The first workout of Orioles pitchers and catchers will be held this morning on the back fields at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. With rain no longer in the forecast in Sarasota, Fla., where temperatures will approach the 80s. Without the media dodging puddles and remembering that an umbrella would have easily fit inside a suitcase or laptop bag.
The gates and clubhouse aren’t open to the press. The latter is expected to remain closed throughout camp and perhaps during the regular season. Major League Baseball officials are willing to adjust on the fly and some matters are left in the hands of each team. How they set up their protocols and what rules are enforced.
The elimination of clubhouse access and how it impacts coverage is back to being a popular topic. There’s plenty of material leftover from 2020.
Last spring’s camp didn’t shut down until March 12, after a brief period when the media had to conduct its interviews in the patio area outside the workroom. An arrangement that probably would be embraced now, but at the time felt like an inconvenience and an overreaction.
If the rules hold up, the only interviews will be conducted via Zoom again with no in-person interactions.
The early access in 2020 enabled us to meet pitcher Kohl Stewart before he opted out of the regular season and signed a minor league deal with the Cubs. To meet left-hander Tommy Milone before his deadline trade to the Braves. To gather at José Iglesias’ locker before he became one of the club’s best hitters, had his $3.5 million option picked up and was traded to the Angels.
The Orioles claimed outfielder/first baseman Chris Shaw off waivers from the Giants on Nov. 25, outrighted him in February and invited him to spring training. He could be here and gone without reporters actually seeing him.
We know Jorge López only from his postgame video calls after the Orioles claimed him from the Royals in August. We know that the Orioles have a new double play combination in Freddy Galvis and Yolmer Sánchez, but will we actually meet them in person before they’re eligible again for free agency?
I’ve written about the reaction of teammates when Vladimir Guerrero walked into the clubhouse on his first day. I’d like to be able to watch Félix Hernández, a possible Hall of Famer down the road, interact with the young pitchers on the staff.
I’d like to meet Matt Harvey and check out his bullpen sessions, unsure whether he’ll break camp with the team or disappear like so many other minor league signings over the years.
César Valdez wasn’t in major league camp last spring. He’d draw a crowd this week.
I’d like to see Ryan Ripken in his first big league camp.
There must be a decent storyline somewhere. It just takes some thought.
I’d really like to see Trey Mancini sitting at his locker in the far corner of the clubhouse. Knowing how much he was missed after leaving it in March 2020. Knowing that he’d welcome anyone who stopped by for an interview or just to chat.
Relying on video hookups prevents managers from being able to speak off the record. From passing along information for background purposes and to clear up any confusion in our reporting. From steering us away from certain topics that can’t be addressed while the cameras and recorders are rolling.
The inner circle is made of elastic now and can fit anyone with access to the Zoom link.
The competitions in Sarasota are going to unfold and provide some new wrinkles. No matter who’s around to witness them.
Interest in the rotation battle is shifting from the young prospects to the reclamation projects. Whether the Orioles would omit Keegan Akin or Dean Kremer. Whether they’d consider six starters to ease pitchers back into a more standard workload.
Interest in Mancini isn’t confined to his health. Is he going to be the primary first baseman, which appears to be the plan, or does Chris Davis actually make a compelling case for more at-bats?
Who are the final additions to the bullpen? How is manager Brandon Hyde composing his bench? Does anyone push Rio Ruiz off third base?
It all starts today.