Orioles manager Brandon Hyde understands that anything can happen in a short season of 60 games. It’s a sprint, not a marathon. He’d love nothing better than for his team to surprise people and be contending deep into the summer.
He also surely realizes that - short year or not - the odds of that are still long. And the Orioles still have a bigger picture in mind.
That should include playing some prospects throughout the 60 games, although some are not yet in the Orioles’ 60-man player pool, which currently stands at 45. But the players with upper-level minor league experience could find their way onto the roster on or after opening day on July 24.
“It’s definitely a sprint and anything can happen,” Hyde said Friday in a Zoom press conference on the first day of summer training. “We’re in first place in late July. I think these last few months has brought our guys closer together. Think they’ve done a really nice job of staying in touch with each other. Everyone is in really good spirits.
“I think we’re going to do the best we can to see as many people as possible. We’re still in evaluation mode in a lot of ways. We have 45 guys here and it’s a competition to win the 30 spots when the season starts. We’re going to play as many intrasquad games as we possibly can. But yeah, I think you’re going to see guys throughout the summer that have had Triple-A time.
“I’m going to manage to win every single game, but we still are organizationally in the mode of thinking big picture. What hurt this year is (the lack of) development of a lot of our minor league players and getting at-bats and innings for guys. We’re going to try and hopefully make that up. But yeah, we’re going to try and win every single game and still try to develop at the big league level. We’ll give guys a taste of the big leagues and at the same time we’re going out trying to win some games.”
While they were not together as a team of course during the baseball shutdown, the Orioles tried to remain a close-knit squad, even if they had to do that in their own respective homes.
“I feel really good about the communication we’ve had as an organization, as a team, as a coaching staff these past few months, Hyde said. “I think we’ve dealt with it as well as we possibly could have. And I’m really looking forward to watching our guys play. They’re already talking about the 24th. These next few weeks are an important time to evaluate where we are physically and get our guys in game shape as fast as possible. Which is unique and something we’ve never done before. So we’ll listen to the players and see how they feel on a daily basis.”
During the first spring training in Sarasota, Fla., players remarked numerous times about how close the team was. Players will try to see that continue, even though during spring training 2.0 O’s pitchers are in the visiting clubhouse and position players are in the home clubhouse.
“I think it (solid team chemistry) will be as important as it ever is,” O’s pitcher Wade LeBlanc said. “You know chemistry is one of those things, with all the numbers going around baseball, it can’t be quantified. For those of us that are all involved day-to-day, it’s very real, it’s a very real thing.
“To be able to be excited to go in the clubhouse and see the same guys every day, it’s important. And we had a really good thing going in spring training part one. For this summer camp, I don’t think anything is going to change outside of the fact that we’re in two different clubhouses. Once the real thing kicks off and we’re all in the same clubhouse, I expect it to pick back up.”
LeBlanc said he got up to six innings during a live BP session at home but said that will in no way simulate pitching that many innings in a big league game. He added that the first day on Friday was every bit as strange as you might have imagined. Players not all in the same clubhouse. No tables in the food room and no couches in the clubhouse.
Hanging out is not encouraged. Physical distancing and staying healthy is.
“It’s pretty weird, to say the least,” said LeBlanc. “Washed my hands before and after in the bullpen, which was kind of strange. But the goal right now is to use these next 20 days and get ready as best we can. With so many unknowns, there is always going to be a reservation here and there. Outside of that, you understand you have a job to do. The last 13-14 years, this is all I’ve known. You want to get back to normal as much as possible. As players we just want to get out and play baseball.”
As this unique season approaches, being a good teammate means more than being a productive player and/or leading in the clubhouse or helping teammates. It can mean staying healthy and trying to encourage your teammates to keep up with the extensive protocols in place.
“There is no doubt that our training staff and the Orioles organization has done an outstanding job of implementing social distancing and putting up barriers between us and fans,” said Chris Davis. “Obviously, we’re not going to have fans at the game, and they are making sure it’s a safe and clean environment for us.
“But a lot of accountability is on the players’ part, to make sure we’re following these protocols and helping each other out. If you happen to get the virus and you’re doing everything the right way, that’s one thing. But if you’re doing things you shouldn’t be doing and get sick, you’re going to have to answer to a clubhouse full of guys.”
First test results announced: Major League Baseball announced yesterday the first results of COVID-19 testing. I would have to think the results were about as good as could have been expected.
Here is the MLB press release:
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association jointly announced today the first set of results for the COVID-19 testing conducted as part of the mandatory Intake Screening process under MLB’s COVID-19 Health Monitoring & Testing Plan, prior to the workouts and full baseball activities that are beginning (Friday). The independent Utah laboratory has reported the results through the first week of intake testing.
• The total number of positive tests is 38, which is 1.2% of the 3,185 total samples collected and tested.
• Thirty-one (31) of these 38 positives are players and seven (7) are staff members.
• Nineteen (19) different Clubs have had one or more individuals test positive during intake testing.
Some teams were reportedly not included in these results. The Orioles might be among them, but we don’t know for sure. But Hyde said the team’s Dominican-born players were not taking part in yesterday’s workout because they were still going through testing. He would not say if anyone was not participating Friday because of positive COVID tests.