A spring training camp with a roster that’s grown to 73 players is bound to have a lot of moving parts.
Fold in the influences of a pandemic that’s turned the sport on its ear, and those parts can leave a vapor trail.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde knows that he’s allowed to construct a 26-man roster, but he’s open to any ideas.
One of them is breaking camp with six starters. Hyde confirmed on Wednesday’s Zoom conference call that it’s a viable option.
“I think anything’s possible this year when it comes to pitching,” he said.
Asked yesterday about his interest in using six starters, pitching coach/director of pitching Chris Holt replied, “My interest level is to make sure that we take care of pitchers’ health and win as many games as we can, and whatever we have to do to do that is the priority,” he replied. “So I’m open to anything that we feel is a suitable means to achieve those ends.
“I think as we’ve learned the last year, guys have been able to adapt and make transitions to whatever is needed to navigate the intricacies of what we have to go through now with our schedule and meeting new challenges that we’ve all had to meet.”
The veteran signings make even more sense in this scenario. In theory at least, there’s room for the trio of Félix Hernández, Wade LeBlanc and Matt Harvey, plus anticipated opening day starter John Means and rookies Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer.
If one or more of the so-called reclamation projects is a bust and gets released, the door opens a little wider for the rest of the crew - Jorge López, Bruce Zimmermann, Thomas Eshelman, and Rule 5 picks Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells.
The 2019 Orioles nearly tied a franchise record by having 18 pitchers start a game, one short of the mark set in 1955. They used 10 starters last summer over 60 games.
The next wave of prospects could arrive later in the summer, the much-anticipated debuts of Zac Lowther, Michael Baumann and perhaps Alexander Wells. Kevin Smith, obtained from the Mets in the Miguel Castro trade, is tapping on the door.
Left-hander Josh Rogers, recovered from Tommy John surgery and a follow-up procedure, threw in the bullpen on the first day of workouts and is positioning himself as an option. He’s one of the camp reserves, but labels don’t really matter. He’s got a locker at the Ed Smith Stadium complex and a chance to pitch for the Orioles this summer - just as he did for eight games in 2018-19.
The Orioles could carry a 14-man pitching staff into opening day in Boston and still cap their bullpen at eight relievers.
It’s an idea.
Concessions must be made when trying to execute the jump from 60 to 162 games. When the team leader in innings last season was Alex Cobb with 52 1/3 - prior to his trade to the Angels.
Means was next with 43 2/3 innings and he’s supposed to be the ace and a workhorse.
The hunt for veterans on one-year or minor league deals was conducted to do more than just plug a few holes, provide veteran leadership and create trade chips at the deadline.
No matter how many starters are chosen, the Orioles are going to value relievers capable of pitching multiple innings and providing length. Eshelman and López, for example, if they aren’t in the rotation.
Someone like César Valdez, who doesn’t require extended rest between appearances.
The dead fish won’t cause a dead arm.