Updating Means, exhibition pitchers and more

The Orioles remain uncertain about John Means’ status for opening day, though there’s been improvement in the condition of his left arm.

Manager Brandon Hyde said the club remains in day-to-day mode with Means.

“He felt a lot better today,” Hyde said during his Zoom conference call with the media. “Has done a lot of treatment today. We haven’t made a decision on that yet, but obviously we need to do that here in the next couple days.”

The Orioles won’t use a starter on short rest if Means is scratched from his opening day assignment in Boston.

“We’re hoping that John can make that start, but I just don’t have an answer right now and we can’t commit,” Hyde said. “I think tomorrow we really need to decide, but I really don’t want any of those guys to go on short rest.

“We’re hoping he can start, but if not we have some contingency plans.”

Lakins-Fires-Orange-ST-sidebar.jpgDavid Hess and Hector Velázquez also are in the bullpen tonight. Alex Cobb starts Monday night against the Nationals at Camden Yards, with available relievers including Richard Bleier, Travis Lakins Sr., Paul Fry, César Valdez and Rob Zastryzny.

Kohl Stewart will start Tuesday night in D.C., with Wade LeBlanc staying back to throw a simulated game. Shawn Armstrong, Mychal Givens, Evan Philiips and Hess (if he’s available) will be relief options.

Reliever Cody Carroll will pitch later tonight as he attempts to return to the majors for the first time since 2018. A back injury last spring and subsequent surgery limited him to two appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and an assignment to the Arizona Fall League.

“Hopefully it happens,” Carroll said during his Zoom session. “I guess we’ll find out here in the next few days. But it’s been way too long for me. Just being here in Philly, different scenery for the first time in years is nice.”

Carroll came to the Orioles in 2018 as part of package from the Yankees in the Zack Britton trade and he allowed 17 runs and 21 hits in 17 innings. He was impressive the following spring, leading the team in exhibition saves, but injured his back after reporting to the minor league complex.

“In 2018, I think I let the spotlight get too big,” Carroll said. “When I got traded over here, I wasn’t myself. I was trying to do too much and be more than I was and I think that’s what I got back to, especially having the whole year last year to kind of reflect and contemplate, it really came down to just being within myself and not trying to be somebody that I’m not.”

Baseball shut down in March with Carroll on a roll, allowing only one run with no walks and eight strikeouts in six innings. He’s tried to keep the momentum going at Camden Yards.

“I think it’s pretty close honestly,” he said. “I mean, it’s hard to pick up where you left off three months later, but I feel like mechanically and everything I feel just the same as I did in spring, so yeah, for me I think I’m about exactly where I left off.

“Just trying to stay within myself was the big thing for me. Not trying to come in and overdo it. Just showing them what I can do and what I’m capable of and not trying to go out there and be Superman every night.”

Shortstop José Iglesias joined outfielders Anthony Santander and Dwight Smith Jr. today in live batting practice sessions. Hyde said Iglesias will play “a lot” in the next two games.

“He took about eight to 10 at-bats this morning off a couple pitchers that are in our secondary site,” Hyde said.

“I know it’s blazing hot today, as well as tomorrow, so I just gave him a breather today. Really just wanted him to get at-bats.”

Reliever Dillon Tate’s right elbow is improving, but he didn’t play catch today.

“We’re hoping in the next couple days,” Hyde said.

As always, don’t read too much into exhibition lineups. Rio Ruiz batting second tonight isn’t a hint for opening day.

“It’s an exhibition game lineup,” Hyde said. “Not a ton of thought put into it. I didn’t look at numbers, I didn’t look at anything besides I wanted to see Rio get a couple at-bats off a right-handed pitcher (Zack Wheeler) early, and not knowing their usage or how they’re going to pitch their guys behind him ...

“I’m probably not going to play (Austin) Hays a ton. He’s going to hit in the top third of the lineup the majority of time just to start the year, so he’s going to get a couple at-bats and I’m going to play him in the next couple of games also. But honestly, this is just me throwing it together for this type of game with some certain things in mind of making sure guys get some at-bats.”

Outfielder Mason Williams isn’t in tonight’s lineup, but he’s in Philadelphia and could get on the field.

Williams is trying to earn a spot on the opening day roster with the outfield unsettled.

“I think camp’s going well, I think camp’s going well for everyone,” he said today. “I think everyone’s working hard right now and I think there’s opportunities if you just allow them to. I’ve here still trying to do what I can do and control what I can control, but opportunities are always there. You’ve just got to kind of go in stride and take it all in.

“Things that I can control are on the field and in between the lines, and that has to do with playing defense, getting on base, making plays happen. And just staying within myself.”

Players are excited to ramp up the competition by going from scrimmages to exhibitions. The games may be fake, but the rise in intensity is real.

“We’re all excited to basically get back to real game speed,” Williams said. “I think a lot of us are kind of done wearing the white and orange jerseys at home for a while. Definitely great to come back over here. We’re in Philly and to see another team on the field and compete.

“Everyone’s trying to get back on their feet and try to get ready to run and try to get back to competing and trying to win some games. We have a 60-game season, so I think everyone is in good spirits on what we can do this year. We’re just going to come out every day what we’ve been training for throughout spring training and even throughout the quarantine time and be able to compete and play at a high level.”

Said Hyde: “I know our guys are excited to play somebody else. We’ve done a great job these past few weeks for preparing for these next three days and we’re definitely ready to play somebody. I think we’re tired of playing against each other for sure.”

Hyde said having a third catcher on the taxi squad for road games can factor into the final roster decisions for opening day. The Orioles play their first five games away from Camden Yards.

“The three taxi squad roster decisions are going to be important,” he said. “We’re going to put a lot of thought into those three taxi squad guys and who they’re going to be. I think that we’re all aware things can change quickly on a day-to-day basis this year. Whether that’s going to be somebody to cover a starter, cover a catcher, a utility guy to cover if a position player goes down. There’s a lot of things to consider with those three that you’re going to carry on the road.”

Hyde also complimented Renato Núñez today for resisting the urge to again become pull-happy at the plate and instead find the gap in right-center field. And for increasing his focus at third base.

“His purpose is different in his work defensively for me this year,” Hyde said. “I’ve always thought he worked hard. He did a nice job. But this year, there’s a little bit extra really getting his feet going, he’s making every ground ball important, he’s making that 15-20 minute defensive session a big part of his day. And I’ve seen a lot of improvement there, really from the beginning of this month to now.

“And with him, it’s confidence also. His confidence defensively. And I feel like his confidence has improved and just hoping it continues. Hopefully he keeps this same work ethic for the next 60 days and continues to gain confidence.”

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