SARASOTA, Fla. — Brandon Hyde knew what he signed up for, but not in a million spring training drills could he have dreamed it would be this tough.

When he took the job as manager of the Orioles late in 2018, Hyde realized the task was akin to taking on an expansion team, low expectations at the start and growing anticipation by the fifth year. There is/was a big problem with that scenario.

Baltimore long ago ditched the “new kid on the block” tag and, spoiled by a long run of success, is more in tune with a quick “reload” than a time-consuming “rebuild.” In other words, while it may be a requirement for those in charge, patience doesn’t run deep for a fan base frustrated by only a tiny taste of success during a prolonged period of losing, stretching across 39 years since the last World Series championship.

This is Hyde’s fourth spring training as manager of the Orioles and to say things have been a little, shall we say, out of the ordinary would be stretching a point beyond the slightest degree of normalcy. Three years into the job Hyde would no doubt welcome some version of a “new normal,” if indeed that is possible in the hectic third decade of a bizarre century.

Here’s what Hyde’s spring training experience has been like so far:

* In 2019, Austin Hays was easily the best player during the spring on an unremarkable team but he was optioned to the minors before Opening Day to hone his skills, and probably also to delay the clock on service time, with the idea he would join the club early in the season. Almost before the ink was dry on his transfer notice, Hays suffered an injury that basically cost him an entire year. Not a good start to Hyde’s managerial career.

* While In the midst of dealing with the ongoing saga involving Chris Davis in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down baseball almost exactly two years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day. A truncated 60-game schedule followed, and just to give you an idea, the Orioles’ 25-35 record stands as the highlight of the rebuild thus far.

* In 2021, like every team in baseball, the Orioles were in lockdown mode, with masks, social distancing and other health precautions making it a “virtual” year, with Zoom the mandatory method of communication. As you can imagine, it had to be a nightmare for Hyde, as it was for just about everybody else connected. And perhaps the worst was yet to come.

* The carryover for 2022, of course, was the lockout, put in place on Dec. 2, 2021. He wasn’t any different than other managers in this situation, but being completely cut off from his players for more than three months had to be especially difficult for Hyde, no doubt understanding that Year 4, pandemic or not, would be a key year for his team’s development.

You can only imagine the feeling when, on the first day of what will be an extremely abbreviated spring training, Hyde got news that the first two No. 1 draft picks of the Orioles’ new regime were hurt, probably on the same play, a few days earlier at the minor league training facility.

Catcher Adley Rutschman, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, the top prospect in baseball and a prime candidate to open the season in Baltimore, had hit an inside-the-park home run that Heston Kjerstad, the No. pick in 2020, tried to run down in left field, only to pull a hamstring muscle, which could cost him the start of the season.

For Kjerstad, that would mean delaying the start of his professional career. For Rutschman, it almost certainly means postponing his major-league debut. For Hyde it meant wondering if the nightmare will ever end and hoping the major injuries that seem to happen every spring are behind him.

“Keeping my fingers crossed,” Hyde said during a meeting with media members a day before the first exhibition game of the year, against the Toronto Blue Jays March 18th (1:05 p.m., WBAL radio). “I’m holding my breath every time we do something out here — it’s not a good feeling.”

That could especially be true all around baseball this spring as teams jump right into game action much sooner than normal. But if there’s anything Brandon Hyde, the manager, is used to, it’s the fact there is no normal this time of year.

Playing a game will help. Especially if there are no injuries.

Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox