In addition to Wednesday's closed game against the Chicago White Sox, the schedule changes forced by the Freddie Gray unrest in Baltimore have created logistical issues that the Orioles needed several days to figure out.
Manager Buck Showalter outlined some of the challenges the team faced in scheduling the past week, from collectively bargained off-day guarantees to travel considerations given to players and their families.
Showalter said that the Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement bans teams from playing more than 20 consecutive days.
The mutual off-day on May 28, when the teams will make up Monday's and Tuesday's games as part of a single-admission doubleheader, doesn't violate that provision. Any other off-day make-up would, meaning the team had to play Wednesday in front of an empty ballpark.
The manager wasn't sure whether Thursday's off-day, which was supposed to fall between two home series, would now involve a team workout to keep them sharp after two days off. But travel to and from Florida wasn't worked out until Wednesday morning, Showalter said.
"We knew we'd probably get [a plane], but we didn't know the size of it," Showalter said. "I was trying to figure out a way to give the players' families the option if they wanted to go with us to Tampa."
The Orioles aren't going through their typical provider, Delta, but he said there would be room on their flight for families if they want to leave the city ahead of more scheduled protests and travel with the team.
They also had to decide whether to fly back to Baltimore after Sunday's 2:05 p.m. game at Tropicana Field, or fly directly to New York. The Orioles have another off-day between the series at Tampa Bay and the two-game set against the New York Mets at Citi Field.
"These contracts with the hotels are done well in advance," Showalter said. "But we're going to come back here on Sunday instead of going directly to New York. Some players, depending on where they live, are going to leave their families here, and I want them to be able to come back and then we'll take a train up [to New York] on Monday."
Concern for residents, employees
Showalter said he spent over three hours with owner Peter Angelos on Tuesday morning as team and league officials worked through possible scheduling solutions, and baseball interests were far from anyone's mind.
"Everything he talked about was about what's best for the city and Baltimore and the safety of our fans and the citizens," Showalter said. "Not once did anything about, you know, revenue or money [enter the conversation]. It was all about that. It made me feel good to listen to. He loves this community and these people and it's sad we are having to go through this."
Part of the consideration in playing before an empty stadium was the desire to have as many law enforcement resources as possible in areas that need it, not at the stadium, Showalter said.
He also said Angeloswas taking the lost income from its ushers, vendors and employees into consideration.
"That's what hit me the other day, going home the first day of how many people were punching out, and how many people, concessionaires, ushers [there are] — people that work in this stadium and depend on these games," Showalter said. "Believe me, it was a topic with Mr. Angelos. That really bothered him, too."
Mixed opinions on lack of series swap
The Orioles have several more trips to Tampa Bay scheduled this season in addition to the rescheduled series, but the Rays won't be swapping one of their scheduled home series in return for this weekend.
"Going to Tampa, I think it's unfortunate that they won't compromise and come here at the end of the season," Britton said. "You'd think they'd have some compassion for what's going on in the city. This is a bigger issue than just baseball and you'd think that they'd have some compassion and come up here when we're supposed to go there. But, unfortunately, that's not the case."
Showalter was more diplomatic, saying he understands everything that goes into making — and subsequently adjusting — the schedule.
"I try to, and we do, put myself in somebody else's shoes," he said. "If Tampa had called us about flip-flopping a series — I think they have a concert scheduled — there are so many things."
Hardy traveling to Tampa Bay, rehab possible next week
Shortstop J.J. Hardy participated in his first baseball activities since Saturday's cortisone shot in his injured left shoulder Wednesday. He said the shot has been effective, and hopes to work up to game action soon.
Hardy will be traveling to St. Petersburg, Fla., with the team this weekend, and said he could play rehab games once the team returns — though he doesn't want to give a timetable.
"It's hard to say," Hardy said. "I thought two weekends ago was realistic, and then it didn't work out. Then, I figured this last weekend was going to be it and it didn't work out, so I'm really not putting a timetable on it, but I'm hoping."
Around the horn
Catcher Matt Wieters (elbow) will catch in extended spring training on Thursday. … Second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who is on the disabled list with a right knee sprain, had his knee drained, Showalter said. … Infielder Ryan Flaherty (groin) took 75 swings Wednesday, and will likely be ready to return to the Orioles on the first day he's eligible, which is May 8. … Reliever Wesley Wright (shoulder inflammation) could be throwing by early next week, Showalter said.