SARASOTA, Fla. — Brandon Hyde sat on a metal bench behind a row of four mounds, the glint of Florida morning sunshine reflecting off his red sunglasses as he looked to the east to watch four Orioles pitchers throw their first bullpens of spring training.
He was prepared with those shades. By this point he knows that watching the morning bullpen sessions means facing that rising sun. He knows this because when Thursday arrived, it was Hyde’s fifth spring training in Sarasota, making him a holdover from when this organization was in a different place. He has watched pitchers from that perch since 2019, when he was hired to become the Orioles’ manager. He has endured those sessions from a variety of pitchers, many of whom were fringe players at best, yet centerpieces on a rebuilding team.
He withstood all the losing that came from that, too.
On Thursday, he watched a much-improved stable of pitchers go through their repetitions.
And now, Hyde is on the other side — though in the same place.
That is, Hyde is sitting on that same bench and knows to wear those sunglasses because he survived the rebuild, and he can now prepare for a different reality in Baltimore than his first few years there. At the beginning, Hyde led a team that wasn’t designed to win. Now, he leads a team that has outspokenly stated its goal of reaching the postseason.
“I’m also very proud of the fact that maybe for the first time in recent baseball history we’ve had the same manager in the beginning of a rebuild through the point of competition,” executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said. “I think that says a lot, and something he doesn’t get enough credit for.”
Elias would know. Before joining Baltimore, he served as the director of player development for the Astros, and as Houston turned from rebuild to competitive, it fired manager Bo Porter in 2014 and replaced him with A.J. Hinch (who would go on to win a World Series, then be fired in 2020 for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal).
There hasn’t been the need for Elias to make a change in leadership of his major league club, however. He believes in Hyde’s ability to grow with the organization.
Hyde is no longer a first-time manager, and in Baltimore’s 83-79 season, he got his first taste of competitive managing — of making late-game decisions to win ballgames that have postseason implications.
“Just like as a player, you’re constantly trying to improve, and you reflect, and you take losses hard and you ask questions and try to figure it out,” Hyde said. “You try to be the best version that you can be. And I think I try to do that. So I’m sure I’ve grown in a lot of ways.”
How long Hyde is under contract is a mystery. Elias said it’s “not in the club’s best interest” to disclose the expiration dates of any of the baseball operations personnel’s contracts — his and Hyde’s among them. When asked about his own contract status, Elias said it wouldn’t be a question for him, referring to Orioles chairman and CEO John Angelos (Angelos, though, hasn’t been made available to the media, despite a promise to be more transparent and “open the books”).
But Elias expects that fans, “for better or worse, are going to have to get used to [Hyde] and I here for a while.”
So Hyde sat on that metal bench with his shades deflecting the sun as he watched Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, Mychal Givens and Austin Voth throw their bullpens Thursday morning. He’s been sitting there for years.
And if all goes according to plan, he’ll be sitting there for many more.