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Orioles notes: Mancini takes over atop lineup; Cobb's next step still unclear

April 5, 2018 -- The Orioles beat the New York Yankees, 5-2, in the series opener. (Denise Sanders, Baltimore Sun video)

After Tim Beckham batted first in the Orioles lineup Wednesday with Chris Davis sitting, Davis returned to the lineup as the No. 5 hitter, with left fielder Trey Mancini taking over the leadoff spot.

Mancini, who got a short audition at the spot in spring training, ended up getting a clear message from manager Buck Showalter before the game.

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"Just be Trey, that's what I told him today," Showalter said. "It kind of fits into what he can bring. I thought in the spring he was trying to be a little something else. But it's really in his normal skill set. The biggest thing I told him is to just be himself, and I think Trey will."

Mancini, who is an unlucky 3-for-20 with a home run this season, takes over for Davis, who had one hit and struck out six times in 21 at-bats. Showalter said he hopes Mancini takes hold of the spot so the lineup shuffling can stop.

"I felt like when we started, we were going to take it through the Houston series," Showalter said of trying Davis at leadoff. "I talked to Chris. Obviously, talked to Trey. We've got some people who are capable of hitting in it. I just think I really would rather somebody take it and run with it, but how do you define that? I'd love to have the same lineup every night and not even have to look up at the lineup. But it hasn't started that way. It's been a challenge. I like the idea of Trey getting an extra at-bat maybe."

Mancini singled to center field off Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka in the first and third innings Thursday night.

Manny Machado was made to talk about his future as the Orioles visited Yankee Stadium for the first time in 2018. One thing the prospective free agent made clear: He doesn't plan to move off shortstop.

Confusion on Cobb

Showalter at first made it seem as if right-hander Alex Cobb's next game-like outing next Monday or Tuesday would be in Sarasota, Fla., where he threw a simulated game Wednesday, but then backtracked and clarified that no decisions have been made as of Thursday night.

The holdup at this point is when he throws his between-start bullpen session, with Friday and Saturday the candidates for that.

"I anticipate deciding on Cobb, like I told you, after his workday, whether or not he's going to come here or have another one," Showalter said. "I kind of know how we're leaning, but I want to see how the next day or two goes and what he's saying. It's obviously his call, but we've got this guy for the long haul. We want to do right by him. We've been really trying to impress that on him — there's a long season. I don't really care how other people are doing it with people in his situation. We're going to do what's best for him and the Orioles."

Showalter said Cobb looked like his old self in a four-inning simulated game in Sarasota on Wednesday, though Cobb relayed that he was frustrated with his command at times. Even so, until the Orioles rule it out completely, Cobb remains a candidate to make his debut with the major league team Monday or Tuesday night at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Aaron Judge had a 1.637 OPS against the Orioles last season. No hitter has dominated another team that way other than a certain Baltimore-born Bambino 97 years ago.

Rasmus at DH again

Showalter said he has Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander in right field and Colby Rasmus at designated hitter for a second straight game to give him more flexibility in the later innings.

"If you have Colby in right and you want to pinch-hit for him, you're going to have to use two players," Showalter said. "You're going to have to use probably [Danny] Valencia and [Craig] Gentry, and if you have Colby DHing and you hit for him, you only have to use one player because you have the switch-hitter in right field. That's really one of the biggest reasons, that you can't pinch-hit for him without using two players."

The Orioles opened the 2018 season 1-5 for their worst start since 2010 (1-11). While it doesn't quite compare to the Orioles' 0-21 start in 1988 — the worst in major league history — this year marks the 10th time the team has begun 1-5 or worse.

Around the horn

Mark Trumbo (quadriceps strain) played right field in a simulated game in Sarasota on Thursday, Showalter said, and will play first base Friday. The plan remains for Trumbo to have a rehabilitation stint at a minor league affiliate to ensure he's fully ready to return. Trumbo is wary of returning before he's ready and not being able to contribute to the team. ... Right-hander Alec Asher was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, while right-hander Michael Kelly was outrighted to Double-A Bowie. They were two of the four pitchers designated for assignment Opening Day to make room for the Orioles' four nonroster players. ... Left-hander Ryan O'Rourke threw a 35-pitch bullpen session on his way back from Tommy John surgery. "He's doing well. Don't forget about him," Showalter said. Showalter also said left-hander Chris Lee (oblique) threw a 30-pitch bullpen. … The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed former Orioles right-hander Jesus Liranzo on waivers from the Dodgers and optioned him to Double-A Altoona. Los Angeles acquired Liranzo on Monday from the Orioles for minor league pitcher Luis Ysla. … The Long Island Ducks of the unaffiliated Atlantic League signed former Orioles outfielder Travis Snider.

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