Less than 24 hours before the most unusual home opener in Orioles history, there was little talk of baseball. After the Orioles’ two scheduled games with the Miami Marlins weren’t played because of a Covid-19 outbreak, manager Brandon Hyde used the beginning of his video conference call on Tuesday night to announce his pitching.
Asher Wojciechowski will face the New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole on Wednesday. John Means, who was scratched from his Opening Day start last Friday because of arm fatigue, will come off the injured list to pitch against J.A. Happ on Thursday night.
The Marlins were going to be in town for the two-game series, but their season has been put on hold at least through Sunday. The Yankees were supposed to face the Philadelphia Phillies, who played the Marlins last weekend.
“It’s been an unusual day or two, for sure,” Hyde said. “We’re looking forward to our home Opening Day. There was so much uncertainty, and [Monday] was just a crazy day. We were on the phone a lot, finding things out by the hour, by the minute.”
After the Orioles opened the season by winning two of three from the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, they flew to Miami on Sunday night. After they found out about the Marlins’ outbreak and that the games would be postponed, they flew back to Baltimore on Monday night and worked out on Tuesday.
“We were hoping something like this wasn’t going to happen,” Hyde said. “We feel like we’re doing our best to follow the protocols and follow the guidelines. We’re being really vigilant about it.”
Hyde acknowledged that there is uneasiness about what his team and the league are facing.
“It’s natural when there’s numerous guys on one team that tested positive,” Hyde said. “I think that there is a little bit of concern. We want to play. Our guys want to play. We feel comfortable about how things are here right now.
“This was something that was possible. It was extremely unfortunate, but I know our guys want to play baseball. I think we’re taking it very, very seriously.”
Since everyone is facing a pandemic for the first time, there is much that is unknown.
“I think, honestly, I’m handling things day-to-day,” Hyde said. “I think we all are right now. We’re handling things … that we’ve never handled before. I’ve been in professional baseball since 1997, and there’s a lot of firsts this year.”
Davis will wear a mask: Chris Davis said he’ll wear a mask when playing first base.
“It’s really a personal decision to make sure I’m being as safe as possible and not do anything to put myself or my teammates in harm’s way,” Davis said.
Davis, the Orioles’ player representative, spoke with his teammates about the possibility of playing the Marlins, who had 17 members of their traveling party test positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday night.
“It was a little unnerving to sit there and just to see everything unfolding,” Davis said.
“Once guys understood the situation and the gravity of everything, and how really this can affect so many people and so quickly because of the way it spreads, it’s just a good reminder that we’re going to have to do as many things by the book to make sure we get through as many games as possible.”
Davis has been realistic.
“Going into this, there was a good possibility that something like this was going to happen,” Davis said. “If we’re going to play every game on the schedule, it’s important to do everything we can to stay safe.”
His concern has been elevated by Miami’s outbreak.
“It has to be, when something like this happens,” Davis said.
“Whether your club is directly affected or not, it makes everybody raise an eyebrow to make sure they’re doing everything they can … It was going to be hard enough to get through this without something like this happening.
“I think that once you start to get guys together in a single area and they’re in the same consistent areas that have been cleaned and marked with the six feet of distancing and all the sanitation, I think it would be less of a chance, but at the end of the day, you can’t control what guys are doing away from the field. I hope it alarms everyone league-wide and makes them really focus in on what they’re doing and make sure they’re doing the right thing.”
Davis has three young girls and shares his misgivings with his wife Jill, a registered nurse.
“We both feel like it’s both at least worth going out there and giving it a shot before we just call it quits,” Davis said. “I’m going to do everything I can to protect myself and, hopefully, be able to get through this season.”
There’s much more to think about than just baseball.
“It’s a little more draining to know that you’re going to have a mound of challenges and obstacles going to the park before we even start to talk about the game itself,” Davis said.
Opening Day festivities: Johns Hopkins Hospital nurse Mahala Thomas will throw out the first pitch to honor first responders during the pandemic. Thomas will be joined in the prerecorded pitch by representatives from four other major medical centers.
Ebban and Ephriam Dorsey, students at the Baltimore School for the Arts, will perform a jazz instrumental version of the national anthem, and Rolando Sanz will sing “God Bless America.” Both performances will be prerecorded.
Sadly, just a few hours after he was named to the Orioles Hall of Fame, 14-year-old superfan Mo Gaba lost his long battle with cancer.
“Mo’s positive energy has been constant throughout every battle and continues to bring the entire city of Baltimore together in the face of ongoing crisis,” the Orioles said in a statement announcing his election. “His unwavering positivity and kindness are qualities every Baltimorean aspires to emulate. Mo Gaba has impacted more people in his 14 years than most people do in an entire lifetime, and the Orioles are honored to forever celebrate him as a member of the Orioles Hall of Fame.”