When Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said after Monday's loss that the more players like Hanser Alberto a team has, the better off they are, he was referring to the fact that the Orioles new utility man can play anywhere on the field.

But on a listless, cold night in Chicago, Hyde will be forgiven for wanting one or two more players on his roster giving him what Alberto has in every facet of late.


Alberto made his major league debut in right field with Trey Mancini out nursing an injured finger Monday and replicated Mancini's night as best as he could, collecting three hits to bring his average to .324 through the season's first month.

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"Obviously, he plays with an incredible amount of energy," Hyde said. "He's getting big hits for us. Offensively, he's swinging the bat great. He's really aggressive, gives himself a chance, he grinds out at-bats, and versatility defensively is huge."

For Alberto, who bounced around the waiver wire this offseason after three years on the fringe of the Texas Rangers roster, this chance with the rebuilding Orioles is producing the best baseball of his career.

Once his time ran out in Texas this offseason, he was claimed on waivers by the New York Yankees, then the Orioles, then the San Francisco Giants and then the Orioles again. He made the Orioles' Opening Day roster despite not having a lot of time in spring training with the team. It was a bench role at first, but he's played much more consistently of late, and Mancini's injury gave him a chance to play a new spot Monday.

"The opportunity to play every day, more consistent has been good," Alberto said. "That's been the big key. ... I've been working hard, seeing the ball good. I go to home plate with a good plan, so I get my pitch to hit and I've been successful."

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What's made Alberto so successful this year might simply boil down to putting the ball in play. He's striking out just 11.4 percent of the time, and though he's putting the ball in play a ton, he's doing so softly more often than not. His average exit velocity (80.8 mph) and hard-hit percentage (18.2%) are in the bottom 2% of all major leaguers this season, according to MLB Statcast data from Baseball-Savant.com.

He's never had much of a statistical baseline to judge this year by, but he's also never had a batting average on balls in play of .349 the way he does now. The contact doesn't exactly back up the results.

But Alberto, 26, is exactly the type of player the Orioles will want to bring into the fold until the fruits of their long-term plan come to the majors. He hasn't had a chance elsewhere, and is thriving with one here. And while he might not be the type of player who is around at the end of a rebuild, he's the type of player who watching on a nightly basis can get help get through one.

"The more guys you can have like that, the better off you are," Hyde said.

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