The Orioles offseason has consisted largely of the esoteric behind-the-scenes work being done by a newly-minted braintrust, offering the Baltimore fanbase little in terms of concrete evidence of a team on the rise. MLBTR readers rendered a decidedly nonplussed verdict of the O’s offseason by handing out a failing grade as the most common response in our Offseason In Review Series poll. Hope for an improved future for the AL’s foremost cellar dweller is dependent largely on conjecture tied to the resumes of the men brought in to run the organization, namely GM Mike Elias and field manager Brandon Hyde. The first significant evidence of Elias’ progress, however, is being seen all over spring camp, per MLB.com’s Joe Trezza. Spin axis seminars, high-speed Edgertronic cameras and “the long list of players championing the exposure to extra information they weren’t privy to before” are a few of the promising signs of growth coming out of O’s camp. Baltimore’s data infusion can be credited to new assistant general manger of analytics Sig Mejdal, a former NASA engineer and blackjack dealer whom Elias coaxed to Baltimore from their former employer in Houston. But that’s not all of the news coming from the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia corridor…
- Hyde has already announced Alex Cobb as the Opening Day starter, but the only certainty beyond day one is the presence of Cobb, Andrew Cashner and Dylan Bundy in the rotation. In what order they’ll line up after Cobb, and who pitches in the fourth and fifth rotation spots is still very much up in the air, per the Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli (via Twitter). Using an Opener at times is definitely on the table, as is tweaking the rotation depending on the matchup. More clarity could come soon to O’s camp, as another round of roster cuts is planned for tomorrow, per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link). Free agent signee Nate Karns certainly hopes to lay claim to one of those spots, but it’ll likely be a dynamic roster-crunching process in Baltimore right up until (and beyond, really) Opening Day.
- The names that will populate Baltimore’s pitching staff remain unknown, but for commentary on those auditioning, the Athletic’s Dan Connolly turned to Doug Brocail, Baltimore’ forthright, 51-year-old pitching coach. The challenge facing Brocail is developing a shared language for his staff, while finding new ways to communicate on an individual level. For example, in giving instruction to righty Jimmy Yacabonis, Brocail’s message to “Hold your posture” wasn’t registering. Recognizing the need to break though this particular platitude, Brocail conveyed his point this way, “Right at hill strike, then let the rotation of the other half take over,” and the message sunk in. Give Connolly’s conversation with Brocail a full read for more insight into the mind of the Orioles’ pitching coach, including his thoughts on Cobb, Bundy and Cashner.
- At the other end of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez is grooming Wilmer Difo for a super-utility role in 2019, per Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). This is not in response to the Michael A. Taylor injury, as there’s no plan at present to give Difo starts in center. Seeing some time in the outfield remains likely, as Difo boasts small-sample experience at all three outfield spots over the last two seasons. Difo will also likely serve as the team’s emergency catcher, a more pertinent responsibility on the Nats than most teams given Martinez’s stated desire to use the non-starter from the duo of Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki as a pinch-hitter. Were Martinez to stick Difo behind the dish at some point during the season, the move would at the very least be on brand for a disciple of the ever-tinkering Joe Maddon.