SARASOTA–What’s happening?—General manager Mike Elias thinks some of the preseason projections, which have the Orioles regressing from last year’s 83-79 record, are off base.
“I think those are lower than I would expect to see,” Elias said Thursday, the first day of official workouts for pitchers and catchers.
Most betting sites have the over/under for Oriole wins at 76.5. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projection is 73.8 wins.
“I think that’s the nature of it. You tend to have some in-house bias, so to speak, on your own players with any kind of projections,” Elias said. “Because you’re acquiring and keeping those players for those reasons, but we really like this team.”
Elias is continuing to monitor the free-agent market and exploring possible trades.
“I can’t handicap it. Obviously, the list is dwindling, but there are still free agents and those that I would classify as legitimate major league free agents that we’re pursuing,” Elias said. “I just don’t know what’s going to happen at this point.”
What’s happened?—Elias said that with Dillon Tate out at the beginning of the season because of a right flexor strain injury and Félix Bautista questionable because of knee and shoulder injuries, he’s still not leaning toward turning potential starters into relievers.
“It’s definitely possible,” Elias said. “It depends on the guy. One thing that we’re going to have to be mindful of is if one of our pitchers, our better starting pitchers, doesn’t make the Opening Day rotation of five and would be a clear help out of the bullpen, do we want to shortchange that guy’s starting career or risk jeopardizing it by compressing them into a bullpen role just to help the early season 2023 team when they could be continuing their development as a starting pitcher.
“We’re going to cross that bridge when we come to it. Those are not easy decisions and they’re best made with the context of everything else going on. I think that’s something to keep in mind. We won’t just take some of our best starters and turn them into relievers just for the short-term fix, or else we won’t do it without being thoughtful about it.”
Manager Brandon Hyde said he’ll be reviewing the new rules — pitch clock, limited pickoff throws, shift ban and bigger bases — with the Orioles all spring.
“We’re starting educating our guys today, ourselves, too,” Hyde said. “A lot of us have never seen the new rules in place so it’s going to be interesting first day of games with the clock and you see the bigger bases out there. We’re going through that stuff with the players now, and then we’ll have drills to simulate game situations with the new rules.”
Hyde thinks that the new rule limiting pitchers to two unsuccessful pickoff attempts will have a large impact, and so will the pitch clock.
“I think the hitters, early on, especially the guys that have been in the league a while, are going to feel rushed,” Hyde said.
The Orioles signed infielder Gilbert Lara to a minor league contract. He will not receive an invitation to major league spring training.
What’s up with? Reed Garrett signed with the Orioles as a minor league free agent last month. He pitched in 13 games for Detroit with an 8.22 ERA, and in seven games for Washington last season. He was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in seven games with the Nationals.
“Seeing the upward trending of the organization and hearing things about they handle pitchers and help guys figure some stuff out, it seemed like a really intriguing spot,” he said. “I feel like this is a place where I’m going to be able to take the next step in my career.”
Garrett knows that the competition to make the team as a non-roster invite will be intense.
“There are different ways people view free agency,” he said. “Everybody thinks that signing with teams that aren’t going to win as many games or signing with the teams that seem like they have open spots isn’t necessarily the best thing.
“Teams that are contending and teams that want to win, as long as you’re taking care of business doing the best as you can, I feel like ‘it’s next guy up,’ say somebody gets hurt. They’re trying to put the best guy in the best position … I feel like that opens the door for opportunity.”
Garrett grew up in Richmond, Virginia as a Braves fan but remembers a trip to Baltimore as a young boy to watch a series with the Oakland Athletics when they had Barry Zito and Mark Mulder.
“That was one of my earliest memories,” Garrett said. “That was one trip that me, my father and my grandfather took that’s stuck in my memory, for sure.”
What’s what? Elias declined to comment on Hyde’s contract status or his own.
“I don’t believe it’s in the club’s interest or anyone’s working here’s interest to know the expiration dates on the contracts of our baseball ops employees, and that includes [Hyde],” Elias said. “You can look at the job that we’ve done rebuilding this team. I know he and I are very proud of it.
“Obviously, we have an outstanding working relationship so far that’s been very successful, in my opinion and productive for the team. I think that people are, for better or worse, going to get used to he and I here for a while.
“I think we’re going to have a lot of success going forward. He’s done a great job and I was glad to see him get some recognition last year, and I’m also very proud of the fact that as maybe the first time in recent baseball history, we’ve had the same manager from the beginning of the rebuild to the point of the competition. I think that says a lot, something that he doesn’t get a lot of credit for.”
Elias said he was proud of rebuilding the team he rooted for as a youngster growing up in Northern Virginia.
“It’s kind of personal for me, growing up in the area to see the health of this franchise persist and blossom in the future,” Elias said.
Elias laughed when asked if he would be talking about the state of the team’s franchise a year from now.
“That’s not up to me, either,” Elias said. “I certainly expect that to be the case, but this is a tough racket, and I don’t take anything for granted in this gig or this line of work, but changes happen up and down organizations all the time.”
What’s the word? “It’s going to be a dogfight. I think we’ve got a good shot to get into the playoffs this year. We’re going for that.”-Elias on Orioles’ 2023 season.
What’s the number? 3. “I do see three bench competitions right now,” Elias said. “I should say three position player roster spots that there’s not really somebody who’s really got their name on it right now. On the pitching side, obviously, there’s a roster competition and then a few spots in the bullpen. To me, it’s eight or nine roster spots that really don’t have a firm grip on the job right now.”