After five days of replicating spring training workouts, the Orioles’ summer training goes under the lights on Wednesday night. The Orioles will play the first in a series of intrasquad games at Camden Yards. Tommy Milone and Thomas Eshelman will be the starting pitchers in a game that’s anticipated to be 7 ½ innings.
“They’re really ready to go,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “These guys are itching [for] an intrasquad. I think they’re getting tired of going through the daily workout and ready to play some meaningless games, but at least face pitching and pitchers face hitters in a game environment.
“We’re going to keep the pitching pretty much on their schedule on how they’ve been throwing,” Hyde said.
Outfielder DJ Stewart is looking forward to the intrasquad competition. He was recovering from October surgery on his right ankle during Grapefruit League games.
“I was like the little kid on the sidelines, not allowed to play during the first spring training,” Stewart said. “I could only watch. For me to get out there and get in the competitive atmosphere, obviously it’s against our teammates, but we’re trying to get each other better. We’re all going to treat it as a competitive atmosphere to get ready for Game 1 and the rest of the season.”
Hyde has been pleased with the workouts.
“I think the scheduling has been fantastic,” he said. “We were a little bit nervous on what it was going to look like because none of us have put together a spring training [in] one facility before. It’s gone really smooth.”
Hyde said that shortstop José Iglesias missed Tuesday’s workout because of a sore back.
No snap judgments: Hyde is used to judging players over 162 games, and he’ll have to adjust his methodology.
“We just don’t know what this is going to look like,” he said. “We’re going to do the best we can in evaluating our own players. I think these next couple of weeks of intrasquads is a nice time as well, really watching our guys play.
“Our guys are in game shape and ready to go. We’ve got two-plus weeks of watching our guys play in games against each other plus [three] exhibition games and then a 60-game season [starting July 24th]. We’re going to find out more about our guys.
“We’re still in that process of evaluating our own talent and developing from within, a lot of our younger players. We’re going to utilize that time to get these guys acclimated to the big leagues and continue to get them major league experience.”
Chance for Stewart: With just four outfielders on the roster, Stewart has an opportunity to begin the season with the Orioles.
Because of the surgery, it was likely Stewart would have begun the 2020 season on the 10-day injured list had spring training not been halted on March 12 because of the coronavirus, leading to the delayed start of the season.
“Last year was a tough year for him from the injury standpoint,” Hyde said. “He didn’t get the at-bats that we would have loved to have seen him gotten as well as the innings defensively and then in spring training, he was behind.”
In 44 games in 2019, Stewart hit .238 but had a .317 on-base percentage. He hit four home runs and drove in 15 runs. After a hot start at Triple-A Norfolk, Stewart was called up but hurt his ankle in a collision in early June and missed two months.
“I thought I was in a really good place, ready to come back kind of towards the end [of spring training] when everything was shut down,” Stewart said.
“Being home and having this second offseason to do what I normally do in the offseason put me in a really good place as far as my body and being able to compete, just feeling 100 percent. I thought the ankle was good then, and I’m even more confident now.”
Without Trey Mancini, who will miss the 2020 season because of surgery and treatment for colon cancer, the Orioles have Stewart, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander and Dwight Smith Jr. listed as outfielders.
“It’s a huge opportunity,” Stewart said. “It’s an opportunity for everyone out there.