BALTIMORE—For the third straight game, Trey Mancini is not in the Orioles’ lineup. Mancini’s bruised ribs have kept him on the bench, though he hopes to be available for pinch-hitting on Monday night when the Orioles begin a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards.
Mancini injured his ribs while playing right field on Friday night, hitting the right-field wall after making a catch on a deep drive.
“I hurt it on that play, going back on that fly ball when I crashed into the wall. It happened very quickly,” he said. “I looked at the replay myself. I just liked elbowed myself fairly hard in the side. I woke up a couple of days ago. It was like a stabbing feeling in my left side.
“We did tests and everything. It came out negative for a crack or fracture or anything like that. It looks like ribs are bruised. It’s been really painful the last couple of days. Today I see an improvement, which is a really good sign, and I’m thrilled about. I really wanting to get back out there. The last couple of days it’s been a rough feeling. Today I’m gearing myself, if I’m needed in a spot, I’m going to get myself ready for that situation.”
Mancini is hitting just .224 with a home run and eight RBIs in 20 games, but analytics (what is referred to as an expected average) show that those numbers should be better based on how hard he has been hitting the ball.
His percentage of hard-hit balls is 54.4 percent, the highest in his career. Mancini’s line drive percentage is 39.7 percent also a career high. He’s hitting ground balls in 32.8 percent of his at-bats, a career low.
“If you look at the advanced stats and everything, I think I’ve improved a lot of what I wanted to,” Mancini said. “I think I can improve some on maybe the pitches I’m swinging at and not swinging at … and maybe getting my swing a little bit better connected. At times, my lower half is leaking a little bit early, and my upper half is trying to hang back, but by and large, I’ve swung the bat pretty well.
“If you look up on the scoreboard, it might not look like that, but I feel pretty good about the way I’m swinging. If I keep doing what I’m doing, that will start to show up. It’s been tough sledding, though luck at times, but there are a couple of things I’m wanted to improve on, too.”
Manager Brandon Hyde said that Mancini’s stats are misleading.
“He has had some of the worst luck I’ve ever seen in the first month of a season,” Hyde said. “He’s hit a ton of balls hard with no luck. I just think, he’s off from a numbers standpoint to a slow start. I think he’s swinging the bat well. His numbers will increase here shortly.”
An expected average is a Statcast metric that measures the likelihood that a batted ball will become a hit.
Behind the moves: By noon today, the Orioles had to reduce their roster from 28 to 26 players. Outfielder Ryan McKenna was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after Sunday’s game, and third baseman Kelvin Gutiérrez was designated for assignment on Monday morning.
That leaves the Orioles with 14 pitchers and 12 position players. They’ll be able to maintain 14 pitches until May 29th when they’ll be limited to 13 pitchers.
“With pitching the way it is and so unpredictable, we felt it was necessary to carry an extra pitcher,” Hyde said. “We’ll take it series by series, right now. You just don’t want to be short pitching, so we’re not taking any chances.”
Gutiérrez was hitting just .143 (4-for-28) with three RBIs in 12 games.
“Kelvin was a great guy. He got off to a slow start this year,” Hyde said. “He ended the season well last year. It was mainly just a numbers issue. We want to see [Tyler] Nevin play a little bit. He was just the odd guy out.”
Gutiérrez was handicapped because he plays only third base, while Nevin plays the corner infield and outfield positions, and Chris Owings can play nearly everywhere.
“Flexibility on your roster is extremely important,” Hyde said. “We have guys that can play multiple spots, especially the middle of the field … Being able to play multiple positions is a huge thing these days.”
McKenna was often used as a defensive replacement and as a pinch-runner.
“That hurts us. Mac’s a really good outfielder,” Hyde said. “It was more important that Mac be a defensive replacement [to] get consistent at-bats.”
Hyde said that with Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander healthy and Mancini and Nevin available to play the outfield, McKenna’s playing time would be minimized.
“We felt like it was the most important thing for him in his career to get some more at-bats, and I’m sure you’ll see him back up here soon,” Hyde said.
Nevin intrigues Hyde.
“I want to find out about him,” he said. “I’m going to give him at-bats … I might give him a start or two, we’ll see.”
Prieto hurt: High-A Aberdeen infielder César Prieto, who won the South Atlantic League Player of the Week award for the week ending April 24th, suffered what the Orioles are terming a “Grade 1 right hamstring strain.”
Prieto, who signed in January as an international free agent, is hitting .328 for the IronBirds with seven home runs and 17 RBIs.
The Orioles hope the injury won’t keep Prieto out for long.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB