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NASHVILLE—It’s been nearly two months since the Orioles were eliminated by the Texas Rangers in the Division Series, and the pain of that three-game sweep hasn’t decreased for manager Brandon Hyde.
“It hasn’t eased for me,” Hyde said on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. “There’s a lot of disappointment. I’m really proud of our season. I don’t want to take that for granted. To win our division, to win over 100 games, to have the individual performances, the team performances that we had, it says a lot about our roster and our guys. We have some really good players.
“You do that, and then you fall short, like we did, it takes a while to go away. It hasn’t gone away for me yet.”
The Orioles won 101 games, their most since 1979, but are still looking for their first postseason series win since they won the American League East in 2014 and advanced to the American League Championship Series.
“I thought our guys gained incredible valuable experience last year,” Hyde said. “A lot of things we did for the first time. Obviously, we made the postseason, but playing with a lead late in the season, being able to hold on to the lead, winning over 100 games and winning our division.
“It’s a big deal. For us, it’s now taking that next step and being able to advance to the postseason. I think our guys are going to come in really, really hungry … Our guys are going to be really, really driven this year. That was a great experience for us last year, but we want to go further.”
With closer Félix Bautista out the 2024 season after October’s Tommy John surgery, Hyde isn’t sure who the closer would be, and he’d prefer a pitcher from the outside to have closing experience.
“Losing Félix is a big loss for us,” Hyde said. “Such an important part of our team. I thought we managed it extremely well, the way our guys picked up the pieces for him the last month of the season. I thought our guys threw outstanding out of the bullpen, but you want to have more depth and get more talented down in the bullpen; it would be great. I think a veteran presence would be helpful.”
Second baseman Adam Frazier and outfielder Aaron Hicks have left the club in free agency and could be replaced by younger players, but don’t rule out the Orioles adding more experienced players.
“In a perfect world, you would like to have some veteran presence, but our guys are starting to turn into some veteran presence now,” Hyde said. “These guys are now in their fifth and sixth year. They’ve had a lot of experiences now, highs and lows, losing team to 100-win team.
“We’re not as young as we used to be with some of our core guys, which is weird to say, but some of our guys are turning into good veteran guys, and they’ve been led well these last couple of years with some of the quality guys we’ve brought in.”
Even if the Orioles don’t add free agents, Hyde is confident that the team could repeat as AL East Division champs.
“I think we’re really talented,” Hyde said. “I think our guys are going to continue to get better. I think we have two young starters [Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez], they’re only going to get better. Dean [Kremer] really established himself as a really good major league starter last year. Tyler Wells was arguably our best starter in the first half last year and was lights out in the bullpen late in the year.
“I’m excited about the talent that we have on the mound. We’re really, really athletic position player-wise. If we started tomorrow with the talent that we have, I’d be more than happy with it.”
Starting pitcher John Means was removed from the roster for the Division Series because of soreness in his left elbow. Hyde thinks Means, who threw 23 2/3 innings after his return from his April 2022 Tommy John surgery, could have a strong bounce-back season.
“I think if we would have had another few weeks or a month, I think John would have been fine,” Hyde said. “It was unfortunate that he got sore in that last start before the postseason.”
Means’ last full season was 2021 when he threw 146 2/3 innings.
“The way he came back and was throwing the ball over those first three or four starts, it looked like the 2019 John Means again,” Hyde said. “You never know how somebody’s going to bounce back off of injury, but he was really good. I expect him to be healthy and ready to have a full season.”
Notes: Gerry Fraley, who covered the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers for many years, was voted the winner of the Baseball Writers’ of America Career Excellence Award. Fraley died in 2019. … Former Orioles Adam Jones, Tim Beckham, Jerry Hairston, LaTroy Hawkins and Edwin Jackson will play in the first Hall of Fame East-West Classic Game in Cooperstown on May 25th. … Ben McDonald, former Orioles pitcher and MASN TV commentator, will be the keynote speaker at the Delmarva Shorebirds’ Hot Stove Banquet on February 8th.
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