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As Spring Training Kicks Off, New Goals Arise For Orioles

February 12, 2019
Dylan Bundy couldn't wait to throw under the Florida sun and put the disappointment of last season behind him.

After going a franchise-worst 47-115 in 2018, Bundy and his teammates are welcoming a fresh start with spring training. 

Pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 12 and the full squad begins workouts Feb. 18 in Sarasota, Fla.

"I try to go out there and win as a team, but it was definitely hard and it took a toll on people, myself included," Bundy said about last season. "That was in the past and now we are looking forward to spring training."

There was massive fallout from last year's struggles.

The franchise hired a new general manager in Mike Elias, a new manager in Brandon Hyde and even took a progressive route with the addition of Sig Mejdal to head the analytics department.

Bundy and the rest of his teammates are cautiously optimistic the drastic changes this offseason are going to pay dividends. However, there is still much uncertainty surrounding the team, and the overall success of this season ultimately won't be defined by wins and losses. 

The goal is to see steady improvement among the players as the front office puts together the building blocks for a perennial contender. 

"I have a very clear goal for this season," Elias said. "I want to see the overall level of talent up and down this organization go up. I want to see it move in the right direction. On top of that, I have a lot of goals behind the scenes with what we're doing in terms of improving the functionality and overall infrastructure of every department of baseball operations. In terms of what we see on the field, we want to see the overall talent go up."

As a result, fans must temper their expectations for the upcoming season. Many of them are already onboard with the new direction of the club.  

Nonetheless, the team would love to rise above the indignity of another 100-loss season. The players are excited to prove themselves to a new coaching staff and become part of the long-term success of the club. 

"We're going to come out every day and play hard and not give in, and if we do that, I think we can exceed expectations," left fielder/first baseman Trey Mancini said.

This year's Orioles club is bringing back memories of the "Why Not?" season in 1989. After going 54-107 the previous year, the Orioles rebounded with a 87-75 finish and were in the playoff hunt until the final week of the season. 

The 2019 Orioles might be hard-pressed to duplicate that success, especially with so many questions still facing the back end of the rotation and middle infield. 

But that has not tempered the enthusiasm. The correct mindset could make a world of difference, according to Billy Ripken

The former second baseman does not remember dwelling on the Orioles' 107-loss season in 1988 when he reported to spring training the following year. His teammates also didn't give much thought to those struggles.  

"We went into spring training with a clean slate. Everybody welcomed that," Ripken said. 

Many of the players are echoing Ripken's sentiments.

"It's a fresh start," said DJ Stewart, a former first-round pick who will be battling for the starting job in right field. "Don't really know what to expect. We really haven't gotten to meet [the coaches] that much, but just talking to them the little bit that we've been here, seems like a very good vibe. Everyone's positive. They seem to want to have fun and obviously it's rebuilding, but we're going to have fun doing it." 

Hyde is looking forward to the competition among some of the younger players, such as the battle for the starting catcher between Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns. 

The new skipper doesn't have any preconceived notions about their previous performance. Hyde is looking for players to shine and prove they belong on the major league roster. 

"Competing matters to me," Hyde said. "Watching them compete, watching how they prepare. It's a clean slate with me. I came from a pretty good spot. In spring training, maybe there was a spot or two open when camp started. This is different, this is more how it was in '12, '13, '14, where there were a lot of young, interesting guys that we can't wait to start developing. 

"And whether they're ready to make the big league team or not, I can't tell you right now, but I think it's a great situation for a lot of guys."

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox