On the day slugger Pedro Alvarez signed a minor league deal with the Orioles to begin working as an outfielder in big league camp, another big bat without a clear path to a major league job, Trey Mancini, is making his game debut as an outfielder.
Mancini is starting in right field and batting sixth in the Orioles’ Grapefruit League game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday at Ed Smith Stadium, marking the first time he’s done so in a game.
He’s primarily a first baseman defensively, but spent the offseason working on his own in the outfield and has also done plenty of work on the back fields this spring.
Coincidentally enough, his transition occurred at Vanderbilt University parallel to Alvarez’s, who worked out at the same facility this offseason. Mancini said that although both were working toward the same thing — securing a major league job this year — they mostly overlapped in the batting cages. There wasn’t much crossover time when each was learning the outfield.
Mancini said they didn’t talk much about their possible new positions, though.
“It was more just about last year and more small talk than anything, not all about baseball,” he said. “That’s more what our conversations were. He wasn’t sure where he was going to end up, so he was working and in there every day hitting and getting ready for this year, because obviously he was going to get signed by somebody.”
Alvarez had a locker in the team’s clubhouse Monday morning, and the deal agreed to this weekend was signed shortly thereafter.
The former first-round pick slugged 22 home runs with an .826 OPS last year as a platoon designated hitter for the Orioles, but his lack of a true defensive position meant he remained on the free agent market into March for a second straight year.
His at-bats from last year will essentially go to outfielder Seth Smith, who will push Mark Trumbo to a designated hitter role against right-handed pitching. But his signing also creates another roadblock on Mancini’s path to the roster, one he’s quite used to by now.
However, he’s responding well. He swatted his first home run of the spring Sunday, a mammoth shot to center field, and now has a team-high 10 hits in 29 at-bats with five extra-base hits.
“It’s just like any other situation, like I’ve been through many times, where you keep your head down, keep working and keep hitting,” Mancini said. “That really can’t be ignored, I think, no matter what happens. That’s what I’m trying to do the whole time, and what you have to keep trying to do.
“It’s more unspoken than anything, but it’s been told to me before. Last year at spring training, whenever I went from major league to minor league camp, I had a meeting and that was said. That’s been told to me pretty much the whole time since I was drafted, and I’ve definitely bought into it and believed in it. I’ve just tried to kind of do my thing and hit and try to help whatever team I’m on win. That ended up getting me to the majors last year.”