With the baseball world on pause due to the national emergency spawned by the coronavirus, players across the league are getting creative adapting to their new normal. Consider Orioles ace John Means the latest.
“Going to throw some live BP to my wife tomorrow,” Means tweeted this week. “Should I stream it?”
Going to throw some live BP to my wife tomorrow. Should I stream it?
— John Means (@JMeans25) March 20, 2020
Asked how much weight he might put into Means' session, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was quick with a response Friday.
“I’m not going to evaluate that, per se,” Hyde quipped.
Going forward, it’s feasible that similar sessions could catch Hyde’s eye. The reality hasn’t just changed for players, but for managers and coaches, as well. One takeaway from Hyde’s conference call with reporters Friday was how coaching is about to go remote, like many jobs across the country right now.
Though he remains in the Sarasota area with his family, Hyde has communicated with his players, coaches and front office via phone and video. The organization is using conference calls to connect Hyde and his staff with the medical team, athletic trainers and strength staff to create individualized plans for pitchers during this break.
“Those will be adjusted and ongoing as we go along,” Hyde said. “But the first thing was to get our pitchers in a healthy place, a safe place, and now we’re talking about what kind of throwing program that they’re going to be on here for a while, with an unclear date of when that’s going to end.”
As early as the day after camp was halted, videos began popping up on social media of pitchers finding ways to stay sharp. Orioles relievers Tanner Scott and Shawn Armstrong took to a local high school in Sarasota, Fla., on March 13. Means tweeted (and presumably threw) this week from his home outside Kansas City. A skeleton crew remains at the Orioles’ spring complex, but the majority of the team's pitchers have gone to their respective homes.
The Orioles are brainstorming ways for their hurlers to stay sharp, remain healthy and ramp up to an uncertain restart date. The challenge is accommodating pitchers on different schedules with individual needs, all across the country.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of FaceTime calls, there are going to be a lot of video sent back and forth, there’s going to be a lot of coaching that we’re going to be doing through video and through FaceTime,” Hyde said. “Whether we’re going to evaluate to make a Major League club because of that, I really doubt that. That’s not going to happen.
“It’s more about making sure these guys are on track, following the plan, how they look with their mechanics, how they feel physically, those types of things. And they’re continuing to work on the same things they were working on a week ago, just making sure they’re on track with that.”
Hyde implied that such sessions would be geared toward established pitchers, such as Means, Alex Cobb and some relievers.
The Orioles had whittled their rotation competition down considerably by the time camp closed, with Wade LeBlanc, Asher Wojciechowski and Kohl Stewart seemingly in line for the last three spots and Tommy Milone a candidate to make the club in a long-relief role.
Asked earlier this week what the plan is in the interim, Orioles general manager and executive vice president Mike Elias called it “uncharted waters for everyone, and the pitchers in particular.”
“Our pitching staff has been talking since this started and formulating specific protocol, but we must be mindful first of the public health situation going on,” Elias said. “We don’t want our players spending time in public and in groups of people.”
Hyde said his first priority is making sure his family “was in a safe spot.” He added that he’s spent most of his time “doing pretty much what everybody else is doing right now, and that’s waiting.”
Hyde's telecommunication extends to recovering star Trey Mancini, whom he called “in great spirits,” and other managers and contacts across the game while waiting out what he called “a holding pattern we’ve never been in before.”
Just wanted to reiterate how grateful I am for everyone during this time. Looking forward to seeing you all soon. For now, stay safe and healthy! pic.twitter.com/822b4Lqf74
— Trey Mancini (@TreyMancini) March 14, 2020
“I wake up really early thinking I have 47 things to do, and I don’t,” Hyde said. “I’ve never been home this time of year, so it’s a very, very unique and weird feeling. A lot of us who have been in the game for a while now are sharing those thoughts together on the phone: We’re not really sure what to do. Spend as much time with your family as you can right now.”
Regarding Opening Day, Hyde said, “It’s going to be weird knowing that we’re not playing.
“But there are a lot bigger things than Opening Day right now, and there’s a lot bigger things going on in the world, and that’s where our hearts and our thoughts are. Looking forward to Opening Day, whenever it is. But right now, we’re just hoping everybody stays safe.”