What I'm expecting to see from Orioles in 2020 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

What I’m expecting to see from Orioles in 2020

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Summer training is over, and Opening Day is just a day away. Here are some things I’ve seen and wondered about in the 22 days since players reported.

The health rules are being followed: Every Oriole player who’s been asked seems to be serious about adhering to the health protocols.

The Orioles have had two positive tests for the coronavirus, outfielders Anthony Santander and Dwight Smith Jr.

Santander played the entire game on Tuesday night, and his bat looks quick.

Smith didn’t play in any of the three exhibition games, and he’s questionable to begin the season since he’s on the injured list.

Players have been avoiding handshakes, hugs and high-fives, but those are hard habits to break.

The dugouts and bullpens aren’t crowded, and overflow players can sit in the stands.

Injuries might be more prevalent: Although players were followed by their coaches during the 3 ½ months off because of Covid-19, they couldn’t replicate the action of a major league game.

Players are creatures of habit, but that hasn’t been possible this year. It shouldn’t be surprising that the Orioles have a number of injuries — pitchers John Means, arm fatigue; Hunter Harvey, elbow; Dillon Tate, elbow; and Ty Blach, elbow and Tommy John surgery; Utility man Stevie Wilkerson, broken finger; and infielder Richie Martin, broken wrist.

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In any season, at any time, there are always players on the injured list, and with an abnormal schedule, large numbers of injuries are likely.

That’s one of the reasons that Major League Baseball is using a 30-man roster for the first two weeks, and a 28-man one for the next two.

A three-man taxi squad for road games is being implemented, and that’s because MLB doesn’t want players using commercial air travel except when it can’t be avoided.

Injuries this year will be a big deal. If they’re not minor, they’re major. A four-week injury is nearly half the season.

In a normal year, Martin could play a few months, but in a shortened season, he probably won’t play at all.

Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t put a timetable on Wilkerson’s injury, but he could be lost the season, too.

Harvey’s injury is also a concern because of all the arm troubles he’s had in the past.

Who will be the breakout Orioles? Last season, when the team lost 108 games, they could point to strong performances from Harvey, Means, Santander and Hanser Alberto.

It’s important that the team find a few  players they can take a closer look at in a presumably conventional 2021 season.

Harvey and Means are both questionable to begin the season, though Hyde said that Means could start the fourth or fifth game of the season.

It’s an important year for former high draft choices DJ Stewart and Chance Sisco, both of whom will begin the season with the Orioles for the first time.

Neither has had great numbers in limited big league time, so they’re going to need to make the most of whatever opportunity they receive this season.

Perhaps when Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Ryan Mountcastle get their chance in the coming weeks, they can join the list of breakout guys.

Is there any area that might be improved? The Orioles’ bullpen should be better, especially if Harvey doesn’t miss much time and can replicate what he did last year. He would join Shawn Armstrong, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Paul Fry and Mychal Givens.

Travis Lakins, who was with the Red Sox last year, and Cole Sulser, who spent time with the Rays, give the Orioles more depth.

Cody Carroll, who missed nearly all last season because of a back injury, and Tanner Scott, who has outstanding stuff, could provide more support.

What I’ll miss in 2020: I attended all three Oriole exhibition games, and I quickly adjusted to not having fans. Yes, fans are an integral part of the game, but I’m primarily there to watch the action on the field.

There will still be great catches, long home runs and gutty pitching performances, and I’ll miss the crowd reaction.

I’ll miss some little things. At least at the start of the season, scouts aren’t being allowed in. I think that’s a shame because their eyes and experience are vital in gauging players and teams. I also enjoy seeing them and getting their impressions.

I miss having the official scorers on hand. They’ll watch on television, and that, too, is a mistake.

On Tuesday night, when rain approached Nationals Park, I didn’t see the fans scurry for cover or open their umbrellas. That was something I didn’t think about until then, and I’m sure there will be countless other things I’ll miss in 2020 as we go along.

Our coverage plan: As I wrote a few weeks ago, we’ll cover fewer games in 2020 than we have in the past.

But things have changed since then.

We’ll cover all 30 Oriole home games, and whatever road games are safe to attend.

The hope was to cover the opening series in Boston, but Massachusetts has a 14-day quarantine for all visitors coming from states outside of New England, except for New York and New Jersey, so not trips to Fenway in 2020.

On Tuesday, New York added Maryland to its long list of states requiring 14-day self-quarantining. Unless that changes between now and early September, that eliminates covering the six-game trip against the Mets and Yankees.

For the moment, we’re planning coverage of the three-game series in Washington and Philadelphia next month.

It will be interesting to see where the Blue Jays play their home games. If they end up playing the seven home games with the Orioles in Baltimore, that means more away games.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    July 23, 2020 at 8:03 am

    How does the team quarantine 14 days going to Boston & New York?…go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 23, 2020 at 9:26 am

      Ray, MLB teams must follow strict health protocols. Players are tested every other day, others around the team twice weekly. They don’t use public transportation; players must be in charter planes or trains. They can’t take the subway to Yankee Stadium or Citi Field. They’re not to leave their hotels on the road except for going to and from the ballpark. At home, they’re to go out only to pick up food.

      Because of these stipulations, MLB teams are allowed to play in Boston or New York.

      As I explained, broadcasters aren’t traveling, and because writers aren’t able to avoid public transportation except if you’re taking a long drive to New York or Boston, it makes it difficult.

    • CalsPals

      July 23, 2020 at 9:43 am

      Makes sense, thanks for clarifying…go O’s…

  2. Birdman

    July 23, 2020 at 10:09 am

    Reports this morning that Blue Jays are still in discussions to play their “home” games at Camden Yards, but that Jays would not be allowed to use Orioles clubhouse, and would have to construct a makeshift clubhouse at Camden Yards. I’m sure many Americans think the Canadian government is being unreasonably harsh in this matter. On the other hand, Canada has managed to keep its per-capita Covid-19 death rate 50% lower than in the U.S.

  3. cedar

    July 23, 2020 at 10:37 am

    Thank you for this update Rich. I appreciate what you and the Baltimore Baseball team bring to the game and your reporting has helped us to understand the changes as well as a welcome distraction from all that is going on. As the season begins I wish you and your team a safe season and thank you for keeping us informed.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 23, 2020 at 10:39 am

    I’ll miss the dippin dots.

    OK, OK …. I’ll miss Rich’s reporting on the road games he can’t cover. (that is IF we’re lucky enough to get in all 60)

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 23, 2020 at 10:49 am

      Ken, I never understood the attraction of Dippin Dots, but thank you.

      The guess here is that we play a complete season.

    • cedar

      July 23, 2020 at 11:14 am

      +1 on the dippin dots!

  5. TxBirdFan

    July 23, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    Dippin Dots have been furloughed but that’s just fine with me. It must be extremely hard for you not to attend away games such as this weekends. I appreciate your articles and reporting and hope you stay safe.

    Since I live in Dallas – not far from Boog’s new locale – is it possible (hypothetically of course) for the Orioles to play the Rangers in the WS?

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 23, 2020 at 1:28 pm

      Tx, thanks for your your kind words about my work.

      I enjoy trips to Boston, but many people have had real inconveniences–and much worse–during the pandemic than me. If I miss a few games, that’s OK. We’re all trying to be safe here.

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 23, 2020 at 1:51 pm

      The Orioles could theoretically play the Rangers in the AL playoffs. The league structure remains the same.

  6. CalsPals

    July 23, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    From a recent article it looks like there will be a MLB team w/very young talent, a few FA, willing to bring up their young players this yr (as well as last yr) playing in Baltimore, just can’t root for the Bluejays…grrr…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      July 23, 2020 at 3:24 pm

      LOL

    • Birdman

      July 23, 2020 at 3:34 pm

      Blue Jays won a total of 67 games last year – not sure they should be held up as a model to follow.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        July 23, 2020 at 4:44 pm

        While it’s true the Jays have had losing records the past 3 years, they haven’t lost nearly at the rate the O’s have.

        And it’s funny, but I don’t remember the Jays tanking to get the likes of Guerrero, Bichette, Biggio, Tellez and …dare I say it … Austin Martin.

        Maybe they’re not such a bad model to follow after all.

    • CalsPals

      July 23, 2020 at 4:40 pm

      With Guerrero, Biggio, Bichette, Gurriel, Grichuk (O killer last yr), Ryu (FA pitcher) w/ their already better pitchers, I’d be happy if they took Smith back, I’d take their starters easily over ours this yr, & I can’t stand Toronto…not saying it’s the model to have, but it’s way better than what we’ve had to watch…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      July 23, 2020 at 4:44 pm

      4 second yr players & #5/2 pick in the draft they could add if they wanted, won 67 games w/4 rookies playing every day, who will only be better because they played much of last yr…they may be on to something…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        July 23, 2020 at 4:51 pm

        Right on CPs …. it’s often not pretty, but players CAN learn at the upper levels in my opinion.

        Remember the day when an NFL QB had to “groomed” for 3 to 4 years before getting his shot? The experts learned as time went on that sometimes you had to take your lumps to learn.

        It’s not a popular notion with everyone, but I don’t see why tje same concept can’t apply to baseball. And frankly it has already…just not in our town. Unless you count Palmer.

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 23, 2020 at 5:24 pm

      Ken, the NFL salary cap makes sitting quarterbacks at the start of their careers impractical and today’s college football features more pro-style offenses than it once did.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        July 23, 2020 at 7:25 pm

        I hear what you’re saying Rich, and there’s a good bit of truth to that, but I tend to believe teams want to see what they have sooner rather than later. And I believe the Pro game has copied the college style recently more than visa versa. But this trend started way before pro games started going to a more college style. Troy Aikman was one of 1st I remember being thrown to the wolves, and the Cowboys certainly played a pro game rather than a college style.

        • Rich Dubroff

          July 23, 2020 at 8:45 pm

          Ken, because of the salary cap, you must see what you have in a rookie quarterback quickly. The Ravens can build around Lamar Jackson for a few years because he’s still on his rookie contract. You have a maximum of five years on a rookie deal, and to waste two years watching isn’t going to happen now.

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            July 24, 2020 at 9:29 am

            I understand all that Rich. But my point was / is, that I believe it’s possible for an MLB player to learn at the upper levels as well. Almost all players have a rough start to their careers statistically once they hit the bigs. Why not let these young guys learn and get that all out of the way as soon as possible?

    • CalsPals

      July 23, 2020 at 5:45 pm

      College is pro style in football, outside of bats, the college game is exactly the same…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        July 23, 2020 at 7:21 pm

        I wouldn’t agree that it’s exactly the same, although it appears to me that the Pros are trending towards styling the game after the college game, with all the running QBs and all. I tend to think it’s simply a trend though. As a few has a few more $20 million dollar ankles get turned backward as did one RGIII’s did ….that trend may prove to be a passing fad.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          July 23, 2020 at 8:39 pm

          And to think I was sober when I wrote that mess …

    • CalsPals

      July 23, 2020 at 7:57 pm

      Sorry for the confusion, outside of bats, the college baseball game is essentially the same…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        July 23, 2020 at 8:40 pm

        The confusion was all mine! lol

    • CalsPals

      July 23, 2020 at 8:43 pm

      Maybe we should start drinking, Scherzer striking out a lot of guys, but given up runs, the crowd is going crazy…go O’s…

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