Life without games at the Orioles' alternate site in Bowie - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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Life without games at the Orioles’ alternate site in Bowie

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Some of the hardest jobs in the Orioles’ organization belong to the minor league managers and coaches who supervise the team’s alternate site at Bowie.

It’s difficult because there are players with major league experience along with prospects nearly ready for the majors — and nobody wants to be there.

Players on the Orioles’ injured list and rehabbing — pitchers Hunter Harvey, John Means and Dillon Tate are at Prince George’s Stadium.

So are last year’s organizational Player of the Year, Ryan Mountcastle, who should make his major league debut next month, and the team’s brightest prospect, catcher Adley Rutschman, the overall No. 1 draft pick last year.

Pitchers Keegan Akin, Michael Baumann, DL Hall and Dean Kremer are there, too. They’re some of the best pitching prospects in the organization, as is outfielder Yusniel Diaz.

All that talent, and no games to play. Major League Baseball has yet to allow the Orioles and other major league teams to play against other alternate sites, even those that aren’t that far away.

The Washington Nationals’ alternate site is at Sunshine Ballpark, the new home of their Class-A team in Fredericksburg, Virginia, about 80 minutes from Bowie, but they can’t play the Orioles’ prospects.

It’s a difficult situation for Buck Britton, who normally would be managing the Baysox in Bowie. Instead, he’s working along with about a dozen other minor league staffers on teaching the prospects and keeping them ready.

“That’s going to be the biggest challenge for a lot of these guys,” Britton said in a video conference call.

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“How are they going to stay motivated? I think everybody is under the assumption that there’s going to be a ton of opportunity this year. It’s inevitable that people are going to get sick; they’re going to contract the virus. They’re going to come in contact with somebody that had it.

“Our job down here is to stay healthy. That’s the biggest thing for us and, as a staff, figure out ways to keep guys engaged, and keep them energized … It can be a grind to be on the taxi squad where intrasquads are the best thing we’ve got going for us. It can become monotonous.”

Games against the Nationals’ prospects would be fun. They’re the only team that’s really close. The Philadelphia Phillies’ alternate site is at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania, home of the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, and that’s nearly three hours away.

“Unless they come up with something,” Britton said, “it’s going to be us and only us, so we’re going to get to know each other well.”

The Orioles are trying their best to keep Britton, Norfolk Tides manager Gary Kendall and their other coaches involved. Regular zoom calls about strategy occur, but the Orioles know that there aren’t enough players, particularly position players, to field a intrasquad game.

Two of the position players, catcher Bryan Holaday and utilityman Dilson Herrera, are on the Orioles’ taxi squad. They’ll move to the Bowie alternate site on Wednesday after the Orioles return from their road trip to Boston and Miami.

“We do have a good group of players down here and guys that know there’s a lot of opportunity,” Britton said. “They’re going to do everything they can to be ready so that when they get their chance to go back up, they can stay and make an impact up there.”

Britton, a longtime player in the Orioles’ organization and brother of New York Yankees reliever Zack Britton, spent much of the pandemic at home with his 1-year-old daughter.

“It was nice to be home,” Britton said. “I started reading some books, which may shock some people on this call.”

Akin and Kremer have pitched in Triple-A and spent time with the Orioles in spring training.

“Those are two guys we expect to get a chance this year at some point,” Britton said. “They’re young guys. I’ve had conversations with both of those guys. They’re just excited for that opportunity, for that first opportunity.

“Those are two of the guys that I think are going to be driven to get their work in every day, come to the ballpark and figure out a way to get better, so I don’t think we have to worry about those two guys, as far as their focus. There could come a time when we’re 30 games into this thing, and they haven’t had a chance. Maybe it’s going to take another conversation to tell them to get going.”

The pitchers at Bowie can simulate their work without games. It’s harder for the position players.

“For hitters, there’s nothing that substitutes for live game action, the adrenaline that you have in the box. You can’t simulate that just facing your own guys,” Britton said.

“There’s not that edge that you have to facing your own pitchers. There’s a little loss there. We can still use the technology we have to see how guys’ bodies are moving throughout their swing, and clean up some swings, but that I think that that  game atmosphere where your adrenaline is pumping, and you’re facing a guy that’s not on your team, we’re going to lose that. The game speeds up when you’re in that box.”

Technology has become an important part of the Orioles’ organization.

“Sometimes it gets a little much as a manager,” Britton said. “They’re sitting in front of the computer a lot of the time, and they’re looking at their pitches … Sometimes, you’re like, ‘get out from behind that thing.’ They’ve made huge strides. I think that’s one of the most impressive things the Orioles have brought in.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    July 26, 2020 at 7:56 am

    I’d love to see the O’s minor leaguers play the regulars, hopefully they’re grooming Buck to replace Hyde, seems more engaged & a better personality…BUT, the O’s are tied for 1st…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      July 26, 2020 at 10:01 am

      Being a little rough on Hyde aren’t we? I’m not defending him, but I can’t imagine being placed in a situation that is set up to fail as much as Hyde is in.

    • CalsPals

      July 26, 2020 at 10:15 am

      Totally agree, but I can see that as part of their plan, Hyde just makes silly baseball mistakes, ie: left handed batters vs righty pitchers, playing infielders in the outfield…not sure he really understands, besides, I like Buck…go O’s…

    • Bhoffman1

      July 26, 2020 at 10:46 am

      Agree with you, I like this Buck.

  2. OriolesNumber1Fan

    July 26, 2020 at 3:56 pm

    Anthony Santander, José Iglesias and Rio Ruiz all looking good so far in Boston! Nice sign Mike Elias – gold glove Iglesias has a 4 for 4 day! They are carrying the Orioles so far! Rally killer CD, crush nothing needs to be benched!
    More of an immediate concern is going to Miami for two and at home for 2 against the Marlins who just had 4 players tested positive for Covid-19. Then playing Tampa Bay at home another team from Florida where the pandemic is really bad right now!

    • CalsPals

      July 26, 2020 at 4:32 pm

      Never won a gold glove, booted 3rd out of the 8th inning, luckily it didn’t cost them…go O’s…

      • Birdman

        July 26, 2020 at 5:31 pm

        Iglesias may not have a gold glove, but there’s no question he is an above average fielder (.985 career fielding average vs. .973 league average for his position), and he is certainly off to a hot start at the plate … but some folks can’t bring themselves to give Elias any credit for a good signing, since it doesn’t fit with their “tanking” narrative.

    • CalsPals

      July 26, 2020 at 6:16 pm

      Have no problem with the pick up, only one in two yrs that so far seems legit, just stated he wasn’t a gold glove SS, & he booted a routine ball to end the inning in the 8th, truth hurt?…I’d love to see them keep doing what they’re doing, just not forgetting how many outs there are in thee game, twice the last two days…go O’s…

    • Raymo

      July 26, 2020 at 8:51 pm

      Chris Davis was too busy chatting with the umpire to pay attention to how many outs there were. There’s no excuse for such bone headed play by him or Alberto or anyone else. I hope Hyde gets this under control pronto.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        July 26, 2020 at 9:52 pm

        He must have attended the Manny Machado School of Baserunning.

  3. OriolesNumber1Fan

    July 26, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    In 2016 Iglesias was named a Gold Glove Award finalist for shortstop, along with Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons. With just five errors in 574 chances, he posted an AL-best .991 fielding percentage!!! No one better, though he didn’t win it he should have!!! Lindor had 12 errors in 674 chances for a .976 fielding percentage. Also Iglesias 11.6 ultimate zone rating (UZR) ranked third among AL shortstops. Lindor won it for his bat that year with pedestrian fielding pct.

    • CalsPals

      July 26, 2020 at 6:18 pm

      Being a finalist doesn’t make you a gold glover…kinda like being a lil preggers…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      July 26, 2020 at 6:21 pm

      Lindor actually had a .982 fielding percentage on 2016, not pedestrian, but higher than Iglesias…FYI…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      July 26, 2020 at 6:22 pm

      In 662 chances, almost 100 more than Iglesias…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      July 26, 2020 at 6:24 pm

      Lindor won the platinum glove for being the best fielder of all gold glovers in 2016…go O’s…

      • Birdman

        July 26, 2020 at 6:50 pm

        Not sure what your point is – that Iglesias is not the absolute best fielding shortstop in baseball? Even if that’s correct, so what, there’s certainly no question that Iglesias is an above average fielder. Sounds like you’re just trying to manufacture an excuse (Iglesias is not a gold glove winner) for your unwillingness to give Elias credit for a good signing.

        • OriolesNumber1Fan

          July 27, 2020 at 12:52 pm

          You are so correct on that point birdman!

    • CalsPals

      July 26, 2020 at 6:54 pm

      Read everything Birdman, I said it was probably his best sign, just said he wasn’t/isn’t a gold glove winner, no gray area, he’s a good ball player, hope he keeps it up…go O’s…

  4. OriolesNumber1Fan

    July 26, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    I’ll take my chances with a .991 fielding .pct for every Orioles defensive player!!! Lindor had more chances because he was a better hitter and wasn’t pitched hit for like Iglesias. Case closed pal.

    • CalsPals

      July 26, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      You’re right pal, case closed…go O’s…

    • OriolesNumber1Fan

      July 26, 2020 at 6:32 pm

      Learn math .991 fielding pct was the best in baseball in 2016. Case closed pal

    • CalsPals

      July 26, 2020 at 6:36 pm

      Gold Glove? Wrong AGAIN…go O’s…

  5. OriolesNumber1Fan

    July 26, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    Jose Iglesias is 3rd in career best leaders all time in fielding pct with .0002 behind number 1 Omar Vizquel .9847!!! Your boy Lindor is 15th!!! Case closed pal

    • CalsPals

      July 26, 2020 at 6:46 pm

      Not my boy, but the gold glove & platinum glove winner, you’re hysterical, you CANNOT be wrong, & you are…go O’s…

  6. OriolesNumber1Fan

    July 27, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    He should have won the award! Plain and simple! Iglesias had the best fielding pct that year at .991 and was robbed of the award! Just like Jim Palmer should have 1 more CY Young award losing to Sparky Lyle in 1977, he was robbed!!! They seem to always give the award to someone on a winning team over a more deserving player. That doesn’t make it right in my eyes. But like I said, I’ll take all 8 players on defense for the Orioles with a .991 fielding pct and take my chances against anyone, with the technical glove glove winner with it or not!

  7. OriolesNumber1Fan

    July 27, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    My bad – gold glove winner that should come with it or not!

  8. CalsPals

    July 27, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    Again, hysterical, you cannot be wrong ever…peace out with you…go O’s..:

  9. OriolesNumber1Fan

    July 27, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    I’m not hysterical and I was incorrect. I also said “he posted an AL-best .991 fielding percentage! No one better, though he didn’t win it he should have.” Again, “though he didn’t win it…” Meaning you were correct. And using your own words read the entire post. And I never said I was right either but my point is still valid. Guys that have the better numbers don’t always win the awards they deserve and that’s a shame. That’s the point I was making to you. Sorry you missed that. If you would have just agreed with my point this conservation would have been over.
    And I stand by my point that I’ll take all 8 players on defense for the Orioles with a .991 fielding pct and take my chances against anyone, with the technical gold glove winner attached with it or not.

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