When the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers face Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy on Thursday night at Camden Yards, they’ll likely do so with a far different lineup than the one they put out against left-hander John Means on Wednesday.
That’s because platooning, which was once viewed as a penalty for players who could only hit pitching from one side and struggled against the other, is a big part of their recent success. The seven-time reigning National League West champions are famous for it, last year sitting their top four hitters, all left-handed, against left-handed starters in the first two games of the World Series.
The Orioles platoon for different reasons, and with far different levels of success. But manager Brandon Hyde said it’s something that he wouldn’t mind embracing should the talent pool grow to include those types of stars in Baltimore.
“They have complete buy-in from their players, so when you pinch-hit for somebody, it’s a team move,” Hyde said. “Guys have bought into that. I think that there’s a lot of value to that, and it’s all about your roster and what you have on your roster, and they have an equal amount of right- and left-handers that do a lot of damage, so [manager Dave Roberts] utilizes it. If you have that type of roster, I think it’s great. But a lot of teams don’t.”
Indeed, there’s a difference between when the Dodgers primarily play A.J. Pollock, Chris Taylor and David Freese against left-handers while Joc Peterson gets to face mostly right-handers and the Orioles keeping Richie Martin and Stevie Wilkerson away from right-handed pitching or sitting Chance Sisco against lefties.
Often, it’s just a way for players to get their feet under them in the major leagues. In late 2016 and early 2017, Orioles everyday player Trey Mancini platooned and primarily faced left-handers, splitting time with left-handed hitter Hyun Soo Kim. Those Orioles had seven everyday starters and basically rotated a few players through the outfield and designated hitter spots.
Mancini said that he doesn’t know if the perception of platooning has changed, but he’s definitely taken notice of how the Dodgers fit in all their talent.
“I knew that was my role, but I was ready for any opportunity to show that I can hit righties, too,” said Mancini, who this year has relatively even numbers against lefties and right-handers. “You always want to be like that. Especially around here, that should be the mindset of the guys. I feel like we’re doing a lot of platooning, especially this month as well. A lot of the time, there’s a reason for why teams do it. The numbers support it and, especially with how much analytics and everything like that have helped everyone now, I think it’s definitely on paper a good move to platoon a lot of the time.”
Now, Mancini is one of a few names that Hyde can pencil into his lineup every day, along with Jonathan Villar, Anthony Santander, Renato Núñez and Hanser Alberto. Alberto began the season playing only against left-handers, but earned a regular role and ranks in the top-five in the American League in hitting.
That’s left Rio Ruiz, Dwight Smith Jr., Chris Davis and Sisco among the most platoon-heavy players on the team.
It’s also a way to ease players such as Sisco, DJ Stewart and Austin Hays into the majors, something that Mancini said was useful to him.
“A lot of guys, whenever you come up, that’s going to be your situation,” Mancini said. “You’re going to be platooning, mostly against lefties or righties depending on who you hit better. As time goes on, if you hit, you’re going to play and you’re going to be in the lineup.
“Look at what Hanser has done this year. He started out playing against lefties and not even all the time at the beginning of the season. He was definitely our utility guy off the bench, and he’s competing for a freaking batting title right now. You look at that, and he just completely took hold of his opportunities and went out there and made himself an everyday major league baseball player. I think everybody can see that and know that that opportunity is there, no matter what. If you hit, you’re going to be in there.”
Hyde on Harvey
Hyde said rookie right-hander Hunter Harvey, who hasn’t pitched since Sept. 2 but threw a bullpen session Tuesday, could pitch again soon.
“With Hunter, he hasn’t thrown this much since 2014, so he’s got some normal soreness that everybody else has who goes through September,” Hyde said. “He’s never pitched in September, so we’re giving him some time off.”
Around the horn
>> Right-hander Mychal Givens received The Oriole Way Award in a pregame ceremony Wednesday, an award Orioles Advocates gives each year to a player who demonstrates a sincere desire to serve the community and contributes on and off the field. Givens runs the Givens Back Foundation, which supports inner-city baseball and education programs, as well as providing support for several team initiatives.
>> Orioles players and coaches assisted Dodgers pitcher Adam Kolarek (Maryland, Catonsville High) and League of Dreams founder Frank Kolarek with a clinic Wednesday at Camden Yards, which promoted adaptive forms of baseball for children living with mental and/or physical challenges.