NEW YORK—As Orioles manager Brandon Hyde made out his lineup for the third game of the season, it was radically different from the ones in the first two games.
That’s nothing new for either Hyde or the Orioles. Both the Chicago Cubs, for whom Hyde served as bench coach last year, and the Orioles each used 152 different batting orders in 2018, albeit with radically different results.
Trey Mancini, who was the designated hitter in Thursday’s opener and the first baseman on Saturday, was the right fielder for just the third time in his career, and the first since August 28, 2017.
Mancini batted third, as he did Thursday, though he hit fourth in Saturday’s game. Joey Rickard, who played right field in the first two games, batting sixth and fifth, was back in the sixth hole. Mancini, Rickard and Renato Nunez, the designated hitter who was batting fourth, each homered in the Orioles’ 7-5 victory in a game delayed by 3 hours and 17 minutes by rain.
“I’m going to match up and move guys around,” Hyde said. “Today was a little bit of Mancini playing with a little smaller park out there in right, [Dwight Smith Jr.] being more comfortable in left. He’s played there more in his career, Trey is just as comfortable in right field.”
“…I don’t know Trey that great yet. I’m still trying to figure a lot of things out. Right now where our roster is, he’s going to play in multiple spots.”
Smith has been the one constant in the lineup. He’s batted second and played left field in the first three games. He had two hits, including a double, in Sunday’s win that gave the Orioles an opening series victory.
Hyde says he’ll be experimenting until he sees a lineup he’s comfortable with.
“I’m not going to see guys play all over like spring training,” Hyde said. “This is more of what we feel like from a matchup standpoint to help us win today. We feel like this is the best combination defensively for Dylan [Bundy], for the ballpark factors, for a lot of things.”
Shortly after taking over as Orioles general manager last fall, Mike Elias sent an email to season ticketholders, naming Bundy, Mancini, Mychal Givens and Cedric Mullins as franchise building blocks.
Mullins led off in the opener, was used as a pinch-hitter on Saturday, and wasn’t in Sunday’s lineup, coming in late as a defensive replacement. There was an assumption the switch-hitter would play regularly, but he didn’t start against Yankees left-handers James Paxton and J.A. Happ.
“He’s still working on his right-handed swing,” Hyde said. “He’s shown a lot of progress in that. He’s going to get right-handed at-bats. I just want to get Smitty back in there.”
“This isn’t a set deal, left, right situation. I’m going to be doing it on matchups. It’s a good chance he’ll play the next three days in Toronto. Everybody’s going to play. Everybody’s going to get at-bats.”
Pedro Severino, who was acquired by the Orioles on March 23 and played only in the March 25 Grapefruit League finale, caught Sunday’s game after Jesus Sucre started the first two games.
Closing is another area that’s fluid at the moment. In Saturday’s game, Hyde brought in Givens for the eighth with a two-run lead. After navigating through a scoreless inning, the Orioles scored two runs in the top of the ninth to take a 5-1 lead.
Richard Bleier began the ninth, ran into trouble, and Mike Wright rescued him and recorded the last two outs of the game, earning his first major league save. On Sunday, Paul Fry earned a save by striking out Troy Tulowitzki for the final out after Givens struggled in 1 2/3 innings of work.
For the future, Hyde is vague about whom he’ll use to close.
“As of right now, we’re trying to win the game,” Hyde said. “Whoever is closing in the ninth inning, we’re trying to compete with whoever that is.”
“It might change over the course of a year. I’m not really sure. It might be a guy that steps in and all of a sudden, I just want him to pitch the ninth inning, but as of right now, we’re going to try to piece it together the best way we can and whoever gets the save that night, that’s who it is.
“There are certain guys that I’m going to use in big spots against the meat of their orders. ..But when it comes to a lockdown closer right now, we’re not there yet. We don’t have [Aroldis] Chapman. We don’t have [Mariano] Rivera. We don’t have Brandon Morrow. We don’t have those types of guys that we’re going to throw in the ninth inning. It’s going to be fluid as we go along. Maybe someone sticks into it. Right now, it’s interchangeable.”