Orioles manager Brandon Hyde left it up to his players whether they wanted to take the field tonight or pack up and leave.
He was going to support their decision. Whichever way it leaned.
The team has decided, without any resistance, to finish the series against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
At least two more games have been postponed tonight to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. To bring more awareness to racial inequality. To make the boldest statement that sports can offer.
Hyde was emotionally drained as he faced the media on his Zoom conference call. He was preparing to make roster moves and hadn’t posted his lineup. But the earlier discussions with his players - as a group and individually - took the most out of him.
“We met a little while ago as a team,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of individual conversations, small group discussions, as well as a team meeting and left it up to the players to really hear their thoughts and what they wanted to do. And our guys have decided that they wanted to play and I’m going to fully support them in that. I would have supported them if they didn’t want to play, also.
“We had an open forum with our group. Some guys speak up and the consensus was in our room, our group, that our guys want to play.”
The Rays made the same call, which basically left it up to the Orioles.
No one in the visiting clubhouse pushed for a postponement.
“It was unanimous that the players wanted to play,” Hyde said. “So nobody spoke up to say that they had hesitation or reservations about playing tonight’s game.”
Hyde purposely wore a T-shirt honoring the Negro Leagues during his video conference call.
“I’ve worn this shirt quite a bit,” he said. “I just want to support our African American players, I want to support the African American players around the league, I want to support the racial equality movement.
“This is tough times right now and to listen to our players talk and their stories and their experiences, it’s very moving. This is just a difficult time that I’m learning a lot that we’re doing the best we can in our clubhouse. I feel really good about everything that’s going on in our clubhouse and I want our guys to know that they have free expression and can be free thinkers and that they always have my support.
“It’s powerful, man. We’ve got some special guys who have had some experiences that we’re overall learning from. This didn’t start today or start opening day, this started well back - April, May - and I think it has brought our team closer together. I think it has brought our clubhouse tight. It’s a tight group in there. And so we’ve all learned from everybody’s experiences and I appreciate how open and honest everybody is.”
The stories shared behind closed doors had a tremendous impact on Hyde. He kept pausing during his media session to collect his thoughts. Words didn’t come easily to him, but he pressed on.
“Hard to listen to,” he said. “They’re very, very moving. And growing up as a while male, it’s sad and makes you angry.”
First base coach Anthony Sanders, who’s Black, has been a strong voice in his first season with the club.
“He’s a great leader,” Hyde said.
The Orioles were meeting again later today to talk about ways they might show their unity on the field, whether before tonight’s game or Friday in Buffalo for Jackie Robinson Day.
“It’s something we’re going to discuss again as a group,” Hyde said.
There’s also a game to play tonight, with back-to-back losses knocking the Orioles two below .500.
The Orioles must make a difficult transition. To shift their focus where it isn’t as important in the grand scheme.
“There’s so many more important things that are happening besides our game right now,” Hyde said. “We have a Major League Baseball game here at 6:40 and we’re going to prepare for it and I think our guys are going to be ready to play. I think that our clubhouse meetings was very impactful, I thought it brought us together even more and I think our guys are going to step out and be ready to compete at 6:40. But I think we all have our thoughts in other places at times.”
A lineup hasn’t been posted. But a game will be played.
The Orioles are 2-6 with Iglesias on the injured list and 2-8 since his last game.
Left-hander John Means was stretched out to three innings and 44 pitches in his last start. He’s 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA and 0.909 WHIP in four career games against the Rays.
Mike Brosseau is 4-for-9 with three home runs against Means.
Left-hander Ryan Yarbrough has made six starts and registered a 4.45 ERA and 1.319 WHIP in 30 1/3 innings.
Yarbrough is 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.240 WHIP in seven career games (two starts) against the Orioles. Renato Núñez is 4-for-10 with a home run.
Kevin Kiermaier is out of the Rays lineup after leaving last night’s game with back spasms.
For the Rays
Manuel Margot CF
Yandy Díaz 3B
Austin Meadows LF
Mike Brosseau 1B
Willy Adames SS
José Martínez DH
Hunter Renfroe RF
Joey Wendle 2B
Mike Zunino C
Ryan Yarbrough LHP
Update: Iglesias has been activated from the IL, pitcher César Valdez had his contract selected from the alternate camp site and will wear No. 62, and Urías and pitcher Keegan Akin have been optioned.
Iglesias is the designated hitter tonight.
For the Orioles:
Hanser Alberto 3B
Anthony Santander RF
José Iglesias DH
Renato Núñez 1B
Pat Valaika 2B
Ryan Mountcastle LF
Bryan Holaday C
Andrew Velazquez SS
Cedric Mullins CF
John Means LHP