New Orioles manager Brandon Hyde spent spring training maneuvering his defensive lineup, hoping when the regular season rolled around his players would be prepared for whatever position he put them in.
To this point, with the Orioles entering Thursday’s home opener off a 4-2 road trip, Hyde’s effort to create versatility in Florida paid off in New York and Toronto. Second baseman Jonathan Villar has also gotten time at shortstop. Trey Mancini, who has seen the majority of his major league time come in left field, has appeared fairly comfortable in right. Thursday marked Joey Rickard’s second start of the year in center field.
“The more versatile your club is, the more options you have, the more you’re able to rest a guy or get certain guys in the lineup by being able to move guys around, by exposing guys to different positions,” Hyde said. “That’s why I did that a lot in spring training, moving outfielders around a lot, moving infielders to places.
“We’re going to continue to move guys around. I also want to make sure I’m putting guys in position to have success. That’s my No. 1 goal, so that’s why in spring training, I did a lot of mix and matching and moved guys around, just so in case when the season came and they had to play a position, I wanted them to be aware and I wanted them to feel good about where they were playing.”
The players’ comfort is proving valuable early, too. The Orioles won their first two series, both on the road, against the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. Hyde said he believes in his team’s ability to carry that success into its first homestand of 2019.
“I feel like we can continue to play that way,” Hyde said. “I’m not saying we’re gonna go 4-2 and win every series, but I like the way we went about our business. I like the way we played to compete every single game and tried to win every single pitch, offensively and defensively, grinding out at-bats, attacking hitters in the strike zone on the mound, coming out of the ’pen with a purpose, all those things that we did, along with our defense. Our defense saved us a lot in those two series. We’re still making that a big-time priority.”
When Hyde and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias joined the Orioles, they began to redesign the organization to find ways for it to match the successes of their prior stops, the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, respectively.
But Hyde’s efforts did not end at how the club operates or approaches the games. During his early visits at Camden Yards, Hyde felt the clubhouse lacked the homeliness he saw in the Cubs’ room at Wrigley Field. He suggested the Orioles find a way to change that.
The new looks include upgraded chairs and a collection of TVs hanging over a pool table.
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“When we first got here, I just thought we needed to change things up a little bit, get some warmth,” Hyde said. “I just felt like the clubhouse should be their home. It should be a great place for them to hang out and feel comfortable, so we added a few things to hopefully make that happen. It’s important. They spend so much time in there that to enhance a little bit, make it more of their home, I feel like that was important.
“The Orioles have been unbelievable about doing some things to help that out.”
Hyde prepared for orange carpet
Before Opening Day, Hyde said the excitement and nerves of his debut as a major league manager caused some sleeping problems. He had no such qualms preparing his first appearance in front of Orioles fans at Camden Yards
“I slept pretty good last night,” Hyde said.
What seemingly could’ve kept him awake at night was the orange carpet the Orioles use for their home-opening ceremonies. Running the thick carpet from center field to the infield can be especially problematic for players in their spiked cleats, but Hyde was wearing a pair of orange and black Under Armour sneakers.
“I’m hearing a lot about the carpet,” Hyde said with a laugh. “I saw a picture actually this morning of what it looked like. Obviously, it’s a very special tradition and I can’t wait to be a part of it.
“I’m gonna go get a massage and a full stretch and make sure that I don’t tear my Achilles on the way down.”