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Orioles begin season aiming small, even with 16 playoff teams: ‘We’re a long ways away from that’

Thursday’s news that there would be 16 playoff teams in 2020 instead of the customary 10 came so late that Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said the team didn’t have the chance to discuss what it meant for the season that began Friday.

It was certainly on his mind.

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While discussing what the season meant to him in a pregame Zoom call with local reporters, Davis spoke of how normal things felt on the field and how grateful he and his teammates were for the opportunity to play 60 games, or possibly more.

But whether it’s a veteran like Davis or a rookie like leadoff man Austin Hays, the rebuilding Orioles know that whatever success they come by won’t be built off chasing numbers, but by focusing on process and the simple things. Manager Brandon Hyde likes that.

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“It’s win an inning right now — win every inning,” Hyde said. “We’re process-based, but we’re really focusing on what we can control, and that’s as a pitcher, trying to win every pitch. As a team, trying to win every inning, and just taking it day-to-day. I did see that the postseason was expanded with teams. I think that’s outstanding, but we’re a long ways away from that. We’re just trying to win tonight’s ballgame and come out for tomorrow.”

Davis said success would be him “not putting so much stock into results and how I’m going to match up statistically, but really focusing in on what I want to contribute as a player and how I’m going to go about that.”

“I think, really, in the past, that’s why I was able to have so much success the years that I did,” Davis said. “I was focused on my process. I was focused on how I went about my business, and I think if I could keep my focus on that and how I prepare myself that at the end of the season, the results will be there.”

As for Hays, who is one of nine Orioles making their first Opening Day roster, he believes the team is prepared to pick each other up on the field and make sure no one feels too much pressure to do it himself. His own goals are mostly to do right by the team.

“I just want to go out and play my game,” Hays said. “I want to push the envelope when I’m on the bases, I want to play great defense, limit 90 feet when I’m in the outfield, just do all the great correct fundamental things that we work on on a daily basis.

“And just continue to have a good at-bats and swing at good pitches and put balls in play that are considered hard contact. That’s all I can really do personally. As far as the team goes, we’re just trying to compete every single pitch, every single inning, and see where we are when it comes time for September at the end of the year.”

When the playoffs were in their traditional form, the Orioles had a 1.4 percent chance of playing into October, according to FanGraphs. Adjusted for the new expanded field, that only climbed to 1.5 percent.

Velázquez outrighted to Norfolk

Right-hander Hector Velázquez was one of the last players added to the Orioles’ roster as a waiver claim from the Boston Red Sox when spring training shut down in March. He was also one of the first removed.

Velázquez, who was part of the initial 44-man player pool but was optioned to the alternate camp at Bowie the day it opened last week, cleared waivers and was outrighted off the roster to Triple-A Norfolk. He is also removed from the 60-man player pool, which is currently at 55 players. The 40-man roster is at 39.

Around the horn

Hyde said the Orioles’ three taxi-squad players in Boston were catcher Bryan Holaday, right-hander Thomas Eshelman, and infielder Dilson Herrera. … Hyde said Asher Wojciechowski is set to follow Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc in the rotation and start Monday at Miami, with Tuesday’s starter to be determined, though they’re leaning toward Kohl Stewart. John Means (tired arm) is eligible to come off the injured list and start on July 30 in the team’s second home game.

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