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Notes: Camp optimism; Cobb for Opening Day?

@Sportsgal25
February 21, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. -- There was boundless optimism in Orioles camp on Friday, the eve of their Grapefruit League opener against the Braves. Youth had much to do with it, to be sure, but there were also signs of progress. Alex Cobb was on the main field, looking like the righty

SARASOTA, Fla. -- There was boundless optimism in Orioles camp on Friday, the eve of their Grapefruit League opener against the Braves.

Youth had much to do with it, to be sure, but there were also signs of progress. Alex Cobb was on the main field, looking like the righty who posted career numbers in 2017. Miguel Castro worked nearby, showing flashes of why Baltimore believes he has elite talent. On the back fields, groups of hopefuls cycled through drills with focused intent.

Saturday marks the first dress rehearsal for the regular season, and everyone wanted to be ready.

“I think a few days ago, I was asked if we were ready yet and I said no, and now I think we are,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “The first day of Spring Training, you kind of get back into that mindset. It’s going to be fun to watch a lot of our guys play.”

Cobb came off his workout “feeling healthy,” a good sign for the Orioles' projected No. 2 starter, who missed nearly all of last season after right hip surgery. Kohl Stewart and Chris Davis also earned praise from Hyde, who floated between fields and came away pleased with the level of competitiveness among the large crowd of potential O’s.

“We have a lot of competition in camp, and so it’s going to come down to how we feel like some guys have developed,” Hyde said. “I think we’re going to have -- I hope that we have a bunch of tough decisions -- at the end of camp, because of what they’ve shown in Spring Training.

“That would be the ideal situation, where we have a number of guys that we feel like should be on the club, and then we have to trim down [from there].”

Starters announced
After Chandler Shepherd starts for Saturday’s opener, Hyde announced that Wade LeBlanc (Sunday against the Red Sox) and Cobb (Monday vs. Phillies) will start the following two games. Each starter is expected to work two innings in his first appearance.

Cobb in the mix
When Cobb takes the hill Monday, it’ll mark his first game action for the Orioles since April 26 of last season. The right-hander slots into the rotation behind American League Rookie of the Year Award runner-up John Means, but it’s not set in stone that Cobb will always come second: Hyde said Friday that Cobb is a candidate to be Baltimore’s Opening Day starter.

Last season, Hyde said, was “a tough, tough year” for Cobb, who made just four starts before having season-ending surgery. The 32-year-old has two years left on his four-year, $57 million deal, and the O’s are eager for him to regain the zip he showed during the second half of 2018, when he worked to a 2.56 ERA with a 1.156 WHIP across 11 outings.

That being said, Baltimore will also exercise caution where Cobb is concerned.

“We’re definitely going to be careful with him … monitor him closely, do anything we can for him to break in the rotation and stay there and feel good for the six months,” Hyde said. “He’s a big part of our rotation and we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to have him break healthy.”

Quick hits
• Andrew Velazquez arrived in camp Friday, two days after the Orioles claimed him off waivers from the Indians. The 25-year-old is expected to provide depth in camp in a utility role.

• Chris Davis returned to workouts after missing the past two days with a virus. Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey missed a bit more time with the same flu-like symptoms, something Hyde said affected the duo’s immediate schedule but would not have any long-term effect.

Dawn Klemish is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @Sportsgal25.