WASHINGTON—After 16 days of workouts, intrasquad competition and three exhibition games, the Orioles’ preparation for the 2020 season is nearly complete.
They’ll have another workout on Wednesday at Oriole Park, and then it’s on to Boston for their season opener against the Red Sox on Friday.
“I think we’re as ready as we can be in a short sprint of a summer camp,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We are in a good place.”
During Tuesday afternoon’s video conference call, Hyde said that veteran left-hander Tommy Milone would replace John Means in the opener. Means was scratched because of arm fatigue.
It’s one of the more unlikelier Opening Day starts in memory. Milone was signed to a minor league contract after spring training began, was held back because of a neck injury and finally added to the major league roster last Saturday.
Milone was chosen over Alex Cobb, who was slated to start the Orioles’ opener in 2019 before a groin injury changed that. Cobb pitched well on Monday night, but Hyde wasn’t going to start Cobb, who missed nearly all of last year after hip and knee surgery, on short rest.
He passed on Wade LeBlanc, another veteran left-hander, who threw six simulated innings on Tuesday afternoon at Oriole Park, to go with the 33-year-old who’s already pitched for six teams.
“He’s had a pretty long career, with a lot of different clubs, seen a lot of different things,” Hyde said. “He’s hung in there. He’s grinded. He’s had some good years, he’s had some tough years. To make an Opening Day start, that’s a special achievement for somebody, and he’s not taking that lightly.”
Means played catch in Baltimore on Tuesday and is feeling better, Hyde reports.
“It’s not going to be long until you see him out on the mound,” Hyde said.
It’s been an unfortunate run of injuries. Infielder Richie Martin, who seemed to have secured a spot on the team, broke his right wrist in a collision with first baseman Chris Davis in an intrasquad game.
Utility player Stevie Wilkerson broke his left ring finger making a catch in Sunday’s game in Philadelphia, and he’ll miss significant time. Pitcher Ty Blach hurt his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery.
“We’ve had our fair share of guys going down, most of it being unfortunate accidents,” Hyde said.
Promising reliever Hunter Harvey, whose career has been marred by injuries, also has arm fatigue and is being rested, Hyde said.
Another right-hander, Dillon Tate, whose elbow was hit by a batted ball in an intrasquad game, hasn’t thrown since and won’t start the season with the Orioles.
Catcher Chance Sisco, who was hit in the triceps by a pitch, threw and took some at-bats against LeBlanc.
“I thought we played three pretty well-played exhibition games against really good clubs,” Hyde said. “Got to see some really good pitching in these three games. That’s helpful to evaluate.”
The players feel the same way.
“You see it from Day One,” third baseman Rio Ruiz said. “Pitchers were ready, hitters were ready. Everybody came ready to go. It goes to show how excited we were to get going again.”
Roster moves coming: Including Blach, who had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last Wednesday, the Orioles have 43 players on their summer training roster.
They must get down to 30 by noon Thursday.
Since Wilkerson isn’t on the 40-man roster, he won’t go on the major league injured list. Outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., who didn’t play in any of the three exhibition games after a late start because he tested positive for Covid-19, is already on the injured list. Tate appears to be headed there.
Stewart struggles: Kohl Stewart, whose position on the team isn’t assured, allowed three runs on three hits in 3 1/3 innings. Hyde wanted Stewart to go four innings, and after he reached 30 pitches in the first inning, the frame was ended with two outs and two runs in.
Stewart threw 71 pitches in the Orioles’ 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night at Nationals Park. The game was called by rain with two outs in the eighth.
He struck out three, walked two and hit a batter.
“I’ve got to come out with a better sense of urgency,” Stewart said. “If they’re going to beat me, they’re going to beat me early in these counts.”
César Vadlez gave up a two-run single to the Nationals’ Starlin Castro in the sixth inning.
Each of the starters played the entire game.
Chris Davis and Dilson Herrera doubled to start the seventh.
Shortstop José Iglesias had three hits, second baseman Hanser Alberto and centerfielder Austin Hays each had two hits. Anthony Santander was 1-for-4 and appears ready for Opening Day after playing right field two straight nights.