Losses mount for rookie manager Hyde as Orioles rebuild
BALTIMORE (AP) — There might come a time when Brandon Hyde wakes up in the morning, grabs a newspaper and finds the Baltimore Orioles in the standings.
For now, the rookie manager simply can’t bear to look.
The rebuilding Orioles limped into the All-Star break with a major league-worst 27-62 record. During a particular brutal stretch in late June, Baltimore showed its youth and inexperience while losing 13 of 14 games — including blowouts of 12-3, 13-2, 16-2 and 13-3.
Asked at that point to present his goal for this season, Hyde replied, “I’ll be honest with you — I have no idea what our record is. I don’t even want to look at it. Right now, it’s about developing these guys and how we play. Eventually, I’m going to be looking at the standings and it’s going to be about wins and losses.”
Until then, Hyde will have to grit his teeth when his outfielders throw to the wrong base, players get picked off and his pitching staff gets rocked. Baltimore is allowing a major league-high 6.07 runs per game and has lost 26 times by at least five runs.
“We are getting by as best as we can,” Hyde said. “We’re not in an ideal situation. I think those numbers kind of show you where we are.”
Rookie left-hander John Means (7-4, 2.50 ERA) made the All-Star team and Andrew Cashner (9-3, 3.83) has benefited from solid run support, but the rest of the rotation has struggled. A season-ending injury to opening day starter Alex Cobb was particularly devastating because there was no adequate replacement.
“We’ve had some injuries that have hurt us. As an organization, we’re just not loaded with depth at the upper levels,” Hyde said. “We will be. There’s going to be some hope in sight, but right now we’re going with what we have.”
David Hess, Dan Straily and Gabriel Ynoa were given a shot at starting, and all of them failed. Using an opener — a relief pitcher to begin the game — isn’t really an option because of the strain it puts on an inconsistent bullpen.
“For a team to do it successfully, you have a starter going after the opener. We don’t have that,” Hyde conceded. “Whenever we try that, it seems like the second pitcher is gone in the fourth. Now you’ve got somebody else going in. So it’s a real touchy, dicey situation.”
Hyde came to Baltimore after helping the Chicago Cubs develop from a last-place team into a World Series champion. He figured there would be similar growing pains with the Orioles.
“It’s been challenging, there’s no doubt. I knew going in this was not going to be easy,” Hyde said.
Starter Dylan Bundy, who’s logging an unsightly 4-10 record, said, “We knew what we were getting at spring training. We’ve got a bunch of guys who are young and trying to find their way through the major leagues.”
The Orioles closed the first half by winning five of nine, including successive 13-0 routs over Cleveland. That provided hope that the team could at least outdo a 47-115 finish last year that brought about an overhaul in which Hyde replaced Buck Showalter and Mike Elias took over for Dan Duquette as general manager.
Baltimore began the season by winning series at Yankee Stadium and in Toronto before slumping into its current situation.
“There’s still time to get back on track, get back to where we were earlier in the year and even better than that,” said Trey Mancini, one of the few budding stars in a starting lineup that features Rule 5 shortstop Richie Martin (.166 batting average) and rookie center fielder Stevie Wilkerson (.215).
Struggling Chris Davis is only halfway through a $161 million, seven-year contract. Fortunately, his lack of production has been partly offset by Renato Núñez, who’s hit 20 homers in his first season as an everyday starter, mostly at designated hitter.
“The effort level is there, the intensity is there,” Mancini said. “But the execution isn’t there.”
That’s what happens when a franchise slashes the payroll by cutting ties with stars such as Manny Machado and Zack Britton and starts anew.
“I know that it’s difficult. Maybe some teams have to do it, and I understand it,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We’re trying to thread the needle where we don’t do that and still win. It’s not easy. They’re also in a very tough division, the AL East, so it’s hard. When people my age talk about Baltimore, it’s one of the better baseball towns, so I’m sure it’s tough on the fans.”
Elias signed the No. 1 pick in the June draft, catcher Adley Rutschman, and plucked 27 players from the International Draft. Help may be on the way, but not soon enough to turn things around this season.
“This year is about finding out guys that we’re going to move forward with, guys establishing themselves as major league players,” Hyde said. “We’re taking our lumps because of it.”