What’s happening? –Wade LeBlanc will start for the Orioles when they visit the Toronto Blue Jays at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida at 1:07 pm on Saturday.
LeBlanc, who threw two scoreless innings, allowing one hit on March 3rd against Atlanta in his only spring start, will be opposed by Toronto’s Robbie Ray.
Manager Brandon Hyde says that infielder Richie Martin, who has yet to play because of surgery to remove his left hamate bone, could return on Sunday or Monday.
“He’s going to take some at-bats [Saturday],” Hyde said. “With the hand injury that he has, we’re going to see how he is the following day. He is sort of day-to-day at this point.”
Hyde is enjoying having fans back at games this month after playing to empty stadiums in 2020 because of the pandemic. On Friday, he found out that fans can return to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which will allow 25 percent capacity, approximately 11,000 fans.
“It’s nice to have a buzz in the crowd,” Hyde said. “It’s nice when we score a run or do something positive there’s cheering. Last summer, you wouldn’t hear anything. You’d only hear your own dugout, or you’d hear the opposing dugout.
“To have the fans cheering our guys on, to have fan reactions to plays, it’s a noticeable difference, and can’t wait for that to happen this summer.”
Third baseman Rio Ruiz, who hasn’t played this week because of illness, is feeling better and will work out on Saturday. Hyde expects him to return on Monday.
What happened? Starter John Means had his sharpest outing of the spring, allowing one run on two hits in four innings in the Orioles’ 6-2 loss to the Phillies at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida on Friday.
Means struck out four and walked one.
“Probably the best I’ve felt,” Means said. “I thought the fastball was definitely there. The fastball was really crisp today, but there’s still some work to be done. I’ve got to work on the slider a little bit. I threw some pretty good changeups and some decent curveballs.”
Means joked that he “was just pleased to get a strikeout.” In his first two starts, he hadn’t struck out a batter, but he took care of Roman Quinn to begin the game.
“It’s nice to get some swings and misses,” he said. “The fastball’s been good all spring. It’s just the other stuff that’s coming along. I think I’m on the right path. I’m glad to have a decent outing.”
Second baseman Yolmer Sánchez was impressed.
“The guy has good stuff,” Sánchez said. “The guy threw really well today. Every pitch, every batter … everything was on point today.”
Hyde liked what he saw from his ace.
“Just a couple of mistakes that got hit hard, but besides that, really good life to his fastball,” Hyde said. “I thought he flashed some good changeups again, breaking ball was good. He was super competitive. He was pounding the zone, nine-pitch inning in the first, which was outstanding.”
Means hasn’t been named the Opening Day starter but is on track to start the April 1st opener in Boston.
“It will feel like a real season, a real baseball game, a real major league environment,” Means said. “I couldn’t be happier. Last year, it was tough. It was tough to create that energy. This year, it will be easy and there’s no excuses.”
There was bad news on the pitching front, however. Hunter Harvey threw one pitch in the eighth inning and departed because of a left oblique injury.
“I heard him kind of groan and double over,” Hyde said. “I was hoping for the best. I was hoping it wasn’t an arm or a shoulder or an elbow, or something like that. I could tell by the way he was breathing it was something in his side. It’s his left oblique.
“It is what it is right now, and we evaluate as we go along.”
Paul Fry also had his third straight rough outing, giving up five runs, four earned, on four hits in 1 2/3 innings. In his three games this spring, Fry has a 24.55 ERA. He’s allowed 10 earned runs on 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings.
“I’m not worried about Paul Fry,” Hyde said. “I know he’s not getting the results that he wanted. He got ambushed a little. He’s throwing 93, 94 … I think he’s just having a couple of spring training outings. I have a lot of confidence in Paul, and he’s coming off a good year. His stuff looks good. It’s just not working right now in spring training … I think you’ll see him pitch well going forward.”
What’s up with? Richie Martin could have two weeks of Grapefruit League action before the Orioles leave Florida. While it’s likely that the 26-year-old infielder will begin the season with Triple-A Norfolk, he could be ready to begin the season with the team.
“The answer would be yes, unless there’s any kind of setback,” Hyde said. “I’d like to get him as many at-bats to see how the hand reacts in the next couple of weeks, but I think you can get ready in two weeks as a position player. So, we’ll see how it goes. We’ll see how his hand is.”
What’s what? Throughout training camp, the perception has been that Ruiz is the Opening Day third baseman. While he’s been out because of illness, the Orioles have started Rylan Bannon, Ramón Urías, Pat Valiaka and Stevie Wilkerson at third.
“We’re taking a look at a lot of them,” Hyde said. “Yolmer Sánchez played a full year over there one year with the White Sox, so we have some options at third base.”
The Orioles have been linked with free-agent third baseman Maikel Franco, but there’s no indication that there’s serious interest.
What’s the word? “Being around Trey Mancini, he’s definitely a huge inspiration to all of us. He definitely helps us out a ton, and then Freddy Galvis, he’s always staying after working with infielders … We were pointing out yesterday that he was out helping Richie Martin with some stuff, and we were just talking about it with the coaches about how cool that is. He’s got a lot of time in the big leagues. He’s learned a lot. He’s definitely been in our shoes before. Seeing him help us out all the time, it’s really cool. It’s really valuable to all of us.”-Rylan Bannon on who’s been helping him this spring.
What’s the number? 63. With the cuts of pitchers Mike Baumann, Zac Lowther, Isaac Mattson, Evan Phillips and Alexander Wells, and the return of Gray Fenter, who was taken in the Rule 5 draft, that’s the number of players in camp.
What’s the record? 3-8-1. The Orioles play at the Toronto Blue Jays at 1:07 pm on Saturday.