The song “Renegade” by Styx played over the speakers at Camden Yards, mostly drowning out the chatter from the Orioles players who gathered for a workout on a sweltering afternoon July 5.
Six reporters and media relations representatives were staggered in the front row of the press box fidgeting with their protective masks. Occasionally, they raised their heads with a loud crack of the bat or thump of a catcher’s mitt that echoed in the empty stadium.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde sat in seats behind home plate, evaluating his pitchers and chatting with general manager Mike Elias, who distanced himself at the end of the row.
Baseball lives another day as MLB edges closer to a 60-game season that will begin July 23 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Orioles are doing their best to make sure the players stay healthy throughout the duration of the games.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations about staying safe and taking care of ourselves for the duration of summer training and the next couple months of the season,” Hyde said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations as a team, as a coaching staff, to really be smart on and off the field and follow the guidelines, handle all the protocols and do everything that is asked. And so far today we’ve done all those things and feel good about it going forward.”
There are still many questions that have to be answered by the Orioles, namely filling out the starting rotation. Those potential starters will likely include John Means, Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski, with Wade LeBlanc, Tommy Milone and Kohl Stewart looking to fill out the back end.
“Obviously we’re going to build those guys from there, but whether we’re going five starters or six starters, not sure yet,” Hyde said, “If we have to piggyback, I’m not sure yet, either. I’m not sure where we’re going to be physically here at the end of this month.”
Hyde has not ruled out using an opener if needed. For now, he is just making sure his pitchers can get ramped up and emerge from this training process fully healthy.
“I’m not ready to make a decision on that yet,” Hyde said of the opener. “We’ve had guys who have done it in the past. Milone and LeBlanc did it last year in Seattle. I talked to both of them about that and their experience with it last year.
“So as of right now, I have no idea. We’re just trying to get our starters up to be a rotation candidate, whether that’s as a starter or whether it’s coming in after an opener.”
The players are slowly adjusting to this new normal of midsummer practices and preparing to play regular-season games without fans. First baseman Chris Davis is eagerly looking forward to getting back to live action as he tries to bounce back from a few disappointing seasons.
“I think it’s going to start to feel more normal the longer we have all these protocols and guidelines, and that’s kind of our hope, that we develop some sort of routine to where this becomes our normal for the time being,” Davis said about the current environment. “But as far as just the setup and everything, I tried to give myself a little bit of a preview or think of what it would look like and try to envision it before I came in, but I just think it’s so much different than I could even have imagined it.”
Davis spent the offseason getting stronger and back to a similar size when he was hitting 40 or 50 home runs per year. He wants to let his natural ability take over as opposed to dramatically changing his mechanics at the plate.
Davis liked the way he was swinging the bat before spring training was shut down because of the pandemic. He’s hoping to get back some of that momentum.
“I felt like I was off to a good start during the first spring training and I felt like I was headed in the right direction and I wanted to see how that played out,” Davis said. “After the way things went down over the last few months with negotiations and all that stuff, I was ready to get back out on the field and ready to start playing again.”
The fans are also eagerly awaiting the season to begin even in its shortened form … God willing.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox