Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. joined the team’s summer training camp at Camden Yards on Friday, giving the club a full complement of the players they meant to have at their disposal a week before spring training.
While all Smith did was track pitchers in the afternoon workout, his presence means that manager Brandon Hyde has no lingering absences as he begins to pare down the roster for Opening Day on July 24.
Smith’s absence has not been explained by the club, though he has not been at the ballpark with the team since COVID-19 intake testing began on July 1. The team’s policy is not to disclose any testing-related information about players.
That, however, was why the other long-term absentee in camp, Anthony Santander, was missing until Tuesday. No matter the reason Smith was away, the fact that the Orioles have no current absences that could be attributed to COVID-19 two weeks into their workouts suggests that players and coaches are staying safe at and away from the ballpark in an effort to get the 2020 season in.
Hyde credited the team’s ownership and the senior leadership team installed this offseason for providing head athletic trainer Brian Ebel and his staff with everything they needed to create a safe environment for players and staff to prepare for the season in.
“We noticed initially when we first got here all the time and effort that was put into that, and how it was really thoughtful with how they were treating us with our safety and our health first and foremost,” Hyde said.
“Our guys are really appreciative of that. We haven’t had hardly any complaints, if any, about how we’re going about things. I think it’s running ridiculously smooth with all the things we’re doing every day that are so much different, it’s as smooth as it can possibly be and that really starts with the leadership of this organization and what they have put in place for us. Our players have bought into that and followed suit.”
The Orioles’ perfect attendance comes in a week in which MLB announced that five players and one staff member registered new positive tests over the last seven days, making it 80 players and 13 staff members who have tested positive since the beginning of intake testing.
Santander is the only public case the Orioles have reported. The club had him announce it himself after his two-week absence.
Complications to the finely-honed systems at home ballparks for summer camp will begin this weekend when teams start traveling for exhibition games, and in a week’s time when regular-season travel begins.
Orioles players, however, are holding each other to a high standard during the camp period. Success might make that a little more easy to maintain.
Reliever Richard Bleier said Friday that seeing the protocols washed away any reservations he might have had about playing, and the players are being “extremely strict.”
“The second I’m done eating, if I don’t put my mask on I feel like I’m being chased down the halls,” Bleier said. “We’re running a tight ship, and rightfully so, and I think it could work out because of the strict protocols put in place.”
Still, there are challenges that will only grow once the season begins. Many players, and manager Brandon Hyde, are away from their families for the whole season. He’s not sure when he’ll see them again.
“I think that we’re all going to be living with that adjustment of being away from home, for a lot of us, we’re already away from home but then it’s going to be a lot harder to have our families travel in to see us, travel in on the road to see us,” Hyde said. “It’s just going to be very, very difficult this year.
“I know a lot of our guys are feeling the same way.”
Santander a candidate for Opening Day
While Smith’s roster case for Opening Day seems slim, the three-day head start Santander got upon his return has him “trending in the right direction” toward being available for Opening Day, Hyde said.
“I think that Anthony looks great,” Hyde said. “He just took a bunch of live at-bats, he was hitting line drives all over the park, some homers. I think that he’s got a real chance of breaking with the club if everything stays on course right now without any hiccups. I think that there’s a possibility.”
Around the horn
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