For O's, rout of Indians a sign of things to come

June 29th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Don’t worry about Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde. Even as the Orioles continue this challenging and, more times than not, painstaking season, he’s enjoying his first taste of full-time big league managing. He’s seen what rebuilds take, having experienced their difficulties first-hand with the Marlins and Cubs before joining the Orioles as skipper this past season. He knows they’re taxing.

“It’s going to take time, it’s a process,” Hyde said Friday before the Orioles took on the Indians at the midway point of the season. “I have been through it in a couple different chairs in another place, and I saw how the process takes place. There are some tough, lean years.”

But he’s still having fun, even with the Orioles’ recent rough stretch, in which they lost 13 of their last 14 entering Friday’s 13-0 shellacking of the playoff-contender Indians. Moments like Friday -- seeing tally a career-high five RBIs, seeing staff ace John Means toss five one-hit innings in his return from the injured list and seeing the Orioles score four or more runs in the first and second innings for the first time since 1979 -- offered a soothing glimpse that a win of this margin may not be such a surprise soon enough.

Baltimore entered Friday still riding the high of introducing substantial early-round Draft picks, and thus significant pieces in their rebuild, Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson to Camden Yards in the days prior. The organization’s top pitching prospects were named to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Friday, and two others were selected to the International League All-Star Game this week. In the next week, the club is expected to introduce a quantity and quality of international free agents the fanbase has not seen before.

The future is the main focus right now, some pieces of which can be seen on the field already.

Sisco and outfielder , both 24, were called up at the beginning of June for both depth’s sake and to audition for the future. Both have been making the most of that opportunity and served as the ignition for Friday's onslaught.

Santander brought four runs around and Sisco outdid him with five RBIs. Sisco was robbed of a second homer by a leaping in the fourth, and a ground rule double with the bases loaded in the eighth took another probable RBI from his stat line.

Means, for his part, was dynamic in a limited start -- his first outing back from an IL stint with a left shoulder strain. After an error in the second, the 26-year-old rookie retired 11 Cleveland batters in a row -- five via strikeout -- with a fastball that topped out at 94.5 mph.

“I have no idea what our record is. I don't even want to look at it,” Hyde said. “It’s about developing these guys and how we play right now.”

Means probably won’t join -- the likely Orioles All-Star representative -- at the Midsummer Classic due to just 75 2/3 innings pitched in 2019. He is, however, proving to Hyde and the organization that he can hack it at the top of a rotation.

“I do feel like he’s pitching like an All-Star pitcher,” Hyde said after the game. “He’s giving us All-Star starts.” 

“We have a lot of fun out here, we bump the music,” Means said of what it means to get these wins among many losses. “Winning is fun, and we want to make it like that.” 

Hyde knew a tough season was the likely reality coming in, but he attributes frankness and an aligned outlook with general manager and executive vice president Mike Elias to limiting any negative impacts.  

“I knew what our expectations were, and me and Mike had a lot of honest conversations about it before this season and continuing through today -- how we see the organization and what our plan is and what’s Mike’s vision,” Hyde said before the game. “We are really aligned in that.”  

Sooner or later, Hyde knows he won’t be managing a team with a 23-58 record at the midway point. But it’s worth trudging through the hardships of a season like this if it means players like Santander, Sisco, Means and younger prospects can find their identities and get big league reps. 

"On my first year, it’s going to be a memorable one for a lot of reasons,” Hyde said before the game with a laugh. “But I have had a really good time.” 

“It’s not easy to go through,” he added. “But when you come through it, there’s nothing more rewarding.   

“So I’m looking forward to that day.”