NORTH PORT, Florida.-What’s happening? The Orioles will play their Grapefruit League home opener against the Boston Red Sox at 1:05 p.m. at Ed Smith Stadium Sunday.
Wade LeBlanc will start for the Orioles. Chris Mazza will start for Boston.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde isn’t thrilled to have split-squad games against Boston and Tampa on Tuesday. It will be John Means’ turn to start, but he doesn’t want to overexpose his left-hander to division opponents.
“It’s definitely not ideal,” Hyde said. “Especially these first few games, the games at the beginning of spring training where starters only play half the game. Our guys are only going to go a couple of innings. I don’t want to line them up where they’re going to face a divisional team multiple times.’
First baseman Chris Davis will start after missing two days earlier in the week because of illness. Hyde isn’t certain how much Davis will play this spring.
“I’ve worked out on my dry erase board how I see it,” Hyde said. “I have it mapped out how much I’d like to see him play, and then I adjust accordingly.”
What’s happened?-The Orioles lost, 5-0, to the Atlanta Braves in their Grapefruit League opener at CoolToday Park on Saturday.
Many of the Orioles’ front-line players stayed back in Sarasota but will play against the Red Sox.
“We’re going to get as many looks as we can at guys,” Hyde said. “There’s going to be a ton of opportunity, a ton of innings to pitch, a ton of innings in the field defensively and a lot of at-bats. There’s a long way to go.”
Hyde has met with Andrew Velazquez, the infielder the Orioles claimed on waivers from Cleveland this week. Velazquez got on the field for some of Friday’s workout but isn’t likely to see action for a few days.
“Talked to some Cleveland people, and they spoke very highly of him,” Hyde said. “I’m going to give him a few days to kind of get acclimated.”
Renato Nunez started at third base. In 2019, Nunez started just eight games there. Hyde would like to see more of him on the field.
“We’ll see. I’m going to play him a lot in spring training,” Hyde said. “Give him every opportunity to continue to work on his defense, and at the end of camp, see how it goes.”
What’s up with José Rondon? Rondon was claimed on waivers from the Chicago White Sox on July 30, played one game with the Orioles and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. He re-signed with team shortly after the season.
Rondon is one of a host of candidates for a utility job. He’s played second base, shortstop and third base in the major leagues.
“That really opens doors for you,” Rondon said. “The more positions that you can play, the more versatility you can show, that’s what I’m looking for.”
Rondon went 1-for-2 on Saturday. Some of his competitors include Malquin Canelo, Dilson Herrera, Ramon Urias, Pat Valaika and Stevie Wilkerson.
“It’s a really good competition going on,” Rondon said through a translator. “We just have to go out there and play as hard as you can so the staff and the coaches make a decision.”
Rondon, who’ll be 26 on March 3, was eager to re-sign with the Orioles.
“As soon as the team reached out about it, and showed interest in me, I was interested in them,” Rondon said. “I was sure of what I was doing.”
There was speculation that Rondon was added just before the trading deadline in case Jonathan Villar was traded. Once Villar wasn’t traded, there wasn’t room for Rondon.
“It felt a little bit weird, but at the same time, those are the kind of things that happen in this sport, so I just try to keep my head up, try to play hard in the minors to be called up again,” Rondon said.
What’s what? – The Orioles played in spacious CoolToday Park, which is the second closest park to Ed Smith Stadium. It’s about 40 minutes from Sarasota. Pittsburgh’s Lecom Park is about 20 minutes away.
What’s the word? “Once or twice is OK, but I don’t think it’s great the way we have it set up where we play at lot of AL East teams.”-Hyde on preferring not to use starting pitchers against American League East teams.
What’s the number? 12. The Orioles play 12 games against AL East teams in Florida. They’ll play four against the Red Sox and the Rays and two against Toronto and New York.
What’s the record? 0-1. The Orioles will play Boston at 1:05 p.m. The game will be televised on MASN and broadcast on 105.7 The Fan.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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