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SARASOTA, Fla.—Opening Day won’t come for another five weeks. But the spring training opener for Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was a success.
More than two hours before the Grapefruit League game began, Hyde dismissed the importance of the score. Still, he enjoyed the Orioles’ 7-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Ed Smith Stadium on Saturday.
Hyde’s emphasis at this point is on the evaluation process. He has been a member of good teams that had poor records in spring training and awful teams that had fine spring training marks.
But in his first pregame media session, Hyde acknowledged: “I’m excited. I’ve got a little pregame buzz going. It’s pretty cool. I’m still kind of trying to find my routine a little bit.”
Hyde’s routine did not include bringing his first lineup card to home plate before the game. Hyde sent his lieutenant, Tim Cossins, who has not been officially designated as the bench coach.
“Now, I’m overseeing,” Hyde said. As the Chicago Cubs’ bench coach, he ran spring training, and he’s continued with many of those duties. He knows that has to change.
“I’m not used to delegating,” he said, laughing. “So now, as the manager, I’m delegating a lot of things, stepping back, inserting how I feel about certain things when I feel it’s necessary, delegating the best I can.”
When starting pitcher Yefry Ramirez was nearing his pitch limit in the second inning, Hyde had Lucas Long, who was brought to the game from minor league camp just in case, warming up. Ramirez saved Hyde from his first in-inning pitching change by getting the third out.
Hyde’s first game featured a crowded dugout. Not only were most of the 60 players in camp on hand, but about 10 more minor league managers, coaches and instructors were jammed in.
“He was always on the front step of the dugout as you were coming in,” catcher Chance Sisco said. Sisco accounted for Hyde’s first runs as Orioles manager with a three-run home run in the first inning.
“Super-energetic, easy going right now,” Sisco said. “We’re just trying to have fun with it. I think everybody’s doing a good job with it.”
Hyde knew this wasn’t going to be like the regular season. After the game, he beamed, having thoroughly enjoyed it. Hyde noted that he had managed split-squad games before.
“It feels good,” Hyde said. “I’m pretty much used to a spring training game, what it feels like with the substitutions, making sure guys know who’s going in, the scripted pitching, all that stuff I’ve done before. It’s nothing new.
“To have a new group of guys I’m not familiar with was a good experience.”
Hyde acknowledged that he needs to improve his rhythm flashing signals to third base coach Jose Flores, and the shorthand chatter in the dugout.
“Those things are going iron themselves out throughout spring training,” he said.
With the talent largely the same from the team that lost a franchise-record 115 games a year ago, Hyde is trying to change the environment.
“I don’t know if I’m reinventing any style or anything like that,” Hyde said. “I’ve just been in a really winning environment for a while now, and I know what that feels like.”
The Cubs have been in the postseason for the past four years, winning the World Series in 2016. The Orioles haven’t won a postseason game since 2014, and it might take several years, at least, for them to return.
“It feels like a positive atmosphere,” Hyde said. “It feels like coaches that care, and it feels like players that care about each other. I wouldn’t say relaxed atmosphere. I think positive atmosphere.”
For Hyde, that positive atmosphere means teaching “without making them stay on the field too long where injuries can happen or resentment can happen.”
Hyde has organized team golf tournaments and barbecues. The bonding exercises are meant to be enjoyable and to build chemistry.
“I think any time you can get a group of guys together, it could be a situation outside the field where guys have fun with each other, hang out and do fun stuff, that’s part of a team,” Hyde said.
“We’ve done a few things where guys have enjoyed themselves and gotten to know each other a little bit more, see coaches in a different way, not just in uniform on the field…It will translate on the field if you’re caring about the guy next to you.”
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