Mancini's rough start; Making sense of Orioles' outfield; Urías' solid week - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Mancini’s rough start; Making sense of Orioles’ outfield; Urías’ solid week

With 16 games played, the Orioles’ 2021 season is about 10 percent complete. That means, if you extrapolate, Trey Mancini’s three home runs and 11 runs batted in would be 30 homers and 110 RBIs, numbers that might be expected of him.

On the other hand, his 19 strikeouts extrapolate into 190, and his batting average of .186 is hardly what anyone expects of him.

Mancini is obviously pressing, and he doesn’t look like himself at the plate or in the field.

Taking a sliver of the season, which is what 10 percent is, and expecting that Mancini—or anyone else—will continue at the pace is unlikely.

Take Maikel Franco. He has 14 RBIs in 16 games. I can’t imagine anyone thinks that he’ll drive in 140 runs.

The Orioles’ 7-9 record isn’t awful after winning two of three against the Texas Rangers this past weekend, and they’ve managed to play respectably without three of their top hitters, Mancini, Ryan Mountcastle and Anthony Santander, producing.

Mountcastle has struck out 21 times and walked just twice, and he’s batting just .180 with a .203 on-base percentage. Santander’s stats are nearly identical — 17 strikeouts to two walks, a .182 average and a .217 on-base average.

If Mancini, Mouncastle and Santander can heat up, the Orioles will be more competitive in an American League East that hardly looks as fearsome as it did when the season began.

The Orioles lost two of three to the New York Yankees from April 5-7, and the Yankees trail the Orioles in the AL East with a 5-10 record.

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After their season-opening three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Red Sox are 11-6, a surprising division leader.

Trying to make sense of the standings this early in a season is foolish but seeing the Yankees behind the Orioles can be amusing, at least for the moment.

Outfield picture: Assuming Austin Hays returns to the active list when the Orioles open a two-game series in Miami on Tuesday night, manager Brandon Hyde will have some decisions to make.

Putting Hays in left and keeping Cedric Mullins in center and Santander in right probably will be the usual alignment. If Mountcastle and Mancini are either the first baseman or the designated hitter, does that mean that DJ Stewart’s playing time is cut severely?

Stewart’s played just nine games, hardly a fair trial, and the Orioles would like to see him play regularly for an extended time to make a fair judgment on him.

But unless someone gets hurt, that might be difficult to do.

Most important, they want to see how Hays plays in an extended trial. They’ve liked what they’ve seen when he’s been healthy, and he’ll have to play without injury for more than just a few weeks for them to feel he’s an indispensable part of the Orioles

A healthy Hays and Mullins diversifies the offense and makes the team fun to watch.

Hays’ return could mean the end of Ryan McKenna’s first shot with the Orioles. It’s a shame that there’s probably no room on the 26-man roster for McKenna, who has been a useful addition.

McKenna has played 10 games since his April 5th addition, starting only two, but having a solid defensive outfielder on the bench with speed isn’t a bad thing.

With a 14-man pitching staff, that means a three-man bench. Since the Orioles are trying to conserve starters’ innings and keep at least one Rule 5 pitcher on the staff, having a player like McKenna might not work.

At the moment, Tyler Wells is on the active roster, and the other Rule 5 pitcher, Mac Sceroler, is on the 10-day injured list.

Wells has been in four games, all lopsided ones, and Hyde is attempting to keep him out of what he calls high-leverage situations. Sceroler was in two games before he was placed on the injured list.

It’s too bad that the Orioles can’t carry 13 position players. Having a player who can pinch-run, as McKenna does, can make for a more intriguing roster.

Who’s on second: The Orioles began the season with Rio Ruiz at second base, but while his play there has been fine, his bat hasn’t been. Ruiz is hitting just .133 (6-for-45).

On Sunday, Hyde started Ramón Urías at second. Urías completed  his best week in the major leagues, hitting a home run in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against Seattle, and winning the second game with a run-scoring single.

In Sunday’s game, Urías had two of the team’s five hits, and in nine games is hitting .278 with an .816 OPS.

When the Orioles activated Stewart from the 10-day injured list earlier this month, Pat Valaika, who has a more extensive major league resume than Urías, was optioned to the alternate training site at Bowie, raising some eyebrows.

Valaika had a solid offensive season in 2020 and seemed to be the logical utility player for the roster. Instead, Urías, who some suggested would be cut from the 40-man roster this winter, has stayed and played solidly.

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