Hyde hearing players, maturity of Mullins and Tate, rotation and more

One of manager Brandon Hyde’s finest traits is his ability to communicate with his players. Maybe it’s an age thing. Maybe it’s just his personality. But he’s earned praise for it.

Hyde also scores points because he listens.

There’s so much to dissect and digest from events this week. The hard discussions and postponed games. The raw emotion, which Hyde showed Thursday evening on a Zoom conference call while attempting to convey how he’s been able to guide the club through difficult and unprecedented times.

What jumped out at me, among the many things, is how Hyde led discussions with a group of players but also stood back and let them have the floor. During the period when he was inside the room rather than giving them the space to speak in private.

“I didn’t want to hear how I felt,” he said. “I wanted to hear how everybody else felt about the situation, about how they feel.”

The Orioles hired Hyde as manager in December 2018. He knew what was coming as far as the plans to redesign and rebuild the organization from top to bottom. But could he ever have expected what 2020 delivered to him?

Spring training cut short and a season put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. After Trey Mancini stood in the middle of the clubhouse and revealed that he had Stage 3 colon cancer and would undergo surgery and chemotherapy treatments. A multitude of rule and lifestyle changes as Major League Baseball tried to play through COVID-19.

And now the sports world taking its most drastic measures to protest racial injustice, with Hyde hearing stories from his players that bring him to tears.

Remember when a heated dugout exchange with first baseman Chris Davis seemed like breaking news? It wouldn’t register on this year’s scale.

“I don’t think it’s something that you prepare for,” Hyde said. “I’ve seen some difficult times in 10 years, but I don’t think you’re ever fully prepared for this and it’s something that is very educational. You learn a lot about yourself, you learn a lot about your players.

“That’s the most important thing for me is the players and get their thoughts on everything. We do this stuff for the players and for the fans. Having a great clubhouse culture and to have people that are free to be free thinkers, you just learn a lot. And that’s really what’s impacted me here the last four or five months.”

Tate-Orange-Away-sidebar.jpg* Whatever outfielder Cedric Mullins and reliever Dillon Tate accomplish over the second half of the season, nothing will impress me more than their maturity, composure and ability to articulate their feelings when tossed in front of the media this week in Zoom conference calls that had to be uncomfortable, but necessary as two of only four Black players on the team.

Mullins spoke following Wednesday night’s game at Tropicana Field, every question directed at other sports shutting down and the Orioles’ decision to play. Nothing about his two hits. And he understood why.

Tate has appeared in only two games since rejoining the Orioles and is one of the least-experienced players in the clubhouse, but he projected a strong voice Thursday night after the postponement.

“I think what our team wants people to know on the outside is that we all bleed the same blood,” Tate said, providing a quote that will stand as one of the most powerful of the year. “We are all one and we’re all the same and we’re all just trying to come together right now and that’s the message that our guys are definitely showing and displaying.”

* The rotation is easier to predict following Thursday’s postponement, with Alex Cobb starting tonight and Tommy Milone and Asher Wojciechowski available on normal rest for the last two games of the series. But someone has to start Tuesday night against the Mets at Camden Yards.

The bullpen is carrying three long relievers in Thomas Eshelman, Jorge López and César Valdez.

Eshelman hasn’t started since Aug. 13 in Philadelphia, but he’s made three relief appearances and tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday against the Red Sox.

López hasn’t started since Sept. 29, 2019 with the Royals, but Hyde has used him out of the bullpen in three games.

Valdez’s last start in the majors was Aug. 4, 2017 with the Blue Jays.

“I think he’s along the lines of one of our guys that has been stretched out and that can give us some length out of the bullpen as well as making a spot start if necessary,” Hyde said yesterday.

* Leave it to baseball executives to find the trade loopholes.

The Blue Jays acquired pitcher Taijuan Walker from the Mariners Thursday for a player to be named later and he starts tonight. The Orioles got the same return from the Astros on July 29 for pitcher Hector Velázquez and the Marlins on Aug. 1 for reliever Richard Bleier.

Sounds like a giveaway until you consider that the PTBNL doesn’t have to be in the 60-man pool.

The Orioles certainly know which player they’re taking from the Marlins and can wait until after the season to fully consummate the deal. It’s a nice maneuver around the 2020 rules regarding trades.

My first instinct is to assume that the Orioles are receiving a player from the lower level of the Marlins’ farm system. Someone who wasn’t going to take up space in the pool.

Consider that the Orioles obtained two Rookie-level Dominican Summer League players from the Red Sox for Andrew Cashner in July 2019.

Then again, my first instinct after hearing about the return for Bleier was to ask, “Why?” And then it became clear.

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