The thing that stood out most about new Orioles manager Brandon Hyde this spring — other than the perpetual four-day beard — was his unbendable positivity.
The message never changed from the first day of training camp to the last. He talked about trying to win every game. He talked about competing hard and playing aggressively, no matter the circumstances or the standings. He said everything you’re supposed to say when you’re handed a roster full of unproven players and a team most people think will lose more than 100 games this year.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe every word of it. It also doesn’t mean that he has any illusions about the long road ahead. What remains to be seen as he makes his major league managerial debut against the New York Yankees on Thursday is whether he can maintain his enduring good nature and easy sense of humor for what is expected to be a very challenging next six months.
Don’t kid yourself. Even heading into what is being cast as a stress-free season unburdened by the pressure to win, there is pressure. There is always pressure. This is the major leagues and nobody gets here who is built to abide losing for very long, but Hyde is still in the honeymoon phase of his new job and he has every right to view Opening Day at Yankee Stadium as a very special moment for both himself and his family.
“I’m obviously really excited,” Hyde said. “This [spring] was just a practice run. Obviously, you can’t take too much into account with spring training because now it’s the real deal and now we’re going to face guys that are big league players for nine innings and good competition. I can’t wait for it to get started.
“I have a lot of respect for that [Yankees] organization, and that’s a special place. To make your managerial debut there is pretty cool.”
Obviously, the true magnitude of the challenge will become apparent all too quickly. The Orioles open in The Bronx against a Yankees team that is projected to win as many games as the Orioles have been projected to lose. Then they go to Toronto to face the Blue Jays and return to Baltimore to open their home schedule next week against the Yankees.
Nice scheduling, huh? The schedule eases up after that with three straight series against teams that won at least 90 games in 2018 and are all considered solid playoff contenders this year. Sixteen of the Orioles’ first 20 games are against their four American League East rivals, which should be enough to wipe the smile off anybody’s face.
New general manager Mike Elias isn’t worried. He watched closely as Hyde and his coaching staff conducted their first spring camp and saw a guy who arrived in Sarasota, Fla., very well prepared for the next level of his profession.
“I thought it was great — the leadership, the comfort he had in the role,” Elias said earlier this week. “We’re both rookies in our positions. You never know how someone is going to take to it, but he was very smooth with everything and I think it just speaks to the experience that led us to hire him. He’s been a bench coach for a world champion. He has done it all on the development side and I think that came out in spring training very clearly.”
Hyde doesn’t seem too concerned, either. He saw a lot he liked over the past six weeks and is ready to put that up against the best possible competition and get his first true sense of what he’ll be dealing with all season.
Latest Baltimore Orioles
“I loved how aggressive we were,” he said. “I think we ran the bases fantastic. I think we’re becoming a much-improved defensive club. That’s the kind of club that I envision going forward — a team that catches the ball, that plays with energy, that gets down the line, that puts pressure on defenses and grinds out at-bats. If we can do that, we’ll be in good shape.”