BOWIE—Coby Mayo had an inside look at what the Orioles were going to be like this season during spring training. The 21-year-old, who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, got a long look during Grapefruit League games, and he was happy with what he took away.
“I think it’s just realizing how close you are and being with those guys is awesome,” Mayo said. “Being in that locker room and in the spot they’re in right now and that culture, those guys have been jelling the past few years. It’s fun to be a part of. You know that you’re close, but you know you have a lot of work to do. It was a really good time.”
Mayo is batting .245 with three home runs and six RBIs for Double-A Bowie. His on-base percentage is .355, and his OPS is .827.
Last year, the 6-foot-5 Mayo was slowed by a back injury after he was promoted to the Baysox, and he hit .250 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 34 games with a .331 OBP and .729 OPS.
“He’s really young. He’s a taller guy. He swings really fast,” Bowie manager Kyle Moore said. “He’s got some of the best exit velocity in the game in minor league baseball. It’s such a big powerful physical body like that certainly is the utmost importance to manage that. It contributed to what he went through last year and we’re going to try to avoid that forever.”
Mayo is confident that 2023 will be a better year for him.
“The injury when I got here last year was unfortunate,” Mayo said at this month’s Baysox media day. “I’m feeling really good this year, a hundred times better than I felt last year, mentally, physically, going through big league spring training, the best of the best guys are there. This year, I feel like it’s going to come a lot easier to me.”
The camp Mayo attended in Sarasota featured several other outstanding infield prospects, including Joey Ortiz and Jordan Westburg, who are both at Triple-A Norfolk, his teammate César Prieto, and last year’s overall No. 1 pick, Jackson Holliday.
“I look at the competition. I think it’s good for everybody,” Mayo said. “I look at other systems where guys aren’t being challenged enough and it’s harder for them to get better, but in our system, there’s a bunch of talent, a lot of good prospects, a lot of good players. I think it’s good. I don’t think it’s going to be challenging. I think everything’s going to work out the way it does if I can do what I know I can do. I’m just excited for this year.”
Moore is monitoring Mayo’s pregame routines, hoping to avoid another bad injury.
“Maturity mostly in the area of managing his swings and the amount of swings he takes every day, and the amount of ground balls,” Moore said.
“Last year, he came in eager to work until he was completely out of gas, and he didn’t understand that the season is so long you can’t come in here and take 150, 160 swings before you get to [batting practice] and then you’ve got more swings in bp and then you’ve got more swings in the game.
“I think being in big league camp was extremely beneficial for him, to be around players like [Ramón] Urías and [Jorge] Mateo and [Ryan] Mountcastle and [Adam] Frazier, Guys that are super pro and have done this for a while.
“They manage their day a little different. I think Coby learned that when he first got here last year…I’d just like to see him manage the day better, be the ultimate pro, and not just blow it out from the time he gets here.”
With Gunnar Henderson sidelined for the Orioles’ Grapefruit League opener, Mayo got a surprise start.
“I didn’t know that first game of spring training that I was going to be starting. I look at the lineup and my name is there in the starting lineup, I was like, ‘Whoa.’ That’s weird. I didn’t think I was going to be starting early in spring training,” he said.
“I went out there and took the field. Once you take the field, it’s just a regular game, you have to lock in, but before the game, it was a little shocking. It was fun. It was a good time.”
So far, Mayo has played 11 games at third base and one at first, and it’s clear what his preference is.
“I think you’re going to be seeing me at third a lot, moving up to Triple-A, maybe you can see a little bit more,” Mayo said. “You’ve got a lot of guys there. You don’t know what’s going to happen with Westburg, Oritz and [Josh] Lester and all these guys. I think it’s going to be a really crazy year with guys moving around.
“There’s so many infield prospects and outfield prospects and guys in the big leagues. I think it’s a lot crowded up there. I think they’re going to try to figure that out. I’ve got to play and enjoy the ride.”
Hoffman seeks turnaround
During major league spring training, the Orioles often summoned Nolan Hoffman as an extra player for Grapefruit League games. Hoffman saved four games during the spring, and the 25-year-old sidearmer who was drafted from Seattle in the minor league Rule 5 draft in December 2021 was hoping that performance would impress the team’s minor league officials.
“I think being around the big league side, being at that level of competition,you learn a lot of stuff just by doing that. I gained a lot of confidence just knowing I can get outs in those kind of games against those kind of hitters,” Hoffman said.
He got to appear in his first big league ballpark when the Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays played a game at Tropicana Field last month, and he recorded a save.
“It’s a little harder to stay calm, but that’s my whole focus on the mound is to try to stay calm and stay focused,” Hoffman said. “The added adrenaline almost gives you more energy and helps with focus.”
On Saturday, Hoffman allowed three runs on four hits in an inning at Altoona, and his ERA is 9.00 in four games.
“We have a whole lot of good pitchers,” Hoffman said. “Our whole organization is super talented. Really all you can do is focus on yourself, preparing every day on the field and taking it on day-to-day and focusing on yourself. If I pitch well, that will take care of everything.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB