The last time the Orioles played a game against an opponent, Thomas Eshelman allowed nine runs in two innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Florida.
It’s more than four months later, but because of John Means’ arm fatigue, Eshelman gets to start the Orioles’ first game since March 11 on Sunday night at 6:05 against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
In Eshelman’s other three Grapefruit League starts, he allowed two runs on four hits in eight innings. The Blue Jays hammered him for nine runs on nine hits.
“I wish that the quarantine happened a day earlier so that I didn’t have to start that game,” Eshelman said on Friday. “It was good to kind of hit pause for me after that one, especially, and go back and find some things.”
On Saturday, manager Brandon Hyde said that it too early to determine whether Means would miss his scheduled start in the season opener on Friday night against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park. He called scratching Means a precautionary move because of arm tiredness.
Eshelman was acquired from Philadelphia on June 9, 2019 for international bonus money. Hyde said that Miguel Castro, Cody Carroll, Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott also will pitch against the Phillies.
Hyde is planning to play his regulars for most of the game.
“I’m going to play guys as much as I can,” Hyde said in a video conference call on Saturday.
“I’m still a little concerned with keeping these guys healthy. The 24th is the most important date. I feel really good with how we are physically right now. I think guys are ready to play games, and in game shape. For me, it’s facing another uniform, continuing to practice and tightening some things up. I really want keep these guys healthy before Opening Day.”
Hyde doesn’t anticipate making any cuts until after Sunday night’s game as he works to trim the roster to 30.
Dwight Smith Jr. returns: Outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. acknowledged that he had tested positive for Covid-19. Smith wasn’t cleared for workouts until Friday.
“They had to run a lot of tests to make sure everything was running well with my body,” Smith said in a video conference call on Saturday. “And, also, keep my distance from everybody in this locker room.
“We all have to do our part to make sure before I even step foot into this facility. I feel great now. I’m ready to get ready for the season.”
Smith said that he thinks he has enough time to be ready for the July 24 opener in Boston.
Hyde is leaving Smith and Anthony Santander, who also missed substantial time after his positive test, in Baltimore to take live batting practice. Santander began working out on Wednesday, nearly two weeks after summer training started on July 3rd.
“He’s getting really close,” Hyde said of Santander. “He’s doing defensive drills right now. He’s swinging the bat great.”
Smith, 27, said he was surprised he tested positive.
“It was kind of alarming because I really didn’t have symptoms,” Smith said. “I didn’t lose taste or smell. My fever never reached over 100. I felt pretty normal. I felt like it was a common cold. If anything, I felt sick for a couple of days.
“Everybody around me was healthy. My family was fine when I was around them. I wore my mask, always wore my mask. I think that helped prevent the spread to anybody else around me.”
With Trey Mancini out this year after surgery for colon cancer, Smith could get a lot of playing time in left field. Missing two weeks of workouts has put him behind.
“It was a little frustrating,” Smith said. “But at the same time, I didn’t want to put any of my teammates or any the staff in danger. Me staying in my room was definitely the right thing, and I’ll never second guess that.
“Everybody’s in camp now,” Smith said. “The whole team is here, except for Trey, of course. We’re going to be coming pretty strong into the season.”
Announcing changes: Oriole fans looking for the popular MASN broadcast team of Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer will be disappointed.
Thorne and Palmer, whose primary residences are in Southern California, won’t be calling any Oriole games this season.
The Orioles are just being cautious with the Thorne, 72, and Palmer, who’s 74.
The team wants to limit the number of people working at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and wants to eliminate unnecessary commercial air travel.
Television games will be called by Scott Garceau, Kevin Brown and Geoff Arnold. Former Orioles Ben McDonald and Mike Bordick will provide color commentary.
Radio games on 105.7 The Fan and the Orioles’ radio network will feature Arnold, Melanie Newman and Brett Hollander.
Both home and away games will be called from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Hollander and Rob Long will host O’s Xtra. They will be joined by Bordick and Dave Johnson.
Rick Dempsey, who was set to work a reduced schedule on O’s Xtra, and also lives in Southern California, also will not travel East.
MASN might use some broadcasters from remote locations throughout the season but those plans are still not concrete.
Martin missing: Richie Martin thought his injury was a lacerated fingernail. Instead, Martin broke his wrist diving back into first base when he collided with Chris Davis last week.
Martin had season-ending surgery on Wednesday.
“It was the impact of the ground,” Martin said. “It was an injury where the bottom of your palm goes into the ground. I didn’t realize how bad it was until that next day.”
Martin had a strong chance to make the Orioles in 2020, and now it’s a lost season.
“It’s really disappointing,” Martin said. “But, at the end of the day, there’s nothing I can do about it now. I just kind of look forward and stay positive, just tackle this rehab the best way I know how.”
Martin didn’t think he broke his wrist.
“I was really surprised,” he said. “When it first happened … I saw my nail and the skin hanging off. My hand was all bloody. That’s what my main concern was. Later, I found out that my right wrist was a lot worse than I thought it was and, unfortunately, it was broken.”
Martin acknowledges the disappointment.
“Not being able to play, man,” he said. “Being injured is not fun. I’ve had two meniscus surgeries and being out is not fun, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to tackle this rehab and be back on the field as quick as possible.”
Call for questions: Next week, I’ll be answering your Orioles questions. Please leave them in the comments section or send them to: [email protected].