As Caravan continues, excitement for '23 O's grows

February 4th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- The Birdland Caravan covered quite a bit of ground on Friday, the second day of the four-day tour. A handful of players were joined by general manager Mike Elias, manager Brandon Hyde and staff members, all of whom participated in a community project at the Maryland Food Bank in Baltimore. Then they headed east to serve as Happy Hour guest bartenders at Evolution Craft Brewing Company in Salisbury.

Before any of that, Elias and Hyde met with media members on the sixth floor of the warehouse at Camden Yards to discuss the offseason and look ahead to Spring Training. And Elias again emphasized how the O’s are entering a new phase, with postseason aspirations.

“I’m excited about the future of the team and the fact that I believe that our rebuild is behind us,” Elias said. “We’ve got an incredible chance now to be a very, very competitive team for years. I think we’re all excited about that.”

As that anticipation for the 2023 campaign grows, here are four key takeaways from Friday.

The roster may not be completely set. But if it is, Elias is happy with it.

Elias will keep looking for ways to improve the roster. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Baltimore has frequently made notable signings and waiver claims in February and March the past few years.

“I think we’re kind of in the mode of maybe taking advantage of opportunities,” Elias said. “There are quality free agents remaining. We’re kind of staying in touch with them and monitoring [how] other markets are looking, and if something seems like it’ll boost our team, I think we’re in position to still make a move.”

However, Elias believes the club’s five most noteworthy offseason acquisitions -- starters and , reliever , infielder/outfielder and catcher  -- complement the team’s budding core well.

“They’ve plugged holes and they’ve boosted and reinforced the internal talent that we have,” Elias said.

Three rotation spots will be up for grabs in a crowded competition.

The Orioles have 12 pitchers who will be battling to make the five-man rotation this spring. Gibson and Irvin are locks, with Elias noting they’re “firmly in the plans,” as expected.

The other three spots? Pitchers will have to earn them. Even those who appear to be among the favorites, such as , , and , the club’s top pitching prospect.

“The rest of the guys either weren’t in the rotation last year or were but only pitched 100 to 120 innings and were rookies,” Elias said. “Any time that’s the case, I think you go back into Spring Training with a competition to get into the rotation.”

Despite the depth and the potential for monitored workloads, it doesn’t seem a six-man rotation is too likely. Elias said the topic has been discussed, but he’s operating as if the O’s have the standard five starters.

Henderson isn’t letting any hype get to his head.

Baltimore’s 21-year-old infielder has been getting a ton of recognition of late in new prospect rankings for 2023. MLB Pipeline has  in its No. 1 overall spot. That surely isn’t giving him an ego, though.

“All those don’t mean anything unless you go out there and prove it. That’s what I’m going to do,” Henderson said. “It’s nice being able to be recognized for that, but the work still doesn’t stop. So I’m going to go out there with full effort and just play as hard as I do.”

Knowing he’s already set to make the 26-man roster, Henderson said that “definitely takes a little pressure off” for Spring Training. But it won’t change his approach to camp.

“I’m still going in with that mindset of trying to make the team, because I like being able to just keep going out there and proving myself,” Henderson said.

The O’s are enjoying the continued support.

Halfway through the 2023 Birdland Caravan -- with a jam-packed weekend still to come -- the Orioles are appreciative of seeing fans come to the events thus far.

“To be able to interact, to see the excitement -- that was the huge change from last year in the second half, honestly, was just the fans’ reactions to the team,” Hyde said. “And then going into the offseason, hearing how people watched us closely and how fun we were to watch, that’s great to hear.”

The club gave back on Friday morning as well by packing 11,000 pounds of goods at the Maryland Food Bank, which was enough to provide 9,166 meals for community members in need.