Manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t decided on the Orioles’ starting staff when the 60-game season opens on July 24. He said that a five-man staff, a six-man staff, piggybacking starters and possibly using an opener are considerations.
“We’ve put some thought into it, and we’ve had some discussions about it,” Hyde said on Saturday in a video conference call. “Those discussions are going to continue these next few weeks. First, we wanted to see where we were health-wise and let these guys get off the mound a couple of times, and see how they’re built up.
“It’s one thing to throw sides, and play long toss and keep your arm in shape throwing against high school hitters or your local community park … The intensity is so much greater when you’re in a big league stadium throwing against major league hitters. We still don’t really know how built up our pitchers are.”
Hyde said that John Means threw four innings of live batting practice, and he thinks that other pitchers are on the same level. He’s hoping that starters can begin the season with six-inning, 85-pitch stints.
Nothing has really struck him about players from the first two days.
“It’s hard to tell,” Hyde said. “It’s [only] the second day, and the majority of our guys haven’t thrown either [Friday] or [Saturday]. I watched Asher Wojciechowski throw a really nice bullpen this morning.
“I think all of our guys have done a really nice job of staying in shape these last few months. They feel good physically … Everybody’s come in ready to play. It doesn’t seem like there’s anybody that we need to slow-play because they’ve been sitting around.”
Hyde said he hopes that the team will play a number of intrasquad games. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is discussing a three-game exhibition schedule with other teams.
No fans, no fun? Rio Ruiz was asked if fanless games were going to be difficult.
“Weird, definitely, but at the end of the day, it’s no different,” the Orioles’ third baseman said. “A guy’s on the mound, trying to throw his best stuff at you. You’ve got to do your best to square it up.
“I really don’t think it’s going to be any different. Of course, once the games get going …I lied. It is going to be different. It’s going to be way different, man. We’re really looking forward to just getting going and playing baseball, man, and giving the fans something to watch and look forward to.”
Opening Day is less than three weeks away, and Ruiz doesn’t think he and his teammates will need much time to get in game shape.
“I think a lot of us, within a week or two, are going to be ready to go,” Ruiz said. “We’ve done our job in the sense of staying ready. We’ve jumped into live [batting practices] already.
“Guys look good on the mound. Guys look good in the box. We’re ready to get some games going in the next couple of days.”
Ruiz stayed in Sarasota until the end of May and then drove to his California home. He thought of the delay caused by Covid-19 like an offseason. While he was in Sarasota, he and catcher Chance Sisco threw batting practice to each other.
“We’d put something on it,” Ruiz said. “We’d chuck if from some pretty close distance, and I’d say it’s as hard as we’re going to see it during the season.”
Fatherhood in the age of Covid-19: Ruiz and left-handed reliever Paul Fry are new fathers. Ruiz’s son, Luca, is not yet a year old. Fry’s son, Forrest, was born in the offseason.
“The thing that my wife and I worry about most is our son,” Ruiz said. “How he’s going to adjust all the changes, all the different things he’s going to be seeing, all the different places he’s been staying at. That’s our biggest and main priority, how we’re going to take care of him and how we’re going to keep him safe throughout all this.”
Fry said the time off gave him additional time with his 8-month old.
“[Friday] was the first day here at the stadium away from him,” Fry said. “It was kind of crazy to think about. I almost felt guilty for having to go to the field, and he’s already eaten twice, bathed.”
Fry thinks he’s in good shape after the layoff. After throwing on Friday, he was satisfied.
“I felt like I could pitch in a major league game,” Fry said. “I feel ready, completely ready, and I was ready the week-and-a-half we had in spring training. I stayed right there and, honestly, progressed a lot more from there.”
Fry said following the health protocols will not be difficult.
“I don’t know how hard it will be for other guys,” he said. “I can only speak for myself, but we’re going to police each other. We’re going to hold each other accountable. We’re not going to have guys going out to bars, and on the road, going to clubs and stuff like that.
“We’re going to be a tight-knit group, I think. The only challenges I think we’ll face are stuff we can’t really control, and that’s for anybody, really, during this time.”