Orioles' Hyde playing it safe with Means; Cobb encouraged by strong start against Nationals; Mullins in mix - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ Hyde playing it safe with Means; Cobb encouraged by strong start against Nationals; Mullins in mix

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said he hasn’t decided if John Means will start the team’s opener on Friday in Boston.

On Saturday, Hyde announced that Means was suffering from arm fatigue. He was scratched from Sunday’s exhibition game start against the Phillies on Sunday.

“We’re definitely going to take the conservative route with John because he means so much to us and his future,” Hyde said in a Monday video conference call.

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“We’re still weighing our options there, a little bit unclear if John is going to be able to make his start on Opening Day.”

In a 60-game schedule, Means would get a maximum of 12 starts, but Hyde isn’t going to rush him.

“I feel like we’re trying to get ahead of this a little bit,” Hyde said. “And not push him into a place where we’re risking losing time with him down the road this season.

“Hopefully, he can make the start on the 24th but, if not, maybe a handful of days later, whatever that may be. Obviously, it’s disappointing that he’s in this position right now. We’d all love to see him make that start. We haven’t made the final decision, yet.”

Means hasn’t been throwing. He’s getting treatment, and could play some catch on Tuesday.

“Opening Day is a big deal,” Hyde said. “It’s a big deal for all of us, and I have a lot of sensitivity to that. To potentially make his first Opening Day start. For that to be in question, I know he’s disappointed. We’re looking big picture with him … We’re going to do what’s right for him.”

Hyde decided that Alex Cobb, who had a strong start in Monday night’s 4-2 exhibition game loss to the Nationals, wasn’t built up enough to pitch the opener after missing almost all of last season.

“He’s the one starter who’s behind the others,” Hyde said. “Just because of missing the whole year last year and just not quite not there yet.

“I think we have some other options we could get creative with,” Hyde said, naming Wade LeBlanc, Tommy Milone, and Thomas Eshelman, who pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings on Sunday night against Philadelphia.

Hyde also said the utility player Stevie Wilkerson fractured his left right finger on Sunday and will miss “significant time.” Playing right field, Wilkerson injured the finger making a catch on Philadelphia’s Jean Segura.

“Very disappointing,” Hyde said. “He got a freak injury, a freak accident where he makes a diving catch, just a finger bent back. He’s very down about it, obviously. It’s a tough blow for him. It’s a tough blow for us. He’s a big part of this team, not only what he brings to the field but the life and the personality that he has in the clubhouse. He’s so close with a lot of these guys.”

Hyde also revealed that reliever Hunter Harvey has arm fatigue, and that catcher Chance Sisco has a triceps injury. Sisco was hit by a pitch in a live batting practice.

“He’s dealing with a little bit of fatigue,” Hyde said of Harvey. “We don’t want to push it.”

Hyde said that Sisco should be back in two or three days. He’s experiencing soreness when he throws.

Cenerfielder Austin Hays, who was hit in the left knee by a pitch in Sunday night’s game, wasn’t in the lineup on Monday.

“It just kind of got him in a tough spot,” Hyde said. “On the outside of the knee. I think if this was the regular season, he’d playing.”

Cobb pitches into fifth: Hyde hoped that Cobb could pitch four innings. Cobb faced one batter in the fifth before coming out. He allowed a Howie Kendrick two-run homer in the fourth inning in the Orioles’ 4-2 loss to the Nationals on Monday night. Cobb and Kendrick were seen talking between innings on MASN. Cobb said they work out together and are friends.

Cobb struck out five, including Kendrick, and walked two.

“Very encouraging,” Hyde said. “I thought he threw the ball great.”

Cobb said that while he would prefer to have another start, he’s ready for the season.

“For how quickly this camp’s gone and how quickly it ramped up, I’m pretty happy with where I’m at,” Cobb said.

Outfielder Anthony Santander had a double and a single in his first two at-bats of summer training. Shortstop José Iglesias had three hits.

Stephen Strasburg, who had never pitched in Baltimore, allowed a run on six hits in five innings for the Nationals.

Smith goes to injured list: Outfielder Dwight Smith was placed on the 10-day injured list. Smith hasn’t played because of his late arrival after his positive test for Covid-19.

“I wouldn’t say Dwight Smith is out of the equation, yet,” Hyde said before the game. “He just took some live at-bats against Hector Velázquez out on the field. Still going to monitor him. We can activate him at any time. There’s a possibility that he can be on our Opening Day roster. If he’s not, we’ll look at our options and to see what else.”

The Orioles could consider Cedric Mullins, who started in center field with Hays out.  They could also consider Mason Williams, although he’s not on the 40-man roster.

Mullins had a strong game on Sunday, hitting a home run and making a leaping catch in front of the center field wall.

“Cedric being on the roster and playing very well right now would be an option,” Hyde said.

“Mason’s a nice player. He’s got some major league experience and can play all three spots in the outfield. He can be an option.

“Hays not playing tonight gives Cedric an opportunity to take some tough at-bats against Stephen Strasburg.”

Mullins struck out in all three at-bats, the first two against Strasburg.

“I like how much he’s improved,” Hyde said. “He’s a different player to me than he was at the beginning of last year. I like the way he’s playing defensively. I’ve always liked that. He’s become more vocal in the outfield, which is something we talked to him a lot about.

“You saw the defense that he played last night and the swings have gotten more aggressive. He just looks more confident in the box. I’d like to see that continue. I think both of those guys would be options if we don’t take Smitty.”

Williams is hoping he can start the season with the Orioles.

“Opportunity’s always there,” Williams said. “You have to go in stride and take it all in.

“Those things are really out of control. The things that I can control are on the field and in between the lines … in the past, get on base, play defense and staying within myself.”

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