Orioles move back into offseason phase

The first day without baseball.

It feels like only two months ago that the Orioles were waiting to get started.

I didn’t like the chances of Major League Baseball making it through the 60-game season, but here we are, with 16 teams ready for the expanded playoffs.

The Orioles finished with a 25-35 record, tied for fifth-worst in the majors, but stayed in contention until the final week. A nice sidebar to the main story, which was tracking the progress of top prospects who made their debuts in 2020 and checking on the development of others who stayed at the alternate camp site in Bowie.

Attention is shifting to the fall instructional league, with the Orioles finalizing their plans to reopen the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota. At least, that’s the expectation unless something has changed. Got to leave myself some wiggle room.

Rutschman-Catching-White-ST-sidebar.jpgCatcher Adley Rutschman could stay busy after working out at Prince George’s Stadium, where he benefited from the exposure to higher level pitching.

“He caught and hit every single day in Bowie and had a tremendous summer camp,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said during Saturday afternoon’s Zoom conference call with the media.

“He’s a very exciting player. He’s got some special abilities all the way around and I’m glad that we have him. And he may have more activities later this year if we’re able to do something late this year.”

Like, perhaps, a fall instructional league.

“I think for everyone the Bowie experience was good, but for him in particular,” Elias said. “He faced basically nothing but Double-A, Triple-A major league arms and to do that and adapt to it is something that’s hard to replicate and it was good to see. He looks good.”

The 2020 draft selections also could gather in Sarasota after being denied entrance into the 60-man player pool.

The playoffs sound more exciting, I’m sure, but this is another important step in the rebuild process.

Worth praising again is the impact of the collective effort from everyone in the organization. Including the medical and athletic training side during a pandemic.

Did any team in baseball do a better job with protocols and keeping everyone safe?

Were any athletic trainers kept busier? Every team has its share of injuries, and the high-profile players get the bulk of the national attention, but manager Brandon Hyde spent every day circulating through the clubhouse to check whether he had nine healthy bodies for the lineup. And how many relievers were available.

Hyde suggested that head athletic trainer Brian Ebel should be honored as Most Valuable Oriole. Elias opened Saturday’s Zoom by mentioning how Ebel has “babysat the entire organization day and night through all kinds of issues and work and drama that none of us will ever hear about.”

“It’s been a tireless and excellent effort on his part and that of his staff,” Elias said.

“Our ballpark operations staff, led by (senior vice president of administration and experience) Greg Bader and (vice president of ballpark experience and operations) Troy Scott and others back at Camden Yards have gone above and beyond. And I’m going to stop there because I feel like I’m going to forget people, but the organization as a whole has pulled off a great year. We’ve kept everyone safe and healthy and they’ve also kept the players relatively safe and healthy on the baseball field, too, which has not been easy to do given how much attention has been put forth toward putting virus prevention protocols first.

“That extends to our coaching staff. This has been just strenuous conditions to coach under and play under. ... On the field, while our record does not affect where we ultimately strive to be and expect to be, we feel that even despite the circumstances we managed to make the progress in our plan that we wanted to see. Saw a good, albeit it short draft that has, along with other trades and player improvement have helped elevate our farm system firmly into the top 10.

“Those players that were out (in) Bowie performed and showed very well. The ones that you saw up here had extraordinarily impressive major league debuts almost to a man and that’s not usual. I don’t think it’s always going to be the case, nor does it need to be the case, but I think it speaks to the talent that these players have, the job that our coaching staffs both in Baltimore and Bowie have done with them and it to me provides some reassurance that we’re making progress as an organization.”

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