In his second year as a major league manager, Brandon Hyde had to guide the Orioles through an unprecedented season in the midst of a pandemic.
In his first season as a major league pitching coach, Chris Holt will assume responsibility of a staff that’s never before had to ramp back up following a 60-game schedule and now faces the uncertainty of 2021.
How, exactly, is that going to work?
Holt didn’t seem the least bit worried about it during yesterday’s Zoom conference call with the media. A man who uses the latest data and technology to improve command appears to be in total control.
“Maybe the only difference is, perhaps, guys didn’t feel like they needed to take as much time off once they got home,” said Holt, who also retains his duties as director of pitching. “Sometimes pitchers who threw north of 120-150 innings will take six or seven weeks off before they pick up a baseball again, so perhaps a few guys got started a little bit earlier than maybe they would have coming off a longer season. Besides that, everything has been very straightforward.
“We have a handful of players who we assisted with offseason throwing progressions. We have other players who are going to their own facilities and have people they can train with. So by and large everything has been really normal for an offseason for those guys and everything’s on schedule to be ready for spring training on the 16th.”
If it actually starts on that date.
Alex Cobb led the Orioles in innings last season with only 52 1/3. Dylan Bundy ranked first in 2019 with 161 2/3 and in 2018 with 171 2/3. Kevin Gausman was first in 2017 with 186 2/3 and in 2016 with 179 2/3.
Wei-Yin Chen flirted with the 200 mark in 2015, finishing at 191 1/3. Chris Tillman exceeded it the previous two seasons.
Holt isn’t alone in trying to figure out a realistic bump for his pitchers this year.
“It’s a big question going on in the industry right now and I think that everybody’s consulting with medical and strength and conditioning, sports science,” he said.
“As far as what we know we have going into 2021, it’s always going to be a real-time read, whether they’re coming off a season where they threw 150 or a season where they threw 75 innings. So as far as consulting regularly with our medical staff, strength and conditioning, sports science, we will have a proactive approach toward managing innings, recovery and workload in 2021.”
Reliever Hunter Harvey was limited to 10 appearances and 8 2/3 innings after beginning the season on the injured list with elbow soreness. Holt obviously can’t predict whether the former top prospect will make it through the upcoming season in good health and be able to inherit more late-game responsibilities.
He can only hope.
“I think we’re always optimistic that Hunter is continuing to take steps with his strength and conditioning program, which he has done this offseason,” Holt said. “His delivery continues to be something that he works on, and those two things alone could help him mitigate any kind of health risks going into ‘21.
“What a tremendous talent he is, and of course we want to be able to manage his health and his recovery and his workload so we can keep him on the field all year.”