Hays and Stewart homer in Orioles' 1st spring win; Hyde loves Valdez's enthusiasm - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Spring Training

Hays and Stewart homer in Orioles’ 1st spring win; Hyde loves Valdez’s enthusiasm

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

What’s happening? –Dean Kremer will get his first start of the Grapefruit League season against the Boston Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium on Thursday at 1:05 pm. Matt Andriese will start for the Red Sox.

The Orioles have several players in camp who are sons of major league players — Hunter Harvey, Tyler Nevin and Ryan Ripken. Minor league infielder Terrin Vavra’s father is a longtime major league coach, and Rule 5 right-hander Mac Sceroler is the nephew of former Orioles pitcher and current broadcaster Ben McDonald.

Manager Brandon Hyde says the players have learned things that others haven’t. The team’s new third base coach, Tony Mansolino, is the son of a longtime major league coach, Doug Mansolino.

“He grew up traveling with his dad, growing up in the clubhouse, being around major league players, being in different cities,” Hyde said. “I think when you grow up in that environment, you realize that major league players, professional players, professional athletes are just like everybody else.

“It’s a special feeling knowing those guys, but at the same time, they’re real to you. It’s helpful knowing that maybe you can do what they do someday because you see them, not only on the field, but off the field, also. They’re regular guys. Knowing the routine, knowing what a clubhouse looks like, seeing the work that these guys put in, seeing it first-hand as a kid, that’s really helpful later down the road.”

What happened? The Orioles picked up their first win of the spring, 8-1, in seven innings against the Atlanta Braves in North Port, Florida.

Wade LeBlanc threw two shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out two in his first start since suffering an elbow injury last August 23rd. He’s back with the Orioles on a minor league contract.

“When you put up an 8 (ERA) and fracture your elbow, I think there’s a lot to prove,” LeBlanc said. “We’re going to go out there and we’re going to try to stay healthy, pump some strikes in there and get the offense back up there.”

Austin Hays was 2-for-3, with a two-run home run. He’s 4-for-5 (.800) so far. DJ Stewart hit his second home run.

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“We have a quite a few guys swinging the bat very well,” Hyde said. “It’s nice to have so much talent in our outfield, depth-wise, guys who can play multiple positions.”

Hyde said he’s been impressed with Hays.

“He’s hitting the ball hard,” Hyde said. “He’s staying through the middle of the field, which I love. He’s being the exciting player that he can be. He’s got a plus-run tool. He hits the ball hard. He hits the ball with power. He throws above average, a lot of things he does very, very well.”

Since Mullins is now exclusively a left-handed hitter, there’s speculation that he and Hays, who hits from the right side, are competing for playing time or could be part of a center-field platoon.

“He’s probably my best friend on the team and my best friend in the organization,” Hays said. “We’re rooting for each other to do really well. It makes for a really fun competition because we are such close friends. See him get a couple of hits, I would get a couple of hits. We’d go back-and-forth with each other. It makes it really fun.”

Hays’ wife, Samantha, brought their infant son, Levi, to the game. Hays’ father, Chuck, retrieved his son’s home run in left field to have it presented it to his new grandson.

“It’s dad strength, I guess,” Hays said.

Jahmai Jones also had two hits.

Harvey and Fernando Abad threw scoreless innings. Ashton Goudeau pitched two hitless innings. Dillon Tate allowed Atlanta’s only run in the fourth.

MASN announced a multi-year extension with Comcast, allowing Orioles and Nationals games to be shown.

What’s up with? César Valdez pitched a spotless inning on Tuesday, striking out the side. Valdez, who will be 36 on March 17th, continues to baffle hitters with his offspeed stuff.

“Just really professional,” Hyde said. “He’s always here early. He gets his work in. He’s always watching. He watches other people throw. He watches bullpens. He just does everything right.

“He’s a veteran. He’s played this game for a long time in a lot of different places on a lot of different teams. He’s played in different countries. He’s had a lot of different experiences. I think he’s appreciative of being in the big leagues right now, and he’s taking full advantage of it.

“I see him mentoring young players. He’s a voice in our clubhouse, kind of a quiet voice, but he is a voice. He demands a lot of respect for how long he’s played this game and his past experiences.

“To see him go out and have success is just so cool. He’s off to a really nice appearance [Tuesday].”

What’s what? It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Triple-A season will be delayed and that the alternate sites return—at least for a while. Last month, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias hinted at the possibility.

“We’re going to have a month of major league baseball and then some Triple-A type-players, who may be in a bit of an alternate site-type setup, and then the real games against other organizations might be later than that,” he said.

What’s the word?. “There’s 30 teams, and my goal is to be a big league player, help the team win, and I don’t really care who it’s for. I’m happy I’m here.”-Tyler Nevin on getting traded from Colorado to the Orioles last August.

What’s the number? .559. That was the winning percentage that Joe Altobelli, who died on Wednesday at 88, compiled in 2 ½ seasons with the Orioles. Only Earl Weaver (.583), Davey Johnson (.574) and Hank Bauer (.561) had better winning percentages. Altobelli managed the 1983 World Series champions the year after Weaver retired.

What’s the record? 1-2-1.  The Orioles will play the Boston Red Sox at 1:05 pm. The game can be heard on 105.7 The Fan and the Orioles Radio Network.

Call for questions: I’ll be answering your Orioles’ questions early next week. You can leave your questions in the comments or email them to: [email protected]

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Orial

    March 4, 2021 at 8:35 am

    I guess I’m up first again(being an old early riser does have it’s advantages). Love what I see with Hays but geez don’t have him platoon(unless he plays LF and CF). Too much talent to rotate in and out of the lineup. The enigma of Stewart continues. What do we have in him? Kremer going today–now THAT’S what we wanna see. This is the future. MASN/Comcast going long term. Encouraging news to hear considering what we have been hearing. Sad about Joe Altobelli. Seems his time in Baltimore was short lived as if they couldn’t wait to replace him. If I’m not mistaken Earl Weaver did come out of retirement to replace him. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    • BrooksPJs

      March 4, 2021 at 10:50 am

      Wikipedia has this info about Orioles managers in the 1980s. Orioles record in 1985 under Altobelli was 29-26 when he was fired, with the Orioles going 54-52 the rest of the season.

      1980-1982: Weaver
      1983-1984: Altobelli
      1985: Altobelli (29-26), Ripken Sr (1-0), Weaver (53-52)
      1986: Weaver
      1987: Ripken Sr
      1988: Ripken Sr (0-6), Frank Robinson (54-101)
      1989: Frank Robinson

      Hardball Times has an article “Unusual midseason managerial departures” with a few notes about Altobelli’s tenure with the O’s. It does seem he was underappreciated.

  2. BrooksPJs

    March 4, 2021 at 10:33 am

    Another great article Rich! On the heels of the O’s first spring training victory too. Thanks for the player insights – Hays and Valdez seem to be very solid. Hopefully some of Valdez’s behaviors and attitudes will rub off on the younger pitchers. Very interesting to learn Hays and Mullins are good friends even while competing for OF playing time.

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