What’s happening? –The Orioles’ first of 28 Grapefruit League games is Sunday at Ed Smith Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates. This spring’s schedule has been reduced, and the first game is a day later than originally scheduled.
In the schedule released last September, the Orioles were slated for 32 games. Three split-squad games have been dropped, and instead of an off-day on March 10th, there will be two off-days on March 8th and 18th.
Manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t decided who will pitch in the first game.
“I think we’re still mapping that out,” Hyde said. “We’re down to a few candidates to start those first couple of games.”
He said that before the games begin, each pitcher will throw two live batting practices, and he’ll announce the starters for the first games in the next few days.
“I think we’re going to be fair in evaluating,” Hyde said. “We’ll take a long look at starter candidates, veteran and young.”
He’s eager to see the trio of non-roster major league veteran starters, Matt Harvey, Félix Hernández and Wade LeBlanc.
“We’re definitely going to give them every opportunity to show well,” Hyde said.
Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins will get playing time in center field between now and Opening Day, Hyde said.
“I think we’re going to give both guys a ton of playing time and a lot of at-bats this spring, and then we’ll make a decision and see how things shake out towards the end of camp,” Hyde said. “I want both guys to get ready to play. They’re both going to see a lot of center field time in spring training. I’m going to move Austin around a little bit. They’ll share it for a while, and we’ll go from there.”
Last season, Hays started 20 games in center field, eight games in left and three in right.
What’s happened?—The Orioles’ position players took the field for their first full-squad workout on Monday. Chris Davis, who was delayed by the bad weather in Texas, took his physical and joined the team for the workout.
Trey Mancini, who missed the 60-game 2020 season because of colon cancer surgery, was an eager participant, though he’d be in camp since before it opened on February 16th.
“Just to see the smile on his face when I got to the ballpark, to see everybody else’s reaction to him, that was a special moment,” Hyde said.
Hyde said he was pleased with the first workout.
“They seem really focused,” Hyde said. “Just really pleased with the shape these guys are in, and they’re ready to go.”
What’s up with? Rio Ruiz. He’s the likely Opening Day third baseman for the third straight season. Ruiz, who hit .222 last season, doesn’t have specific goals for 2021.
“Continue to grow, and if you take the good and the bad from the year before and you throw it out the window, and start a new slate, the sky’s the limit for anybody,” Ruiz said.
“It’s OK to be a little arrogant when you’re on the field. You have to be. That’s half the battle if you’re in the big leagues because everybody’s so danged good. They really are. If you have any self-doubt, it’s going to creep in.”
What’s what? In a normal spring with open clubhouses, Mancini would be the reason for national reporters to visit the Orioles. But this isn’t a normal time, nor is Mancini’s comeback story at 29.
He’s been candid about his last year in the hope of helping others who also have been diagnosed with colon cancer, and is encouraging younger men to get colonoscopies.
“I’ve become friends with a lot of colon cancer survivors of all stages, 1 through 4,” Mancini said. “That really helped me get through it and realize it’s not going to be easy going through chemotherapy. It takes a toll on you, but at the same time there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“A lot of people go on to live normal lives. You have to think positive as you’re going through it. A lot of people helped me out in my journey and now being able to inspire other people and helping other people is what I see as returning the favor, and it’s something I want to do.”
What’s the word? “I got to watch a lot of baseball last year, and I definitely watched more baseball than I ever have, so I would stand up in the living room when a game was going on and dry swing. I made sure that I watched some pitchers that I may face this year and I just wanted to continue what I did in that September in 2019. I know that’s a long time ago at this point. Just that minor adjustment, setting my sights a little higher. I remember that, and that’s still my approach at the plate, and that hasn’t changed at this time.”-Mancini on elevating his swing late in the 2019 season.
What’s the number? 27, 96. Last year, Ruiz had nine home runs and 32 RBIs in 54 games, one-third the length of a conventional 162-game season.