SARASOTA, Fla. — If only the Orioles could play two games at the same time every day.

On Sunday afternoon, the Orioles’ split squads raked against their Toronto divisional rivals in Sarasota and Dunedin. Adding up the stats across 18 innings in a win and a tie against the Blue Jays, Baltimore accounted for 21 hits, 17 runs and nine homers.

While it’s no surprise an organization with as much talent as Baltimore can have so much success while splitting the roster, the more important takeaway might be that it takes 18 spots in the lineup to give everyone a fair shot.

Baseball’s top-ranked pipeline is stuffed with great players — so many that the Orioles have maybe the most tough decisions to make at the end of spring training. Manager Brandon Hyde said Sunday that the Orioles are likely to make cuts later than usual this spring, especially with so many players with no options remaining to go back down to the minors (nine, according to Spotrac).

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There’s plenty of focus at the top of the prospect list. With a Sunday grand slam, Jackson Holliday — the league’s top-ranked prospect — continued to make the case that he’s ready for the big leagues. Colton Cowser homered in Sarasota, continuing his power surge, and Coby Mayo has 10 hits in 30 at-bats.

But just beneath the cream of the Orioles farm system is the middle class, including players who might be the top guys if they were in other organizations. Guys such as Connor Norby (the No. 7-ranked Oriole prospect, according to MLB Pipeline), who is finding a ceiling on his way to the big leagues because Holliday might be called up to play his natural position at second base.

Holliday is one of Norby’s close friends in the clubhouse, but that doesn’t change that the Orioles don’t have enough spots for everybody to keep ascending. It can be challenging to wrestle with the thought.

“We say it all the time: We traded Joey [Ortiz] and DL [Hall], and there wasn’t even a dent made,” Norby said. “You just get new guys and bring in new talent, and it’s like, ‘Oh, these guys are really good, too.’ It’s just funny how it all has played out.”

The relationships, the players insist, are fraternal, not adversarial. Cowser and Kyle Stowers — both of whom didn’t hit well in short stints in the big leagues last season — are competing in a crowded outfield with established veterans.

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They help each other more than they try to one-up each other, Cowser said, and sometimes they’re the ones who best understand the challenges the other is going through.

“I feel like he’s in my corner and I’m in his corner,” Cowser said. “We don’t really view it, per se, probably how the public does through the lens of competition. We’re really good friends — there’s no spite or anything like that.”

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The promising sign for the Orioles is that spring training has been brimming with standout performers, and also winning. Sunday’s slate improved the Orioles’ record to 14-2-1 in the Grapefruit League — they have the winningest spring training record throughout MLB.

It’s a reflection of the depth of their big league roster and their farm system. When considering the Orioles won 101 games last year and the Norfolk Tides won a Triple A championship, the spring record seems to portend well for the regular season.

It also reflects, Hyde suspected, just how competitive it is to win spots for the O’s.

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“Usually you have some clunkers out there, or some games where you’re kicking the ball around and have four or five errors — those things happen in major league spring training,” Hyde said. “Hasn’t happened to us. … It’s probably because guys are trying to play well, because they’re trying to win jobs.”

Many organizations are now trending toward getting players to fit at multiple positions — within the Orioles, it’s pretty much a way of life. No one might be more emblematic of the need to adapt than Jordan Westburg, who played 50 games at second base last season and 29 at third. He also is prepared to play shortstop if the need arises.

Manager Brandon Hyde said he expects the Orioles to make some of their roster decisions later than usual this spring training. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

“As soon as I got to the organization, I was reintroduced to bouncing around,” Westburg said Saturday. “To me, it’s second nature at this point, just to be on your toes and to continue to work at all three spots. Because, if there’s a way to get into the lineup, I want to get in the lineup.”

The pervasive mentality of competitiveness can be challenging, the Orioles admit, but for now it seems to sharpen the bottom line. It can’t last forever. A team built to win now cannot simultaneously keep a loaded farm for the future, and once the split squad games of spring training are over, the Orioles will be forced to decide who can crack the big league lineup.

The distance between Norfolk and Baltimore feels a lot farther than the distance between Dunedin and Sarasota, especially for the guys striving to break into the majors.

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All you can do is play, wait and learn to sit with patience.

“You can be frustrated at times, but you can’t let it affect how you’re playing and how you treat others,” Norby said. “You can ponder the thought for sure. But, at the end of the day, it’s gonna happen when it’s supposed to happen.”

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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