The calendar for summer training is short. Formal workouts began July 3, and each team is limited to three exhibition games.
“We don’t have the luxury of changing our reality right now,” Orioles hitting coach Don Long said in a video conference call on Friday.
“We work within what we have. We have to have the expectation that we will be ready and we will be ready to perform come Opening Day. Whether I think that’s enough or not is irrelevant. I don’t want to spend any of my time nor do I want any of our hitters to spend any of our time building in an excuse to not be ready.”
The Orioles’ first game is 13 days away, on July 24 at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox.
“We plan on being ready, whatever that looks like in the beginning,” Long said.
Long noted that the Orioles’ position players had a variety of ways to prepare during the 3 ½-month wait after spring training shut down on March 12 because of Covid-19. Some faced live pitching, others hit off a machine, and still others were restricted to using batting tees in their garage.
“It’s been to our advantage to start live BP right away,” Long said. “As the days have gone on, and now we’ve gotten a couple of partial intrasqaud games under our belt. We always have room for improvement, but, we’ve had some pretty good at-bats.
“Even during a season, under normal circumstances, the biggest disconnect in hitting from practice to game is finding opportunities to replicate game speed, so you can imagine without that available all over for a 3 ½-month period, that makes it very challenging.”
Long isn’t sure what to expect.
“It could be a little uncomfortable, a little ugly at first,” Long said. “These guys have gotten a ton of plate appearances during the first week of working out.”
Means’ growth: It was an obvious decision for manager Brandon Hyde to choose John Means as the Orioles’ starter for the team’s opener on July 24th against the Red Sox.
Hyde said that in Thursday night’s intrasquad game Means’ fastball was 93-94 mph and that he threw some excellent curves. The manager added some extra left-handed hitters to the team that the left-handed Means faced so that he’d get more experience facing them.
“He’s showing a really nice breaking ball, so his growth with his curveball and his slider last year in the second half could really be a separator for him,” Hyde said.
“The changeup was really good [Thursday] night, and he flashes that good breaking ball. I just think consistency with the breaking ball and a couple of more weapons is going to be really key for him to make adjustments back to the league.”
Hyde thinks that since Means pitched five innings in the intrasquad game he should be ready to pitch extended innings in the opener.
Plan for Rutschman: Hyde said that last year’s overall No. 1 draft choice, catcher Adley Rutschman, was among six players who would join the Orioles’ player pool, bringing the number to 53.
Left-handed pitcher Keegan Akin, right-handers Michael Baumann and Isaac Mattson, catcher Taylor Davis and outfielder Cedric Muliins are the others.
Hyde didn’t spell out specific plans for Rutschman, who spent the early part of spring training with the Orioles.
“Get him here and get him playing,” Hyde said. “[Saturday], he’s going to be part of the workout. We want to see him here, take [batting practice] and catch some of our starters. The bottom line is just to get him playing again.”
Iglesias feels comfortable: The Orioles’ biggest addition in the offseason was the signing of free-agent shortstop José Iglesias to a one-year contract with an option for 2021.
Iglesias missed two days of workouts because of a sore back and seemed to be hobbling when he was removed for a pinch-runner during Thursday night’s intrasquad game. He said he felt better on Friday.
He fit in well with the Orioles during their time in Sarasota.
“I think the team and the coaching staff welcomed me really well,” Iglesias said. “It was very smooth for me to talk to the guys and connect with them. It was fine.”
Iglesias, who’s played for eight seasons, is one of the most experienced players on a young Orioles team.
“I personally just lead by example,” Iglesias said. “Be the first one in, the last one out, make sure I do everything properly where I help my teammates on and off the field any way I can.”
Intrasquad recap: Alex Cobb pitched three scoreless innings in Friday night’s intrasquad game. His third inning ended early when he appeared to reach his pitch count.
His opponent at the start was Rob Zastryzny, who also pitched three scoreless innings.
Richard Bleier, Cody Carroll, Branden Kline and Dillon Tate also worked in the five-inning game.
Richie Martin left the game after he collided with Chris Davis at first. Austin Wynns tried to pick off Martin, but the ball went into right field and Ryan Mountcastle scored.
Rio Ruiz homered to right against Tate in the sixth as the orange jersey Orioles beat the white jersey Orioles, 3-0. After Pat Valaika’s comebacker hit Tate in the right forearm, the game ended in the top of the sixth.