We haven’t done this in months, so it’s probably past time for another Orioles question-and-answer session here on the blog.
Time for readers to throw out O’s questions and/or comments - anything on the majors or minors, draft, whatever - and we’ll take shots at providing some answers and responses. As always, readers responding to other readers provide interesting, well, reading.
So dive in today and keep the questions coming. There should be plenty to discuss with a very unique season ahead of us.
Late Monday afternoon, O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias answered Baltimore reporters’ questions during a Zoom video press conference.
He said the club would eventually use all 60 spots on its player pool that is at 44 players right now. Yes, the Orioles plan to put some prospects on that list of 60 and possibly even add players from the lower minors. He didn’t rule out seeing someone from the 2020 draft eventually on the 60-man pool. But for right now, Elias pointed out the Orioles are in no rush to add to that as they will need every bit of time in a three-week second spring training to get players ready. The players that will be considered for the opening day roster.
I asked Elias if he is wondering about the possibility of an announcement to come later on concerning an expanded Arizona Fall League and/or Florida fall league. Will there be some games for minor leaguers to play in beyond intrasquads? And how does that impact whether to put a player on the 60-player pool?
“We all want to get something for those kids,” Elias said. “We’ll stay hopeful, but at this point, we’re operating with a lot of uncertainty on that front. It will motivate us to try and get some guys up here on the 60, just to make sure they get an experience this year and some activity. If plans for Minor League Baseball and player development activities this summer, fall or winter, start to crystalize and look likely, it would reduce some of that pressure later in the season. But I just don’t think we’re going to have that info too soon. So we’ve got to kind of assume this is our best shot to get these guys some action.”
Later, Elias was asked how the young players on the farm are most impacted by what is likely a summer without minor league baseball.
“The two areas that are most concerning on the development front are, for the pitchers, it’s physically,” he said. “It’s logging innings. Getting the experience of throwing 30-pitch innings under stress, working out of jams. Getting up and down in the bullpen if you’re a reliever. Just the physical development of being a pitcher in the minor leagues. This is obviously curtailing and they’ll be in a more controlled environment. We’ll try our best to replicate that experience, but it’s not going to be the same.
“For hitters, I worry the most about our young hitters. You know, the teenage guys that we’ve got. Even the young college kids that we just drafted. These are really key at-bats (missed) in their life cycle as a baseball player. Seeing 90 mph-plus for the first time every day. Seeing professional breaking balls, sliders, changeups for the first time.
“Missing out on that experience at 19 years old, I don’t know how you replace that. But as I keep coming back to everyone’s in the same boat. There are a whole generation of players that will be affected by this equally. It just is what it is.”
Elias said no players in the organization have tested positive to this point for COVID-19.
“We’ve been remarkably lucky thus far. I don’t expect that to continue throughout the season,” he said. “We’re going to have cases. That’s been the expectation for Major League Baseball all along. We’re going to do the best we can to be prepared for it and contain any situations that occur. To keep everyone healthy, even when they do test positive. And to try and have the best outcomes that we can. But we all know we’re heading into a situation that is not without its pitfalls and we’re going to do the best we can.”
Now he and everyone in MLB is hoping that the extensive protocols in place will prove to be enough to both start a season and play it to completion through the World Series.
“Major League Baseball has taken an incredible amount of time, effort and care to script out the highest quality protocols that they could,” Elias said. “We’ve consulted experts and got all types of planning going into this. That said, no one has ever done this before. You can’t plan perfectly for something that has not been experienced. Things will evolve and it won’t go perfectly. We all recognize this is important. Not just to us but to fans, to the country. We want to try and make this work and we’re all staying optimistic within reason.”
Click here for more on yesterday’s interview with Elias.
So, readers, you’re up next for questions and comments.