Orioles' minor league director tries to make the best of 2020 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ minor league director tries to make the best of 2020

Photo Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles

These are frustrating times for Orioles director of player development Matt Blood. There are so many minor leaguers he’d like to work with and the opportunities are limited.

So far, the only minor leaguers he’s seen on the field are the small number at the Bowie alternative site to Camden Yards as the Orioles get ready to start their 60-game 2020 season.

Though the Orioles have a 60-man player pool, the vast majority of the players are with the major league team.

There are 13 players at Bowie — pitchers, Keegan Akin, Michael Baumann, DL Hall, Eric Hanhold, Branden Kline, Dean Kremer, Isaac Mattson, Chandler Shepherd and Hector Velázquez, catchers Taylor Davis and Adley Rutschman, infielder Ramón Urias and outfielder Yusniel Diaz.

Some began working out with the Orioles when summer training started on July 3rd. Others went to Camden Yards for several days before reporting to Bowie last week. Others came to Prince George’s Stadium without working out in Baltimore.

Davis, Rutschman, Shepherd and Velázquez were sent to the alternate site. Davis, Rutschman and Shepherd came back to play in Saturday night’s intrasquad game. Davis and Velázquez accompanied the Orioles to Philadelphia for Sunday night’s exhibition game in case the team needed an extra pitcher and catcher.

What stands out to some observers is that there are some top-shelf prospects who aren’t in camp: right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, the Orioles’ top pick in the 2018 draft; shortstop Gunnar Henderson, who was taken in the second round last season; and left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, who was scheduled to start for the Orioles on March 12 before the pandemic halted spring training.

“We wish we could bring everybody,” Blood said in a video conference call on Sunday. “We wish we could have every single player there.”

At least one spot will open when the Orioles take left-handed pitcher Ty Blach off the roster. Blach had Tommy John surgery on Wednesday.

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But there are other players, including outfielder Heston Kjerstad, the Orioles’ first-round pick and the second overall in last month’s draft, that they’d like to take a look at, too.

One of the problems is that if the Orioles decide they want to remove a player from the pool, he’ll have to have a long-term injury or be released.

“This is a major league operation,” Blood said. “We have to protect and serve the major league team.

“We’re being pretty careful about those decisions. We’ve got some time, so we’re not necessarily rushing to make those decisions. Once the major league season gets up and running and we know how the health is of players and how this whole thing is going to operate, more decisions will be made.”

There isn’t much more Blood can do. While they’d like to, the Orioles can’t play what would in essence would be extended spring training games with prospects from the Nationals and Phillies, the two closest teams, because Major League Baseball doesn’t want to put those players at risk.

Perhaps if conditions allow, the Orioles can have an instructional league at their complex in Sarasota.

“It’s definitely something we want to do, and we’re hoping to get that opportunity,” Blood said. “Things are so hard to plan at this point, but as many players as we’re allowed to have and for as long as we want to have. We want to take advantage of that opportunity. There have been discussions, but nothing has been set in stone or any type of framework outside of speculating.”

What could be set up at Bowie is a group of starting pitchers who could be ready if needed to replace Oriole starters. Akin, Kremer and Zimmermann could be possibilities as well as any starters cut from the Orioles’ current roster, which, including Blach, is 43.

“That’s definitely part of the plan,” Blood said. “It’s what we’re working on right now. I think it’s still a little fluid because we’re not sure who’s going to be where at the start of the season. When that does get finalized, we’ll start sliding guys in where the major league team would like us to. We’ll follow the protocol as close so that we can be ready in the case that any of these guys are needed.”

Last week, Rutschman talked about some of the Zoom calls he’d participated in with other Oriole minor leaguers. He mentioned the wellness courses as well as the book clubs and cooking classes.

That’s a weak substitute for not having minor league games.

“It’s really hard to replicate live competition, live speed of the game, adrenaline,” Blood said.

“Hitters not getting live at-bats and pitchers not getting live hitters to face with runners on base when your stats are being kept. All of that is definitely not ideal.

“We’ve done everything that we can to help the players get better both on and off the field, physically, skillwise and even mentally and culturewise.

“You just can’t replicate what a season is without a season. I do feel like we’ve made some progress in some areas that would have been more difficult to make with a season. We’ve been productive and made the most of our situation. But we obviously wish we were playing baseball.”

Call for questions: This week, I’ll be answering your Orioles questions. Please leave them in the comments section or send them to: [email protected].

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    July 20, 2020 at 7:36 am

    Don’t envy his position, I don’t believe anyone would claim they’ve rushed anyone the last couple yrs…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      July 20, 2020 at 9:44 am

      Indeed … the road from Bowie to Baltimore as been paved in molasses.

      • Baltimore Castaway

        July 20, 2020 at 10:26 am

        It’s not the molasses that has slowed things down, it’s the profound lack of horses capable of taking that road. This is not a problem of Elias’ creation, in fact it is the reason why Elias is now here to fix these issues.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          July 20, 2020 at 12:42 pm

          Oh no doubt Tank Elias is here to fix things. And I certainly hope he does, but his methodology isn’t exactly the most dignified one. But make no mistake, the cupboard was not completely bare when he took the reigns.

        • OriolesNumber1Fan

          July 20, 2020 at 6:31 pm

          Baltimore Castaway – right on, on your assessment of the lack of horses. Also, Elias trades 1 decent player, Villar, and gets the tag of tanking where Duquette cleaned house and still gets a bye. And by the way everyone passed on Villar when he was put out on waivers. So, it seems nobody wanted him.

          And now with all of Elias’s analytics and coaching changes put in place, making all their young pitchers better, seems to get no credit.

          I remember when the Orioles traded their two best and only players quite a few seasons ago, Miguel Tejada and Eric Bedard and Oriole fans were fuming over that and then a few years later they applauded them for do so. That trade/rebuild made the last current run possible during the Showalter years.

          • OriolesNumber1Fan

            July 21, 2020 at 8:46 am

            BC, and also don’t mind or listen to the pessimistic downers on this sight. They can’t help themselves. They would be the rain on the Orioles World Series win parade. They would argue up from down, right from wrong, and left from right!

    • CalsPals

      July 20, 2020 at 6:50 pm

      Boog -right on with your assessment that Elias is here to fix things, totally agree that the cupboard wasn’t bare when he got here…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        July 21, 2020 at 12:16 am

        He just can’t help himself can he?

    • CalsPals

      July 21, 2020 at 8:20 am

      No he cannot…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      July 21, 2020 at 9:47 am

      Site…go O’s…

  2. Bancells Moustache

    July 20, 2020 at 10:20 am

    Mountcastle comes off the bench against the Phillies and puts one in the seats… better send him to Bowie.

    • TxBirdFan

      July 20, 2020 at 11:21 am

      Agree. Can’t have that.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      July 20, 2020 at 12:50 pm

      I understand he’s incapable of shagging a fly ball.

    • CalsPals

      July 20, 2020 at 1:23 pm

      Just remember, they’re not rushing anyone…lmao…go O’s….

    • Bhoffman1

      July 20, 2020 at 8:05 pm

      Mason Williams hitting 375 this spring but Mullins start over him and Herrera replaces Santlander

    • Bhoffman1

      July 20, 2020 at 9:05 pm

      Mullins 0 for 3 3 strikeouts. Bet he makes the club

    • Bhoffman1

      July 21, 2020 at 11:31 am

      Stevie will miss significant time with fractured finger . That’s what you get playing a infielder in the outfield. I’ve lost confidence in Hydes thinking

    • CalsPals

      July 21, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      Bhoff, with you, not sure I ever had any confidence in him…go O’s…

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