BALTIMORE (AP)Brandon Hyde enters his second spring training as manager of the Baltimore Orioles with the same goal as last year: to oversee the rebuild of a last-place team that lost more than 100 games.
This time, at least, Hyde is familiar with his coaching staff and knows most of the players.
A year ago, Hyde arrived at spring training as a rookie manager overseeing a team that was in the initial stage of a complete overhaul under first-year general manager Mike Elias. Hyde’s experience as bench coach of the Chicago Cubs helped him understand the finer points of rebuilding with untested talent, but had little inaction with the players before meeting them at camp in Sarasota, Fla.
“I was in the other league in a different division, so I didn’t know much about the players on our club except for watching video,” Hyde said. “Now I know the guys going in, the guys we had last year and some of the guys we brought in. I have a relationship with them already.”
With that going for him, Hyde can get right to work when pitchers and catchers hold their first workout on Feb. 12. The Orioles are a long way from being contenders, but the hope is that they take another step in the right direction after going 54-108 in Hyde’s debut season following a dismal 47-115 finish under Buck Showalter in 2018.
Elias intends to stick to the plan of filling the farm system with young players who hopefully will one day showcase their skills at the big league level. That’s why the GM traded veteran infielder Jonathan Villar and sturdy right-hander Dylan Bundy this winter for prospects.
Elias did, however, sign free-agent shortstop José Iglesias to a one-year deal to fill the void left by the departure of Villar, who played in all 162 games, batted .274 with 24 homers and led the team with 40 stolen bases.
“It’s tough to lose a player like Villar, but it goes back to where we are in this process in Year 2,” Hyde said.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Catcher Adley Rutschman, first baseman Ryan Mountcastle and outfielder Yusniel Diaz are among the top prospects in the organization. None of them are expected to be on the opening day roster, but they’ll provide a glimpse of the future at camp this spring.
“It’s always fun to see the young guys mingle with the major league players and the veterans we have,” Hyde said. “I know it’s going to be a great experience for all of them.”
Beyond Iglesias at shortstop and Trey Mancini in the outfield or at first base, filling out the starting lineup is going to be a day-to-day endeavor for Hyde.
The starting rotation is going to be a work in progress, the bullpen is iffy and it’s anyone’s guess whether slugger Chris Davis can return to form after two straight awful seasons.
“He’s in a great place mentally, he feels good about how he feels physically,” Hyde said of Davis, who is entering the fourth year of a $161 million contract he signed in 2016.
John Means heads the rotation after a shining rookie season, and the hope is that veteran Alex Cobb can rebound from a hip injury that sidelined him for much of 2019. The other three spots are up for grabs.
Mychal Givens has the potential to be a solid closer, but he was 2-6 with eight blown saves in 2019.
Hyde’s first priority this spring is to improve the defense, which ranked 23rd in the majors last year.
“I’d definitely like to see us take care of the ball better,” he said.
The Orioles have much work to do this spring before opening the regular season on March 26 at home against the defending AL East champion New York Yankees.
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