Trey Mancini was standing at his locker Wednesday with a decision to make. To go with a newer glove that’s not quite broken in or an older one that’s worn but more comfortable.
A few months ago, he would have just grabbed his first baseman’s mitt and moved on.
Things are different now. Mancini, a first baseman for his entire professional career, will start in right field Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays after showing enough at the new position during spring training.
“It’s like any other game, but it’s not like any other game I’ve ever played before,” said the 25-year-old Mancini, whose path at first base is blocked by Chris Davis. “But I’m ready for it. I feel prepared. I got a ton of work in spring training in Florida and I feel confident and I’ve taken a lot of reps here. So, I do feel confident.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter feels confident in Mancini playing right field as well. But the veteran manager isn’t going to sugarcoat it; he really doesn’t know what’s going to happen when Mancini stands in front of the out-of-town scoreboard in right. He wants the rookie’s bat in the lineup. So he’s taking a chance with the glove.
Showalter has taken these risks before. It’s the only way he can be sure it’ll work.
“How do you find out if Steve Pearce can play second base? How do you find out if Joey Rickard can play right as well as left? How do you find out if Manny can play third base? Showalter said. “Sooner or later you’ve got to play them up here. It’s a different look.”
Make no mistake about this, the Mancini experiment in right field is huge for the Orioles this season. If it works, it opens so many possibilities.
We got a taste of that Wednesday with the way Showalter constructed his lineup.
With left-hander J.A. Happ on the mound, Showalter had several right-handed options he could have used in right field: Rickard, Mark Trumbo, Craig Gentry.
Rickard got the start in left field. And Trumbo at DH (with lefties Hyun Soo Kim and Seth Smith sitting).
By having Mancini in right and not Trumbo, it will allow Trumbo to remain in games in the late innings instead of potentially being removed for a defensive replacement – which is key given Trumbo’s game-changing bat.
“It allows us not to have to take Trum out of the game,” Showalter said. “Last year, a few times we had to take him out in the eighth inning. We didn’t have to, but we did with a one-run lead, and that’s not always (beneficial).”
The other option would have been starting the veteran Gentry in right Wednesday and not Mancini. But that would have meant the Orioles wouldn’t have a true pinch-running option with Gentry and Rickard both starting.
Now, Gentry becomes a base-stealing weapon off the bench in the seventh, eighth or ninth. Let’s face it, that’s something Showalter hasn’t had often as Orioles manager.
“If we play Gentry (to start), our bench becomes a lot less versatile. Now, we’ve got a weapon that they have to defend late in the game and he can defend (in the outfield). We haven’t had that,” Showalter said. “You put him in the game, (the opposition is) going to have to do something different from keeping him from showing his skill. Trying to make them adjust to what we’re doing instead of us constantly adjusting to what they’re doing. I want to dictate it to them instead of them dictating to us.”
Reliever Darren O’Day, who has been dealing with an illness and wasn’t available Monday, is available tonight. … Right-hander Chris Tillman (shoulder) was scheduled to throw a bullpen with two sessions Wednesday. Throw 15 pitches and then sit down and get back up again to throw a second time. He’s still on pace to return in May. … Wade Miley (illness) threw six innings of a simulated game at Bowie on Tuesday and did fine. He is expected to return to the Orioles to start Sunday’s game.
O’s lineup versus Toronto
Rickard 7, Jones 8, Machado 5, Trumbo DH, Davis 3, Mancini 9, Castillo 2, Schoop 4, Hardy 6. Bundy 1.