Toronto — For Orioles left fielder Trey Mancini, gaining comfort in playing the outfield for the first time in his career was a matter of developing the confidence he could make any play. And Mancini used that philosophy to exceed the Orioles’ expectations when the team moved him from his natural position at first base last season.
But in a season in which Orioles players have constantly blamed themselves for “trying to do too much,” Mancini said he would have approached two failed diving attempts to catch fly balls during this weekend’s series in Toronto the same way given another opportunity.
With two outs and two on in the second inning of the Orioles’ 13-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, Mancini laid out for Curtis Granderson’s bloop into shallow left field. The ball skipped past him, enabling two runs to score, the damaging hit in a frame full of seeing-eye hits off starter Alex Cobb.
In Saturday’s 4-3 extra-inning loss, Mancini charged a fly ball off the bat of Kendrys Morales and made an unsuccessful diving attempt, allowing the slow-footed Morales to reach on a leadoff double. Right-hander Kevin Gausman stranded Morales at third, but needed a strikeout/throw-out double play to escape the inning.
“I just missed a couple of diving plays that just hit off the edge of my glove,” Mancini said. “I mean, you look back and there is nothing that I would have done differently. I thought I did the best and ran as hard as I could. I’m not blessed with blazing speed or anything. You try to do what you can out there and I can say I did that on those plays. Yeah, you just try to make every play and sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Before Sunday’s game, Mancini ranked last among qualifying left fielders in defensive runs saved — a metric that evaluates how many runs a player saved or hurt his team compared with an average defender at his position — with a minus-11. He also had a league-worst minus-13 plus-minus runs saved, which measures range and ability to convert a batted ball into an out.
That’s a sharp regression from last season, when Mancini was metrically an average outfielder, posting a minus-1 defensive runs saved.
Mancini did execute an exceptional play in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game, making a jumping catch at the left-field wall on Aledmys Díaz’s drive to the track to take away extra bases from him. And Mancini — who entered Sunday hitting .139 with just one homer over his past 22 games — homered for the first time in 14 games and recorded a multihit game in Sunday’s contest.
“That’s the same guy who comes back and makes and big play at the wall,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Trey’s made a lot of those plays. I’m not going to take that [aggressiveness] away from him. Trey had a good day offensively.”