O's use devastating ALDS for '24 inspiration

February 17th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- As successful as Baltimore’s 2023 season was, some of the lasting images came from the disappointing, shocking conclusion.

Orioles players stood along the railing of the third-base dugout at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, stunned after getting swept out of the postseason by the Rangers in the American League Division Series. Texas players celebrated in a swarm of jubilation.

The 101-win AL East champions had World Series aspirations. Instead, they went 0-3.

“It doesn't really feel real right now,” catcher Adley Rutschman said the night of Oct. 10, only minutes after the ALDS-ending Game 3 loss.

The O’s don’t want to feel like that again. Four months later, they’re using that as motivation.

Baltimore opened Spring Training in Sarasota earlier this week, with pitchers and catchers holding their first workout Thursday. The report date for position players isn’t until Monday, but nearly everybody is already in camp.

The focus is on 2024, but no one is forgetting what happened at the end of ‘23.

“That’s something that sticks with you for a long time,” Rutschman said. “It’s tough to put a definitive time period on [moving past] something like that, because I think you’re always going to be thinking about that. You’ve got to put in the work for this next season, though, and I think we’ve got high goals and aspirations for this year, and I think we just try and focus on that now.

“You learn from last year, and that’s never not going to sting.”

It may have hurt, but it could end up being a beneficial experience. The majority of the Orioles’ 26-man ALDS roster had never played in the postseason prior to that point, including the entirety of their young core.

The O’s don’t want to erase the visions of the eventual World Series champion Rangers hooting and hollering, surrounded by more than 40,000 Texas fans doing the same. While Baltimore is now at the Ed Smith Stadium complex preparing for another season, those tough mental images have been filed in the back of the O’s minds.

“You just use it for fuel for the next year,” said infielder Gunnar Henderson, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year. “You don’t necessarily have to stop thinking about it. Don’t let it eat you. But I just use it for fuel for this year and, hopefully, a longer postseason push.”

That’s the expectation for Baltimore. The Orioles could even be better set up for a deep October run this time around. Their rotation now features ace Corbin Burnes at the top, while more highly ranked prospects (most notably infielder Jackson Holliday, No. 1 overall per MLB Pipeline) are on the cusp of joining the budding big league core.

The O’s would love to win 101 (or more) games this year and capture a second straight AL East title. But their primary objective is postseason success.

“We’re just looking to go to that next step,” Rutschman said, “because you think about [last year’s ALDS], and it’s not a great memory.”

With Spring Training in full swing, the work has begun to ensure there will be better lasting memories for the Orioles at the end of 2024.