Four weeks from now, on April 1st, the Orioles will open the 2021 season at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox, the team visiting Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on Thursday.
Here are some early impressions:
John Means will get Opening Day start
Means’ first game was on Tuesday against the New York Yankees. If he pitches every five days, he’ll be on track to start on Opening Day, which is expected. He’s accomplished more than any other starter in an Orioles uniform, and he finished strong last September.
It’s worth noting that in manager Brandon Hyde’s first two seasons, injury has changed his Opening Day plans.
In 2019, Alex Cobb was his choice, but Andrew Cashner started the opener at Yankee Stadium because of a groin injury to Cobb. He did start the home opener, but it was one of only three starts he made because of hip and knee surgeries.
Last year, in the 60-game season, Means was set to start the July 24 opener at Fenway Park but he was held out because of arm fatigue. Tommy Milone, who came into spring training on a minor league contract, got the start instead.
Hyde probably will wait, perhaps another two weeks, before he makes the announcement on his Opening Day starter.
Impressive start for outfielders
The Orioles had hoped that the outfield would be a strength this season, and the early signs are positive. Austin Hays is 4-for-5 (.800), DJ Stewart has two home runs, and Cedric Mullins looks stronger hitting exclusively from the left side after deciding not to switch-hit any longer.
Mullins has been a superior left-handed hitter (.251 with 6 homers and 23 RBis and a .699 OPS) than a right-handed hitter (.147 with 1 and 4 RBIs and a .439 OPS). Even his seven (out of eight) steals last season came after he got on as a left-handed hitter. He also led the majors in bunt hits with nine, and he gets an advantage on beating those out from the left side.
The Orioles hope that Mullins will becomes a more effective player, setting up and outfield rotation of him, Hays, Stewart, Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle.
Relievers look strong
Hyde says it’s best not to read too much into early performances in spring training, but the bullpen looks solid.
The serious contenders for bullpen spots — Shawn Armstrong, Paul Fry, Hunter Harvey, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser, Dillon Tate and César Valdez — completed their first outings without incident.
Travis Lakins, who threw in a simulated game on Wednesday, has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game.
Fry allowed three runs on four hits on Tuesday against the Yankees, but struck out two.
Fernando Abad, who came into camp on a minor league contract, has thrown two scoreless innings.
Team isn’t going to move
In the first of a series of eight interviews on the team’s broadcast rights-holder, 105.7 The Fan, Orioles chairman and CEO John Angelos said that the club isn’t going to move.
That shouldn’t be news, but older fans remember the pain of losing the Colts to Indianapolis 37 years ago.
When the team signed a two-year lease extension, those fears resurfaced.
The Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority, which last month agreed to the two-year extension, would like to make substantial improvements not only to Oriole Park at Camden Yards but the area around the ballpark and M&T Bank Stadium.
In the first part of the interview, Angelos repeatedly referred to the Ravens and their owner, Steve Bisciotti, as partners, along with the state and city, in the next phase of development. Because of the pandemic, the money isn’t there to begin seriously planning the improvements, but it should be there two years from now.
Angelos said that if there had be a longer interim extension of five or 10 years, the urgency to renew for a much longer term would not be there.
Listening to the 10-minute interview, he didn’t sound like an owner planning to move or to sell.
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