The Orioles are going to miss Trey Mancini this season. Mancini, who underwent colon cancer surgery on March 12, the day that spring training ended, will miss 2020 while undergoing chemotherapy.
Manager Brandon Hyde, who was wearing a “#F16HT” T-shirt during his video conference call with reporters on Sunday, knows his team will miss last year’s Most Valuable Oriole.
“We lost one of the best hitters, in my opinion, in the American League that had an All-Star caliber season last year,” Hyde said about Mancini, who batted .291 with 35 home runs and 97 RBIs.
“That’s going to be very, very tough to replace. Not only that, but add him in the clubhouse, and how he is with the guys, and just having him around. It’s going to be challenging, and it already is challenging.
“But we have to have guys who step up. It’s obviously unfortunate not to have him here. We’re thinking about him constantly. I’m wearing the shirt as we speak. I’m wearing it every day. He’s in our thoughts. I talk with him and text with him quite a bit. To not have him, not only to not have him in the lineup, but not have him around … it’s not easy.
The Orioles have just four outfielders on their camp roster — Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, Dwight Smith Jr. and DJ Stewart.
Mason Williams, who was thought to have a good chance to make the team in spring training as a non-roster outfielder, was not included on the summer training roster but could be added to the Orioles’ alternate site, which is expected to be in Bowie. Cedric Mullins also wasn’t on the list.
Hyde expects that Dilson Herrera, Pat Valaika, Andrew Velázquez and Stevie Wilkerson, all in the mix for a utility role, could play in the outfield. Of that group, only Velázquez is on the 40-man roster.
“Versatility is enormous, especially in this situation,” Hyde said. “A lot of our guys have played multiple positions before.”
Means feels ready: John Means and his wife, Caroline, are expecting a baby but that didn’t convince the left-hander to opt out of this season as a number of players on other teams have been doing.
“There’s a lot up in the air,” Means said. “With everything going on, it was nice being home with the family.”
Means worked out at home with his brother, Jake, who’s an infielder in the Kansas City Royals organization.
John and Jake got to spend their birthdays at home during the break as well as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, times when they’re not usually there.
“That was kind of a blessing in disguise, but the whole time I was ready to get back to baseball,” Means said. “I was ready to feel that I was worth something again.”
Means pitched some batting practice to his brother, and Jake hit some 250-foot homers on a local field, an experience the brothers haven’t had.“
Means said he’s in good shape and threw a four-inning bullpen session on Saturday.
“I think I’m very close,” Means said. “Over the quarantine, I built up to five innings, 75 pitchers, but since the testing and the couple of days off we had to take, we bumped it back down to four, 65. I finished strong. I didn’t feel any different fatigue, I felt strong. I felt that if I had to go out there and pitch tomorrow, I could.”
Means also addressed playing games without fans in the stands.
“It’s going to be weird,” Means said. “It’s going to be different. The weirdest part is that all these games count more than they ever have and you’re not going to feel that energy of these games counting from the fans. It’s kind of a mix of both. It might take some getting used to, but I think overall … for how young we are, we’re able to create energy from the dugout and on the field. I think we have an advantage with that.”
When spring training ended two weeks before the scheduled opener, Means hadn’t been named the Opening Day pitcher. He’s the favorite for the July 24 opener, and he’s hoping the Orioles can be a surprise team in the 60-day season.
“It’s just going to be a season like no other. I don’t think we have any idea of what it’s going to look like. I don’t think any team has any idea of what it’s going to look like once the games start. We feel like we’re in it. We feel like we have a chance. We probably have the least amount of service time among any team, but I think that plays to our advantage. Everybody’s really excited to be here. We can create the energy that other teams might need the fans for.”
The schedule: The Orioles will begin playing intrasquad games on Wednesday night. They’re also scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.