With the Orioles tucked safely in the Midwest this weekend, the team's heavy contingent of native and converted Floridians are monitoring weather forecasts and are concerned for their families and properties there as Hurricane Irma is set to make landfall.
"Not a whole lot you can do, which is the worst feeling," said closer Zach Britton, who makes his offseason home in Sarasota, Fla. "It's completely out of your control. Mother Nature will let us know in a couple days.
"But it's just stressful for everybody. A lot of players in the major leagues live in Florida. It's one of the more popular places to live. We can afford to get our family out of that state, so you're thinking about the people who aren't as fortunate. I think it's going to be a pretty stressful few days, and then after that, too — depending on how much damage was done."
Before they took the field for batting practice and stretches Friday, several Orioles were monitoring the storm, and lamenting what little they could do about it. Some had neighbors bring in furniture and secure what they could, but it's more a waiting game now.
Britton said his brother, Buck — who is an Orioles minor league coach and was going to run the team's now-postponed taxi squad minicamp in Sarasota — checked on his house.
"But where we are ... it's a mandatory evacuation, so he just went down there and made sure everything is as much in order as it could be," Britton said. "I guess it's just a little nerve-wracking. Better that we're not there, but he's there, so we're making sure he and his fiancée are OK. The next few days are gong to be stressful for some guys. Me and [Chris Tillman], we're right next to each other. Thankfully, we've got some guys with the sheriff's office there that we've known from working at the field. They said they'll keep an eye on it and give us feedback."
As for those whose families were already in the storm's path, there were positive developments. The eye of the storm skirted just north of the Dominican Republic, and many of the players who make their home there got good news after the storm passed.
Showalter explains rotation changes
A day after citing a minor wrist injury for Tillman being bumped out of the starting rotation with September call-up Gabriel Ynoa starting Saturday, manager Buck Showalter said Tillman’s physical problem was "not really" a factor.
"I think it was a little thing, but it wouldn't have kept him," Showalter said. "It's more as we go forward these last 22 games, we're going to look for every little potential edge we can get. Obviously, starting pitching has been a real challenge for us. We'll continue to kind of mix and match and see if we can find the hot hand in a given situation. Our options are what they are. Every one of these guys, for the most part, has a chance to run off a good game. We're going to need it against teams like Cleveland."
Tillman, who is now in the bullpen for the second time in two months, has a 7.85 ERA and a 1.924 WHIP after he allowed three runs on three hits with three walks Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ynoa will be making his fourth career start and first since being acquired from the New York Mets in February.
"I was surprised," Ynoa said through the team's Spanish-language interpreter, Ramón Alarcón. "I was not expecting it, but now I just want to take advantage of this opportunity."
Ynoa came into spring training this year with a certain amount of promise. He competed for a rotation spot, but he started poorly at Triple-A Norfolk, posting a 6.65 ERA with only one quality start in five starts before he was called up to join the Orioles bullpen. His debut with the club came on May 5, when a pair of batted balls off starter Wade Miley in the first inning chased him from the game and brought in Ynoa, who struck out five in six scoreless innings of relief.
Ynoa pulled his hamstring during that outing and ended up back in the minors once he was healthy.
"It's an awkward feeling because it's the first time I've ever been injured in my professional career, so from that standpoint it was weird, but now I'm healthy, I'm ready to go, and I'm ready to compete tomorrow,” Ynoa said.
He appeared in relief just four more times over three major league stints and never pulled his ERA at Norfolk under 5.00, ending the season with a 5.25 ERA and a 1.439 WHIP.
Around the horn
Catcher Welington Castillo was meant to return to the lineup after Caleb Joseph caught Kevin Gausman on Thursday, but he was a late scratch on Friday evening. No reason was immediately available. ... High-A Frederick took a 1-0 lead in the Carolina League division series Thursday, and on Friday, learned that the pending hurricane canceled the league's championship series. If Frederick wins one of its next two games against Lynchburg, it will be declared co-champions with the team that wins the other division series.