel like I’m back to myself. I feel like I’m playing the game of baseball and I’m enjoying playing the game the way that I know how to play it, and it’s refreshing and it’s nice to go out there and enjoy what you do.
“Even in the midst of everything that we have going on it’s been nice just to be out on the field with my teammates, see those guys again, to feel somewhat normal on the field. Away from the field it’s going to be a challenge, but we’re at least we’re getting the opportunity to play 60 games, 60-plus.”
What constitutes a successful season for Davis?
“I think, for me personally, just being a productive player. And I know that’s kind of vague, but not putting so much stock into results and how I’m going to match up statistically, but really focusing in on what I want to accomplish as a player and how I’m going to go about that,” he said.
“I think, really, in the past that’s why I would have so much success the years that I did. I was focused on my process, I was focused on how I went about my business. And I think if I can keep my focus on that, how to prepare myself, at the end of the season the results will be there.”
No fans in the ballpark isn’t a new experience for Davis after the Orioles and White Sox played inside an empty Camden Yards in 2015. He’s shared it with his teammates.
“It came up and it’s come up a few times since we’ve been back together,” he said. “I think the re-occurring theme that I tried to communicate to them is just it’s different. It really is. For me, the cool part about the 2015 game against the White Sox at home was actually being able to hear our fans right outside the gates, and that’s something I’ll never forget. It really showed me the impact that we have on the community and the people around us, and how much people really do care about us as people, as individuals and as an organization.
“It’s tough. It’s going to be tough going out there every day having to face these challenges and it not being normal, but I think it’s something that’s obviously worth doing. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
Hyde said he checked with his players after learning that the Nationals’ Juan Soto tested positive for COVID-19. The teams played back-to-back exhibition games.
“I went to a lot of our players individually and asked how much contact they had with Juan. Fortunately, all of our guys were away from Juan,” Hyde said.
“It’s very disappointing to hear and it’s a tough situation. I think this is something we’re all going to go through this year. That’s why when you talk about rosters and health and those types of things, I just don’t think we have any idea. I just saw that the Braves don’t have their catchers. So it’s just going to be something we navigate through this season. We’re going to do the best we can, we’re going to stay as healthy as we can, we’re going to follow the protocols that our front office and organization feel so strongly about. So you just never know on a day-to-day what’s going to happen around the league.”
Both teams are wearing “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts tonight, and the Orioles have engaged in some in-depth discussions about racial equality and social justice.
“We have met multiple times in big group settings, as well as some small groups,” Hyde said. “We’ve had multiple discussions as a team and it’s been extremely powerful. I’m supporting our players and I’m supporting our players in their rights to be individuals, to individually express themselves in a peaceful way. The culture that we’re trying to build here, and that’s what’s happened the last few months. It’s been unbelievable, to be honest with you.
“We’ve had these meetings up until to a few hours ago, so we have talked a lot about opening day, we’ve talked a lot about racial equality, we talked a lot about social justice. We feel really strongly about it, we feel strongly about our players, an incredible, incredible group of guys. And we’re just going to be unified. That’s the main goal for all of us is that we want to show everybody that we’re united and that we are one team and that we love each other and that we’re doing this together.”
Davis added that the Orioles are taking a “united” stance in making sure that they’ve created and maintained a proper environment.
“One of the things that we wanted to address early on was the culture and, really, the climate in our clubhouse and did guys feel comfortable in our clubhouse, did they feel like it was a place where they could speak their mind and not be judged or not be labeled and it was a unanimous ‘yes,’” he said.
“They felt like it was a good place for them to be. And as the veteran in the clubhouse it was refreshing to hear that, and that was something that I voiced to those guys. If there is an issue and guys don’t feel safe, then we need to address it. We need to address it together. And maybe that means we don’t come to a solution the first day, but it’s worth it to take the time and sit and talk about these issues. And I think you’re going to see that tonight on the field.”
Players with the Yankees, Nationals, Dodgers and Giants knelt last night during pregame ceremonies prior to the national anthem.
“We talked a lot about what we’re going to do,” Davis said. “We want to look unified as a group, and we are, and I think that it’s going to be a really special moment for a number of guys.”
Hyde also is wearing an orange face covering with Trey Mancini’s No. 16.
“Don’t forget this guy right here,” Hyde said. “I texted with Trey earlier.”
Note: The Orioles signed fifth-rounder Carter Baumler, a right-hander from Dowling Catholic High School in Iowa, who had agreed to a $1.5 million deal. All of their draft picks are under contract.