SARASOTA, Florida.-What’s happening? The Orioles open their Grapefruit League season Saturday with a game against the Atlanta Braves at brand new CoolToday Park in North Port at 1:05 p.m.
Chandler Shepherd will start against Felix Hernandez, the longtime Seattle Mariners stalwart who signed a minor league contract with the Braves.
“I’m super excited to kick off spring training, getting the ball,” Shepherd said.
Manager Brandon Hyde plans to pitch Shepherd and Ty Blach two innings apiece.
“A few days ago, I was asked if, ‘Are we ready yet’? I said, ‘No,’ and now I think we are,” Hyde said.
“Any first day of spring training, first day of the season … you kind of get back into that mindset. It’s going to be fun to watch a lot of our guys play, and I think it’s cool that we’re playing in a new spring training site.
“That’s always exciting. It’s beautiful. We’ve all been there. They’ve done a beautiful job with that facility down there. Looking forward to it starting.”
Wade LeBlanc will start Sunday against Boston in Sarasota, and Alex Cobb will be Monday’s starter against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater.
“We’re definitely going to be careful with him,” Hyde said about Cobb, who missed most of last season because of hip surgery. “We’re going to watch him closely, monitor him closely, do anything we can for him to break with the rotation and stay there and feel good for the six months.
“A guy like that we monitor closer than others and he’s a big part of our rotation, and we want to make sure that we’re doing anything we can to help him break healthy.”
Hyde said Cobb remains a possibility to be the Opening Day starter.
What’s happened?-Chris Davis returned after missing two days because of illness. He joined Pedro Severino, Trey Mancini, Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey on the sick list. All are back on the field.
“I saw him swing the bat in [batting practice],” Hyde said. “He looks great. Fortunately, his was just a couple of day illness. He looks good and ready to go.”
Givens and Harvey had their first scheduled game action moved back a few days.
Hyde watched Cobb, Miguel Castro and Kohl Stewart throw live batting practice at Ed Smith Stadium.
Infielder Andrew Velazquez, who was claimed on waivers on Wednesday, reported and was assigned No. 88.
What’s up with? Cristian Alvarado has been in the Orioles’ system since 2012, beginning with the Dominican Summer League. Last year, he was 3-3 with a 2.66 ERA and 13 saves for Double-A Bowie.
This is Alvarado’s first big league camp. He’s been brought over for Grapefruit League games as an extra pitcher.
“I want to prove I’m ready to be on the big league team,” Alvarado said. “I [want to] show the manager and the pitching coach that I’m ready to be here.”
Alvarado says he’s “been working hard and doing my job. Last year was a pretty good job for me. I’m just waiting for the opportunity.”
What’s what? –The Orioles are the opponent for the Braves as they officially open their new spring training home. For 22 years, Atlanta trained at Disney World. The Braves played their final exhibition game of 2019 at North Port, but it was a soft opening.
CoolToday Park is located in the south end of Sarasota County, about 40 miles from Ed Smith Stadium.
What’s the word? “They told me that last year. They told me the first player was going to be Eduardo Rodriguez. He’s with Boston now. They told me if I make my debut, that I’m going to be the first player from Venezuela. I’m waiting for that moment. I would be so happy, so excited.”–Alvarado on his goal of becoming the first home-grown Oriole from Venezuela.
What’s the number? 34. The Orioles play the first of 34 exhibition games in 32 days against the Braves. There are three split-squad games and the recently added March 24 games against the New York Mets at the Naval Academy.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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