The ramp-up back to baseball could be quick

If and when we get back to a point where baseball players can take the field, how long will it take before regular season games can be played?

That’s a good question that can only be answered when we know the start date. But a shortened second spring training of at least two weeks seems likely.

Would two weeks be enough? Probably not, but the clock will be ticking fast once the game returns and I would not expect Major League Baseball officials to tell us they need four weeks to get ready.

Harvey-Phillips-Backs-Spring-sidebar.jpgThe pitchers will be the concern. During the shutdown now how much can they throw and where? Will it be anything like even their normal offseason workouts? Possibly not if they can’t get to facilities or their coaches or teammates. Pitchers will need time to build up innings and it would seem that this can’t be rushed. Although it may have to be, somewhat.

The reason, one of them anyway, that teams need 30-plus games in the spring to get ready is to stretch out pitchers. Even with that, some enter the season only ready to go six or seven innings. Of course we almost have come to no longer expect much more than that from a starter. Six or seven seems like a solid outing, innings-wise.

So the time between the return to the field and the start of the season could be fast this year. No answers yet, just uncertainty.

“Whether it’s a normal spring training or more of a sprint to start the season, I think that’s obviously yet to be decided,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said on a media conference call Friday. “But I really liked where we were when everything was put on hold. I thought that we were making a lot of strides with our major league club.”

Alumni report: In a span of three days in December, right before the Winter Meetings, the Orioles traded infielder Jonathan Villar and pitcher Dylan Bundy. Villar was traded to Miami for minor league lefty Easton Lucas. They dealt Bundy to the Los Angeles Angels for four right-handed pitchers. They added Isaac Mattson, Kyle Bradish, Kyle Brnovich and Zach Peek.

Bundy had a strong spring training for the Angels. Over four games he went 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA. Over 11 1/3 innings Bundy allowed four hits and one homer with one walk to 16 strikeouts. He posted a 0.44 WHIP.

New Angels manager Joe Maddon had named Andrew Heaney his opening day starter before baseball’s shutdown. At that time he said Bundy was also considered. Some wonder if Bundy is clicking well or will click with new pitching coach Mickey Calloway in Los Angeles.

Villar hit .214/.290/.429, going 6-for-28 in spring training games. He hit two homers with five RBIs. He hit one of those homers March 4, a two-run shot to center off the O’s David Hess.

Villar is expected to be the Marlins’ leadoff hitter and center fielder. Yep, center field. A spot where he has played for just 43 innings in his major league career. But he played nine games in center for Miami in the spring and the team liked what it saw.

“He looks pretty natural out there,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill told the Miami Herald. “I don’t know what it looks like from you guys in the press box, but his breaks and his jumps look natural. He has a natural glide to the ball out there. We didn’t have any reservations about his ability to play out there because we had seen video of him out there doing it and our scouts had seen him. But until you see it yourself, you want to make sure. It seems like every day, he’s more and more comfortable out there. No reservations at this point.”

What about the pitchers?: I asked Hyde yesterday about the Orioles’ pitchers. How can they possibly stay ready during baseball’s shutdown? They won’t be able to throw to hitters, work out at the gym or throw bullpens. At least that would seem very hard to do. Of course, no pitchers around the game will be able to do much if they abide by the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So, yeah, challenging.

“I think we’ll hopefully have a better idea as we go along,” Hyde said, “but as of right now, it’s a real individualized plan for everybody that our medical team as well as our trainers, strength coaches, pitching coaches, have all gotten together with on conference calls and how we were going to really talk and put these plans in place for our pitchers. And those will be adjusted and ongoing as we go along. But the first thing was to get our pitchers in a healthy place, a safe place, and now we’re talking about what kind of throwing program that they’re going to be on here for a while with an unclear date of when that’s going to end.”

Hard to plan for a date to build up to when there is no such date.

Challenging indeed.

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