BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baseball season is finally here.
After months of waiting, the Baltimore Orioles will throw the first pitch of their 2020 season Friday at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox.
Though the Orioles aren’t expected to be World Series or even playoff contenders, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited as the team takes the field.
Most of those reasons are based on the young players that fans are likely to see get playing time at some point during this abbreviated 2020 season.
Austin Hays shined in September with the team last season, batting .309 with four homers and 13 RBI and flashing highlight-worthy defense in center field. Now, the former third-round pick enters the season top of the depth chart in center with the opportunity to take command of the position for the future, even in a shortened year.
While he’s not currently on the active roster, 23-year-old Ryan Mountcastle appears to be a good bet to see time at some point this year. He smashed the ball in Triple-A last season, hitting .312 with 25 homers and 83 RBI en route to winning the International League MVP and the organization’s Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year award. He has work to do on cutting down his strikeouts and taking more walks, but his bat would give a jolt to the Orioles lineup in need of some extra oomph.
Then there are guys like outfielder Yusniel Diaz and right-handed pitchers Dean Kremer and Hunter Harvey. Harvey made seven appearances in relief last season, striking out 11 over just 6 1/3 innings. The former first-round pick in the 2013 Draft has a history of injuries and he’s likely to begin the season on the injured list due to “elbow discomfort.” But, it appears that manager Brandon Hyde isn’t too concerned about the injury, saying: “It’s something where he is progressing, feeling better and hopefully is with us soon.” More of Harvey’s stuff at the back end of the bullpen will be fun to watch.
Kremer is on the team’s 40-man roster and could certainly receive an opportunity to make his debut sometime this summer, particularly with a compressed schedule that could see pitchers dealing with more fatigue than usual. The 24-year-old is looking to become the first-ever Israeli-American to make the majors and his performance in last year’s Arizona Fall League (6 appearances, 5 starts, 19 IP with 23 Ks and 4 BBs) makes him an intriguing option if a starter goes down.
As for Diaz, the 23-year-old has never played above Double-A and he’s currently a non-roster invitee to the summer camp. Diaz was acquired in the trade that sent Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018. Although Diaz was ranked a top-100 prospect in 2019, he had an average season in Bowie with the Baysox. He hit .262 with 11 homers and 53 RBI. Fans should still keep an eye out for Diaz to be called up at some point this season.
First pitch for Opening Day against the Boston Red Sox is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. The team will play a three-game series at Fenway Park before they head to Miami for a four-game, home and home set against the Marlins. The Orioles return to Camden Yard for their home opener on Wednesday, July 29. First pitch is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.