SARASOTA, Florida—Pitchers and catchers were preparing for their first spring training workout on Wednesday morning when another familiar face reported, Trey Mancini.
“Once the New Year starts, you’re always ready to go,” Mancini said. “I was definitely ready to get down here at this point.”
Mancini, the unofficial team leader, wants to improve on last season’s numbers — as an individual and a team.
Last year, Mancini had 35 home runs, 97 RBIs, an .899 OPS (on-base plus slugging) and .291 batting average for a team that lost 108 games.
“I think we’re all looking to improve this year in a lot of areas, improve our record, for sure,” Mancini said. “That should be an expectation. We lost so many close games last year. This year, we can build on that and if we win a few more of those games, it will obviously show up in the record.”
Mancini thinks he can do better, too.
“I’ve never been one to set personal goals,” he said. “Numbers-wise, I just try and go out there every day and play as hard as I can. Every time I’m up at the plate, I want to get a hit. That’s obviously not going to happen, but that’s the mindset you need to have at this level.”
It’s Mancini’s fifth spring training with the Orioles, and the second under manager Brandon Hyde.
“It’s always nice when you have a little familiarity,” Mancini said. “It was interesting last year coming in with the new regime and not knowing what to expect … you don’t really start over, but there’s a lot of new things thrown at you.”
Mancini is working out in the outfield and at first base.
“If I do outfield one day, maybe I’ll stay late and take grounders at first, then vice-versa,” Mancini said. “I pretty much have to do double defensively. It’s the part of my game I want to improve the most. I kind of have to work double if you play two positions, so that’s what I’m planning to do down here.”
Stewart works to strengthen ankle: DJ Stewart, who had right ankle surgery in October, won’t be ready to play when the Orioles begin Grapefruit League play in 10 days. He was an early arrival in camp, and says he’s making progress.
“Haven’t had any setbacks, so that’s been a plus,” Stewart said. “Just going through that entire process. First time having a surgery or a big-time injury. Just kind of learning the ins and outs and the procedure that I went through and just communicating with the medical staff and my doctor.”
Stewart injured the ankle on June 5 in Arlington, Texas, his seventh game of the season. He didn’t return to the Orioles for two months, and the ankle bothered him throughout the season. He knew that as a young player, he shouldn’t have needed the pregame treatment.
“I knew something was kind of [funny] in there,” Stewart said. “X-rays weren’t showing anything, so I just played through it. I wanted to get another look at it after the season. I knew I was going to have some kind of surgery during the offseason because I knew there were bone spurs.”
Stewart hit .238 with a .317 on-base percentage and .698 OPS in 44 games. When he was called up to the Orioles in late May, Stewart had been playing well for Triple-A Norfolk.
“That’s the player I am,” Stewart said. “Being that kind of player, using the whole field, hitting for power, earned me my callup.”
Stewart isn’t putting a timetable on his return.
“It’s hard to say,” Stewart said. “It’s your ankle. You use it for everything. Each day of the progression is something new so you’ve got to see how it reacts to certain things. So far, it’s reacted great to the stuff that I’m doing, but we still have a lot to do to test it.
“I want to be healthy. Trying to play that second half of the season not healthy … didn’t get a true gauge of who I am. Be patient, get healthy and show them what I can do.”
Last season’s struggles convinced him to not pressure on himself.
“We have sort of a timeline of certain dates and goals that we were looking to hit, but if I have to be pushed back, we’re going to push me back. I’m not trying to be here by a certain date. It’s whenever I’m healthy.”
Minor league staff additions: The Orioles added a number of new minor league staffers. Nick White is the organization’s minor league strength and conditioning coordinator. Ethan Stewart is the player performance facilitator, and Anaima Garcia is the team’s education coordinator. According to the Orioles, Garcia will be responsible for the implementation and supervision of the Orioles’ English as a second language and cultural education programs across all affiliates, especially those of the Gulf Coast League and Dominican Summer League.”
The affiliates’ strength and conditioning coaches are: Trey Wiedman, Norfolk; Jonathan Medici, Bowie; Kevin Mixon, Frederick; Tim Chiarolanza, Delmarva; Liz Pardo, Aberdeen; Brandon Farish, Gulf Coast; and Julio Diaz and Andres Trazona, Dominican Summer League.