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Friday Bird Droppings: A grim anniversary for baseball

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One year ago today, the baseball world shut down because of COVID-19. It hasn’t been the same since.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

It’s March 12. And if dates (or days of the week, or times, or months) have lost all meaning to you during this pandemic, you’re certainly not the only one. But this date is a particularly significant one.

It was exactly one year ago that the baseball world forever changed. As the COVID-19 pandemic began ramping up to a fever pitch in the United States, Major League Baseball announced the suspension of all spring training games and the postponement of the start of the 2020 regular season. The initial plan was to delay Opening Day “by at least two weeks.” Oh, if only it had been just two weeks.

At the time of the announcement, the Orioles were on the bus to Fort Myers for their scheduled Grapefruit League game against the Twins, only to return home to the Ed Smith Stadium complex minutes later. They never ended up playing another game in Sarasota, or any other spring training site, that year.

I don’t know about you, but that was the day my dumb brain finally began to realize, “Wait, this COVID thing is a real problem.” Yes, there were already growing concerns about the virus long before March 12, 2020. It had long since ravaged other countries and sent them into full lockdown mode. There were documented cases in the United States and plenty of warnings from the CDC and others that it was about to hit hard. And the day before baseball shut down, the NBA abruptly halted its season after reporting its first positive cases among players.

But March 12 sealed the deal for people like me who don’t think about much of anything except baseball. Our go-to source of entertainment had fallen victim, like everything else, to the coronavirus scourge. And when the sport finally returned, months later, it was different from anything we’ve ever seen before. A 60-game season. Fanless games. Players and coaches socially distanced, wearing masks when not on the field.

Now here we are a year later and the threat isn’t over, although things are definitely trending in a positive direction. Baseball is back on its normal schedule, but with COVID protocols and restrictions still in place, and with only limited fan capacity at games (except in Texas on Opening Day, which...yikes).

With everything that’s transpired in the last year, sometimes it feels like things will never be back to normal, either in the baseball world or the world at large. But we’ll get there. Hopefully sooner than later. Stay safe, everyone.

Links

Wrapping up Mullins’ day, Hernández’s second start and 7-5 loss - School of Roch
The Orioles were in action yesterday, and yet again a hurler failed to take a step forward in a bid for a rotation spot, with Felix Hernandez giving up four runs while averaging a mid-80s fastball. They say competition brings out the best in people, but the Orioles’ starting pitching candidates are showing that’s not exactly the case.

Orioles’ rebuild needs a nearly full minor-league year to flourish – The Athletic
Another obvious drawback of the bizarre 2020 season was the cancellation of the minor leagues, a particularly cruel blow to a rebuilding team like the Birds. It looks like we’ll finally get minor league baseball in 2021, and not a moment too soon. We need our Adley Rutschman fix.

Orioles discover benefits of alternate site at Bowie - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Until the minor league season begins in May, the O’s will have an alternate site at Bowie like last year, and Rich Dubroff’s got the deets. (That’s short for “details.” I’m pretty sure I just coined it. Don’t fact-check me on that.)

Orioles pitching prospects ready for Majors - Orioles.com
A quintet of Orioles young pitchers are set to start contributing to the big league club soon, include two who have already debuted. But whatever you do, don’t call them the “cavalry.” That word is kind of cursed around these parts.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You share your day with one current Oriole, reliever Cole Sulser, who turns 31. Sulser, who started 2020 as the Birds’ closer, is now fighting for a bullpen job in camp. So far he’s pitched pretty well in Grapefruit League play, giving up one hit (a homer) while striking out five in three innings of work.

Former Orioles born on this day include 1989-90 outfielder Steve Finley (56) and the late Chuck Oertel (b. 1931, d. 2000) and Ray Barker (b. 1936, d. 2018).

On this day in 1989, the Orioles traded right-hander Mike Morgan to the Dodgers for outfielder Mike Devereaux, one of the most underrated O’s in recent memory. Devereaux spent seven solid seasons with the Birds, winning Most Valuable Oriole in 1992 and making perhaps the most spectacular catch in Camden Yards history. Meanwhile, Morgan, whose MLB career had begun as a teenager in 1978, went on to pitch until 2002, retiring at 42 years old.