Tyler Nevin finished a round of batting practice last month in Orioles camp and caught the eye of executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, who offered a hint at how the organization viewed him in the field.
“I got here and I was hitting and Elias was behind the cage watching,” Nevin recounted this morning in his Zoom conference call. “I got out and rolled around the cage and he goes, ‘Hey, did you bring all your gloves?’ I said, ‘Yep,’ and he goes, ‘OK, you’re going to need them.’ So we’ll see how it plays out.
“I’ve played a lot of first base so far in camp, but I’m ready for everything. As long as I’m in the lineup, I’m a happy guy.”
Nevin, who also brings experience at third base and in left field, is on the 40-man roster after the Orioles acquired him from the Rockies at the deadline in the Mychal Givens trade. He’s viewed as the primary first baseman at Triple-A Norfolk in 2021, though he’s going to get a late start with the season pushed back a month
“It’s always something, I was talking about it in the clubhouse. As the deadline comes up, if you’re on a team that might be trying to make a move and you’re getting closer to the big leagues, you never really know,” he said. “It was weird, but it was exciting. It’s a new chance, a new opportunity, to make a name for yourself and help the new team win.
“It was different for sure. Made a lot of friends over with the Rockies, but it’s part of it. There are 30 teams and my goal is to be a big league player, help the team win. I don’t really care who it’s for, but I’m happy I’m here.”
Nevin, who turns 24 in May, is a career .286/.362/.441 hitter in five minor league seasons. He appeared in 130 games with Double-A Hartford in 2019 and slashed .251/.345/.399 with 26 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs and 61 RBIs in 540 plate appearances.
MLBPipeline.com lists Nevin as the No. 23 prospect in the system and Baseball America places him at No. 29. He praised the Orioles today for their advanced usage of analytics and the technology that wasn’t as prevalent or as heavily staffed in Colorado.
“I would say the Orioles are more on the data swing for sure, but I don’t say that in a negative way at all. I like it,” he said.
“I like having all that information. It helps me develop a plan, or if we’re working in the cage, we’ve got different technologies to help us figure out what’s going on. I like that stuff. So I found a lot of helpful tools since I’ve come over here that have definitely helped me become a better player.
“I think there’s more of an in-depth look at it here. It seems they’ve invested more manpower and I guess technology, too. Just the little things that help track your swing movement or ball flight. All those things add up, and to me it’s how you look at it, how you use it, not what you have. So I think we’re headed in the right direction over here. We have a lot of helpful stuff.”
The impact on his swing is more “intent,” Nevin said, than anything physical.
“It’s not something you just immediately flip and you can see a direct translation. It’s kind of a process,” he said.
“I think since I’ve come here, it’s just given me a different outlook on how to approach things and realizing I have those tools now to go back and track progress and develop that way.”
The first exposure with the Orioles came at their alternate camp site in Bowie.
“It was a very smooth transition,” he said. “It was just gradual over time. It wasn’t like an overload, but again, I like that stuff, so I wanted everything I could get as soon as I got here.
“When I got here they had a power point ready for me, showing me, ‘These are the things you do well, these are the things we want you to keep progressing at. And this is why we got you, why we liked you in this trade.’ So Day One, jumping in and seeing a team and why they really wanted me was a huge encouragement and got me really excited.”
Baseball roots run deep in the Nevin family, with father Phil the first overall pick in the 1992 draft who played 12 years in the majors.
Father and son were reunited at home plate yesterday with the exchange of lineup cards. Phil is the Yankees third base coach, and his appearance prompted Orioles manager Brandon Hyde to give the job to Tyler.
“It’s a special moment,” Tyler said. “We had a similar one back in 2017 when he was with the Giants and I was still with the Rockies, but I was a lower-level minor league guy and it was kind of a courtesy to get called up. Now that I’m in big league camp and to have that, that was pretty cool.
“We were just saying, ‘Hey.’ ‘Getting in there today?’ ‘Yeah, I think so.’ ‘All right, see you out there.’ “
Tyler obviously was immersed in the sport at its highest level and became the 38th overall selection in 2015 out of Poway High School in California. It just seemed like a natural progression.
“I was around all the time, anytime I could be, honestly,” he said. “I grew up in San Diego and that’s where the majority of his years were when I was growing up, and every day during the summer and every weekend during the school year, we were trying to get to a game. I just loved being out there, watching it up close and personal. If they would win, I’d get to go in the clubhouse after and just hang around, hit balls in the clubhouse or run around in the outfield.
“It’s just been part of my life since the beginning and I’m very fortunate for that.”
If Tyler needs any advice on how to handle the pressures that come with his lofty draft status, he has a readily available resource.
“I would say the biggest influence my dad has had on my career has almost nothing to do with playing the actual game,” he said. “I haven’t really come into a situation where I didn’t know what to expect because I could always go to him, see what this is like, how I should go about myself. So having him to go to as a dad, but also as a mentor, has been a huge factor in my career.”
The camp has other players and coaches who grew up in baseball families, including Rule 5 pitcher Mac Sceroler, whose uncle, former Orioles pitcher Ben McDonald, was the first overall pick in the 1989 draft.
“I was actually talking to (third base coach) Tony Mansolino - his dad Doug and kind of his upbringing and how he grew up with traveling with his dad, growing up in the clubhouse, being around major league players. His dad was a rover for a long time. Being in different cities,” manager Brandon Hyde said on his Zoom call.
“I think that when you grow up in that environment, you realize that major league players, professional baseball players, professional athletes, are just like everybody else and it’s a special feeling that you know those guys, but at the same time they’re real to you. I think it’s just helpful knowing that you can maybe do what they’re doing someday just because you see them not only on the field but off the field, also, and that they’re regular guys.
“Knowing their routine, being a part of what a clubhouse looks like and seeing the work that these guys put in, and seeing it first-hand as a kid, I think that’s really helpful later down the road.”
Hyde’s only exposure to Phil Nevin came across the dugout as the opposition and on the field for brief chats during batting practice.
“We talked after the trade, we talked about his son,” Hyde said. “Tyler was very excited to be an Oriole and Phil expressed that to me. That was in New York. I don’t know Phil well, but I do know him a little bit and have a lot of respect for him.”
Hyde didn’t have any details about the alternate camp site and other concessions to last night’s news that the Triple-A season would be pushed back a month, joining the other affiliates with delayed starts.
“It’s something we’re going to talk about here in the next few days,” he said. “I just heard about that this morning. We haven’t discussed it yet, at least I haven’t with Mike. That’s going to be a topic of conversation here this week about our Triple-A players.”
Adley Rutschman is the designated hitter today, but he went through his usual catching routine yesterday of talking to the pitcher before and after the inning, as well as directing traffic in the infield. A confident and advanced approach for a player whose experience has been capped at low Single-A.
“I think it’s unusual,” Hyde said. “It’s very natural for him. There’s nothing forced, there’s nothing fake. He’s naturally a guy that understands this position and understands the communication aspect of it. Very vocal in a great way. It’s very mature beyond his years.
Rutschman’s habit of greeting the pitcher after an inning extends back to his collegiate days at Oregon State.
“There’s nothing fake about it,” Hyde said. “He’s talking with the pitcher as he’s coming off the mound. ... I think that’s a great quality to have. That pitcher-catcher relationship is extremely important, something we talk about a lot. Every innings is important defensively to him and he’s trying to get that pitcher through the inning and put up a zero. You can just tell he’s fully invested in who’s on the mound and trying to help as much as he can.”
The Orioles announced their minor league managers, coaches and staff.
Gary Kendall returns to manage Norfolk and Buck Britton is back at Double-A Bowie. Also as previously reported here, Kyle Moore is assigned to Single-A Aberdeen, Dave Anderson to low Single-A Delmarva and Alan Mills and Kevin Bradshaw to the Complex League teams, which used to be known as the Gulf Coast League.
MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski provides more details on his blog.
Former Orioles manager Joe Altobelli, who guided the team to its last World Series title in 1983 after replacing Earl Weaver, died this morning. He was 88.
Altobelli died of natural causes, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. He suffered a stroke in November 2017 and was in poor health afterward, living mostly at a rehabilitation center, according to the article.
Hyde offered his condolences to the Altobelli family on his Zoom call.
The Triple-A Rochester Red Wings won the Governor’s Cup in 1971 and 1974 with Altobelli as manager. He compiled a 502-350 record before leaving to manage the Giants.
The Orioles issued the following statement:
“The Orioles are saddened to learn of the passing of former manager Joe Altobelli, who led Baltimore to a World Championship in 1983, his first season at the helm. A tremendous leader, Altobelli’s compassion, skill and baseball expertise contributed to the Hall of Fame careers of Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer and Cal Ripken Jr. We send our sympathies to Altobelli’s family and many friends throughout the game.”