I’m not sure how manager Brandon Hyde will readjust to a normal baseball season, if one becomes available to him, after devoting so much of his energy to detailing the protocols set up at Camden Yards and on the road and how his players adhered to them.
How the Orioles kept everyone safe, taking no chances if someone reported to the ballpark with the sniffles or a headache.
How the sport survived outside of a bubble and completed a 60-game regular season, the playoffs and World Series.
What it was like to manage under these conditions in only his second year on the job.
In-game strategies, usage of his bullpen, the lineup, no longer held the same importance.
Fortunately, Hyde is so proud of what the organization accomplished in a pandemic that he’s able to keep talking about it without his eyes rolling out of their sockets.
What did Hyde learn from the experience and what advice would he pass along to the other sports?
“I give our league a lot of credit,” he said during his virtual Winter Meetings Zoom conference call. “I felt like we had some bumps early with a couple teams that had some issues and I think the leadership from the top down in our league and especially on our club with how strict we were following our protocols and relaying to the players how important it was ...
“We had great team discussions. We really just wanted to see this through and get to postseason and try to keep everybody as safe as possible and I thought our league just did an unbelievable job of relaying that message. And our players completely bought in to try to stay as safe as possible and not break protocol. So it started from the top down. Continuing to travel, continuing to stay in hotels and our guys did a great job of not going out, of social distancing, of washing our hands. We social distanced in the dugout as well as we possibly could. We wore masks in the clubhouse, we wore masks as much as possible.
“So that would be my advice is to just follow the protocols as well as you possibly can and keep your distance and hopefully good things happen like it did in our league.”
* The news on Monday that the Orioles signed catcher Nick Ciuffo to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training raised one very important question.
Are the Orioles done searching for catchers to improve their depth?
I’m guessing that they remain open to bringing in a second catcher on a minor league contract. Ciuffo isn’t necessarily the cutoff.
The 21st overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft is expected to provide more offense, but Ciuffo is 8-for-43 (.186) in the majors and has a .248/.293/.344 slash line in 1,844 minor league plate appearances. He’s never hit more than seven home runs at any level and four of his five RBIs in the majors came against the Orioles on Sept. 7, 2018.
Ciuffo has thrown out 45 percent of runners attempting to steal in the minors. However, he’s 2-for-8 with six passed balls in the majors.
Let’s post him as a longshot to make the club in spring training.
The depth is necessary with Bryan Holaday a major league free agent and Martin Cervenka a minor league free agent. Austin Wynns is in the organization, but no longer on the 40-man roster.
Surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament cost Ciuffo 10 weeks of the 2019 season. He never left the Rangers’ alternate camp site this summer until it closed.
At least he was still in baseball. Ciuffo thought about quitting after his release by the Rays, who gave him a $1,974,700 signing bonus.
“He put in a lot of work. He’s a different guy than he ever has been,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward told reporters in March.
“He’s a guy, you can quote me on as saying, a career .600 OPS in the minor leagues, he’s not going to be that anymore based on his swing now. He’s going to be a better hitter.”
* On this date in 2015, the Orioles signed a player who would hit their 56th home run for the month of June to set a major league record.
I could wait all day for your answers, but I’d rather just confirm that it was Hyun Soo Kim, who put his signature on a two-year contract worth $7 million.
Kim spent nine years with the Doosan Bears in the Korea Baseball Organization, where he hit .318/.406/.488 and was coming off a season when he slashed .326/.438/.541 with a career-high 28 home runs, 101 walks and 63 strikeouts. He could have made more money staying in the KBO, but wanted to play in the U.S. and the Orioles were his more aggressive suitor.
Trust in Kim from manager Buck Showalter and others in the organization began to dissolve in spring training as more eyes were placed on him. Kim refused an assignment to Triple-A, which was his right to do, and fans booed him on opening day.
Kim batted .302/.382/.420 with 16 doubles, six home runs and 22 RBIs in 95 games in 2016, began losing at-bats to Trey Mancini in 2017 and was traded to the Phillies with pitcher Garrett Cleavinger and international bonus slot money on July 28 for starter Jeremy Hellickson.
Where is Kim now?
Back in Korea with the LG Twins, where he’s slashed .362/.415/.589, .304/.370/.437 and .331/.397/.523 in three seasons. He’s hit 35 or more doubles in each season and twice reached 20 home runs and 100 RBIs.
What I’ll remember about Kim is a swing and footwork that didn’t generate the anticipated power but consistently found space in the outfield, the two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning in Toronto on Sept. 28, 2016 to erase a 2-1 deficit, the beer can thrown at him in the wild card game at Rogers Centre and his teammates’ English lessons in the clubhouse. Teaching him words and phrases that didn’t always come with a G rating, but always amused him.
What I’ll remember about Hellickson are his 6.97 ERA and 13 home runs allowed in 10 starts with the Orioles and his desire to get out of the American League East and Camden Yards.
Hellickson made 19 starts with the Nationals in 2018 and posted a 3.45 ERA and 1.073 WHIP.
* The list of Orioles minor leaguers on the free agent market keeps shrinking, with pitcher Luis Ortiz one of the more recent departures.
Not the Luis Ortiz who’s a top 30 prospect. The Luis Ortiz who came from the Brewers with Jonathan Villar and Jean Carmona in the Jonathan Schoop trade.
Ortiz signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2014. He made three appearances (two starts) with the Orioles from 2018-19, wasn’t invited to spring training or summer training camp in 2020 and departed.
* Infielder Andrew Velazquez signed a minor league deal with the Yankees after appearing in 40 games with the Orioles, impressing with his glove and doing little at the plate with a .159/.274/.206 slash line.
The Bronx native is headed back to New York, if he makes the club.
* The Cardinals signed infielder José Rondón to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training.
The Orioles claimed Rondón off waivers from the White Sox on July 30, 2019 and he received one at-bat - his last in the majors - before going to Triple-A.
He signed a minor league deal four months later with an invitation to spring training and worked out at the alternate camp site in Bowie after the Orioles omitted him from the summer training camp roster.
* Richard Ureña is headed back to the Blue Jays on a minor league deal with a spring invite.
The Orioles claimed Ureña off waivers from the Blue Jays last winter and he remained on the spring training roster when baseball shut down. However, he wasn’t invited to summer training camp. He wasn’t announced as part of the alternate camp site.
Ureña was outrighted on Feb. 23, but placed back on the spring roster. He figured to compete for a utility job, but he disappeared.