NEW YORK—Brandon Hyde is ready for his first regular-season game as a big league manager, and it’s coming on the biggest stage. Hyde’s debut comes shortly after 1 p.m. today, when the Orioles and New York Yankees open their seasons at Yankee Stadium.
Hyde’s been to Yankee Stadium only once, when he was a coach for the Chicago Cubs in 2014.
“It was absolutely fantastic,” he said, sarcastically. The Cubs and Yankees were snowed out and played a makeup doubleheader. Chicago was shut out in both games on a total of nine hits.
“So that was my experience at Yankee Stadium,” Hyde said.
Hyde hopes to manage many games in the Bronx and said he was happy with the Orioles’ six-week training camp in Sarasota, Fla.
“We’re all ready for it,” Hyde said. “We’re ready for the real thing to start for sure. I’m obviously really excited…You can’t take too much into account with spring training because now it’s the real deal. We’re going to face guys that are big league players for nine innings and good competition. I can’t wait for it to get started.”
Hyde and general manager Mike Elias weren’t concerned about the spring record. The Orioles finished the Grapefruit League with a 12-17-3 record and were winless in their last eight games after losing a franchise-record 115 games a year ago.
“I’m really, really happy with the camp,” Hyde said.
“We came in here with the mindset to create a great environment, to give opportunities to a lot of young players, and for the most part, we’ve really showed well in camp. Everybody’s itching to go and ready to start the season…It’s a whole different ballgame when you get out of here. I’m just looking forward to the season starting and watch our guys play for real.”
The team that will be introduced at Yankee Stadium has eight players new to the organization since last season — infielders Hanser Alberto, Drew Jackson, Richie Martin and Rio Ruiz; catchers Pedro Severino and Jesus Sucre; outfielder Dwight Smith Jr.; and pitcher Nate Karns.
Just nine players — pitchers Pedro Araujo, Richard Bleier, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, Mychal Givens and Mike Wright; first baseman Chris Davis; and left fielder Trey Mancini were on last year’s Opening Day roster.
Many fans were disappointed when the Orioles sent outfielders Austin Hays and Anthony Santander and catcher Chance Sisco to Triple-A Norfolk, but Elias has a plan.
“We’re trying to maximize the amount of talent that we have on that roster,” Elias said.
“We expect that roster to be very fluid this year in terms of movement between Norfolk and Baltimore. Just because somebody’s not on the Opening Day roster doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be a huge part of the team this year.”
The Orioles used 56 players last year, also a record, and there will be much movement this season.
“We’re very cognizant of…where we are, that we’re going to utilize that whole 40-man as best we can and some of the guys here that are breaking and making the team are out of options,” Elias said.
“We don’t have a choice to either keep them on the 25-man or risk losing them from the organization. We want to give some of these guys a shot. They came in. They had good springs. They’re promising talents. We’ll see how the early part of the year goes for them, and then make a determination at that point.”
Elias wasn’t hired until mid-November, and he didn’t hire Hyde for another month. The coaching staff wasn’t complete until late January.
Nearly a third of the team is new for this season. Only one of the eight new acquisitions, Karns, was a major league free agent. Another, Sucre, was a minor league free agent. Smith was picked up in a trade for international signing bonus money, Jackson and Martin were Rule 5 draft selections. The other three, Alberto, Ruiz and Severino, are waiver wire pickups.
But many of the players who will take the field in the Bronx were on that 115-loss team.
“I think the team’s got a little bit of a chip on its shoulder,” Elias said. “We lost a lot of games last year. It was a very rough year. We know nobody is predicting us to win a ton of games this year and these guys have a little bit of a chip on their shoulders for that. They’re playing for that, and they’re playing for their careers, too.”
Elias is looking forward to the draft in June, when the Orioles will have the first selection. On July 2, the Orioles expect to have a presence in the next international signing period. Elias has tamped down expectations, cautioning that the market is a tricky one, and that the Orioles are going to need time to prove they’re serious players.
Attendance last year was 1.56 million, a 40-year low for a full season, and although some fans are disillusioned, there is still a pent-up affection for the team that Elias rooted for as a child.
Many of those fans vow to stick with the Orioles, believing that there is a cogent plan for long-term success.
“We’re doing things the right way…the way that they need to be done,” Elias said.
“The end goal here is not to cobble together a one-year wonder, a.500 club that could be a disaster if it doesn’t work right and we spend a few years digging out of that hole.
“We want to put together a perennial contending organization. And we’re initiating that process. We know how to do it. We’re going about it the way you need to go about it. In the meantime, there’s going to be young talent on the field.
“They’re going to be hustling, playing hard. They’re going to be ‘tools’ as we say in the scouting world, big talent out there that we can watch and we’re in a wonderful baseball environment here in Camden Yards and here in the Inner Harbor. You know, you come appreciate the sport and see some good baseball and watch this team grow.”