SARASOTA—The Orioles are nearing the halfway point of a largely uneventful spring training, and that’s good. There hasn’t been any drama or many unexpected injuries. There aren’t any contract issues nor any major trade or free agent signings.
The original 71-man camp roster is unchanged. Cuts haven’t been made, and four players: non-roster reliever Darwinzon Hernandez, starter Dean Kremer and outfielders Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander leave on Monday for the World Baseball Classic.
Cole Irvin, who came from the Oakland Athletics notices the happy tenor of camp, too and says both teams treated spring training the same way.
“There was no drama there, either,” Irvin said. “These clubhouses have a lot in common in terms of the camaraderie, friendships that are formed coming up together, so it’s easy to get along with a group of guys that are playing for each other.”
Along with starter Kyle Gibson, second baseman Adam Frazier and catcher James McCann and Irvin, they’re veterans, outsiders who have fit seamlessly into the Orioles spring clubhouse.
“It’s made it at least, for me, for Gibson and McCann and Frazier, all the new guys, it’s made it just a little bit easier to click early,” Irvin said. “Don’t know how it was last year or the year prior. It feels like it’s always been, and it’s good energy.”,
Keegan Akin now qualifies as one of the veterans. He’s been with the Orioles organization since being drafted in 2016, and he’s played with them since 2020.
“I think we’re all pretty excited, seeing what happened last year and then getting back in here and getting to see everybody, say hi and get things rolling, “ Akin said. “I think it’s kind of exciting this year to see what we can do.”
Manager Brandon Hyde coached for the Chicago Cubs from 2013-2018 and saw his share of drama there.
“It’s gone extremely smooth up until this point,” Hyde said. “It’s a great character group. Guys have come to work every day. They work extremely hard. I think our effort in games has been great. Right now, I haven’t had a whole lot of issues come across my desk. Let’s keep it that way.”
It’s a very young group with many players with little big league experience.
“Even the guys that don’t have a whole lot of experience, they’re treating major league camp the right way,” Hyde said. “They’re just being extremely professional. All these guys. The guys that came up last year, all of them, same way. Fit right in, be professional. They’re extremely hard workers. They get to the ballpark really early. They listen and they’re really talented. It’s been an easy group to coach.”
Irvin watched some of the young Orioles play when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
“A lot of these guys I’ve played against since Double-A, so they came up together,” he said. “They know each other. They know how to win together, and now it’s just coming together at the big league level and connecting all the rest of the dots that weren’t coming up together. It’s pretty easy to get along with guys that enjoy coming to the ballpark every day and just have good enough in general. There’s a lot of good things that this team possesses.”
Hoffman to the rescue: Sidearmer Nolan Hoffman, who was selected in the minor league Rule 5 draft in December 2021 has been impressive in his brief outings.
Hoffman, a 25-year-old, who was 2-2 with a 3.62 ERA in 20 games with Double-A Bowie, High-A Aberdeen and the Florida Complex League last season, has struck out both of the batters he faced, earning a save in the February 26 game at Lakeland against Detroit.
The Orioles have brought in a handful of pitchers from minor league camp for each game. If a scheduled pitcher exceeds his pitch limit, one of them comes in to finish an inning.
In the game against the Tigers, minor league pitcher Kade Strowd had a shaky ninth inning, and Hoffman recorded a strikeout for the save.
After watching some shaky performances from scheduled pitchers, Hyde was impressed and Hoffman is scheduled for an inning on Sunday against Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field.
“He did a nice job coming in and throwing strikes,” Hyde said. “It’s a little bit of a different look than what we have. It’s also not a young guy. He pitched in the [Arizona] Fall League, been at Double-A. It worked out that we needed an inning there. I like what he’s done so far, and we’re going to take a look.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB