What’s happening? – Ryan Mountcastle made a strong impression in his first major league season, batting .333 with an .878 OPS in 35 games. Mountcastle hit five home runs, had 23 RBIs and played well in left field.
Manager Brandon Hyde said Mountcastle will play mostly in left during spring training, and is likely to make a few appearances at first base.
“I thought a pretty good job of just playing my game,” Mountcastle said about his debut in the major leagues. “I did a lot of work at the alternate site to get ready for that, and I felt like hitting and defending, I made some strides, something to build on for this year.”
Hyde said Mountcastle will need to make adjustments in his second year.
“Year 2 is always difficult,” Hyde said. “Because when you get to the big leagues there’s not a whole lot of major league data on you, but now that Ryan has got some at-bats under his belt, got 30-plus games of at-bats, teams are going to dissect on how to try to get him out from the previous year. Year 2 is about making adjustments.”
What’s happened?—Jahmai Jones, who talked about coming from a football family in his first Zoom session with the media, has Hyde’s attention.
“I think he’s going to have a lot of at-bats and a lot of innings defensively,” Hyde said. “I think that you’ve seen guys make clubs out of camp by having good springs. I haven’t seen him play—ever, so I’m look forward to watching him play.”
Jones plays second base and the outfield, and he thinks that skill will help.
“Playing multiple positions gives you more opportunities to be on the field and be on a club,” he said. “It would only help further progress me and put me ahead of certain people because of the versatility that I bring to the table.”
Yolmer Sánchez, who won the Gold Glove at second base for the Chicago White Sox in 2019, has played about half as many games at third base as he has at second, and Hyde thinks of Sánchez as a second baseman.
“His playing time is primarily going to be at second base,” Hyde said. “I might move him to third base a little bit towards the end [of spring training] just to get him over there in case that happens during the season.”
Hyde tries to avoid playing someone out of position during the season without at least some spring training experience.
Hyde reports that there are no injuries.
What’s up with? Cole Sulser led the Orioles with five saves last year, but he also blew three. Late in the season, Hyde used him in low-leverage situations. He compiled a 5.56 ERA.
“I think Sulse has every opportunity to win a job,” Hyde said. “I still believe in his stuff. I think that he’s got a nice fastball with a good split-change that really gives left-handers problems. I think the breaking ball is something that he’s really made a focus on this year to complement those other two pitches, to have something to go to against right-handed hitters.
“I threw Sulse in a tough spot early just because we were searching for guys to be able to get outs at the end of the game. He had a couple of good outings early. I like the way he threw against left-handers. He did have some bad luck along the way, but I think he battled for those two months. I think it was a learning experience for him. We talked a little bit about it. We talked about it at the end of the year last year, and I think he’s going to take that experience and have a good camp and give himself an opportunity to win a job here this season.”
What’s what? In the first two weeks of spring training, games can be shortened by mutual agreement of the managers to five or seven innings. In the last two weeks, they may be shortened to seven innings. Don’t expect many Oriole games to be fewer than nine innings because Hyde wants the time to observe his pitchers.
“I’m going to talk to the other manager the morning of or the night before and see where they are pitching-wise and I’ll let them know where we are,” he said. “I would say the games would be nine innings or close to nine innings the majority of the time just because we have so many bodies and a lot of innings to go around.”
Hyde has spoken to Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton, and it’s expected that Sunday’s first Grapefruit League game will be nine innings.
What’s the word? “I thought I’ve always been pretty fast, I guess a little underrated part of my game.”-Mountcastle on his speed
What’s the number? 4. Mountcastle remains a rookie because he had only 126 at-bats, four short of the number that would erase his rookie status.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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