When pitchers and catchers reported to the Baltimore Orioles camp on Tuesday, they met a new administration.
There is a manager in the dugout other than Buck Showalter for the first time in nine years, and a new general manager replacing Dan Duquette, who spent seven years with the Orioles.
Mike Elias, who was hired in November as Baltimore’s new GM, hired Brandon Hyde a month later to succeed Showalter — and the difference was obvious Tuesday. There are few recognizable names, and only a handful of roster spots are accounted for.
A year ago, the Orioles lost a franchise-record 115 games, and the team used 56 players, also a record.
Elias isn’t making any promises for what will likely be a lengthy and challenging rebuild.
“It was a tough last year for the team,” Elias said. “It was a lot of losses. It was a hard season, a lot of disappointing individual performances.”
Hyde, who spent last year as Joe Maddon’s bench coach with the Chicago Cubs, wasn’t hired until after December’s Winter Meetings.
“I think he’s more than ready for it,” Elias said “He’s not coming from obscurity. He’s been the bench coach in Chicago and running their camps really with a veteran manager who put a lot on Brandon’s plate, so he knows the ropes when it comes to spring training.”
Elias dismissed Baltimore’s farm and scouting director, but he’s added just five new players to the 40-man roster.
“I don’t know it was a plan,” Elias said. “If we were making a move on the roster, we want to feel like we’re making some incremental improvement. I don’want to get guys off the roster just because we’re trying to change things.
“There are good players here. We want to try and help the players that are here. We see things in these guys that we like.”
Hyde has 60 players to judge between now and March 25 when the Orioles play their final Grapefruit League game.
“These next six weeks are going to be really, really important and we’re going to dive into every single guy,” Hyde said. “Obviously, our roster’s not set and I think that we’re going to go on past history. Past history is really, really important.”
Three starting pitchers, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb have spots secured, and so do first baseman Chris Davis and left fielder Trey Mancini. Jonathan Villar will play either second base or shortstop, and Cedric Mullins, who played creditably in center field late last year, should start there again. Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier are established bullpen pieces.
That leaves many roster spots to be filled.
“There’s a lot of optimism in terms of a fresh start and a big opportunity,” Elias said. “We’re going to be taking a fresh look at really every position on the diamond. There are a lot of competitors for each spot, and this camp’s going to be essentially an open competition wherever you look and so it’s excited for a lot of the young guys and the new guys here because they know they’ve got a chance to win a job.”