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New Orioles third base coach Tony Mansolino ‘jumped all over’ first full-time major league gig

Tony Mansolino has plenty of experience as the youngest person in the room. He believes that will benefit him in his newest role.

The son of former major league coach Doug Mansolino, the 38-year-old grew up in baseball clubhouses, beginning a climb that this week culminated in his first full-time coaching position in the majors. Mansolino will be the youngest member of Orioles manager Brandon Hyde’s 2021 coaching staff as Baltimore’s new third base and infield coach.

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“I think it allows me to relate to these guys a little bit in some ways,” Mansolino said on a video conference call Wednesday. “I’m at a similar spot in life as a lot of these guys are, in terms of family and kids and things like that, and then also, I’ve grown up in this generation of the game. It’s something that I played in to a certain extent and a part of the game that I’ve been raised in myself, so in terms of understanding these guys and understanding kind of where they’re at personally and professionally, I feel like it does give me a little bit of an edge.”

After concluding his minor league playing career in 2010, Mansolino spent the past decade in the Cleveland Indians organization, first as a minor league hitting coach and eventually managing across four levels as he built a developmental background that’s been sought in most of the Orioles’ recent hires. He noted that in 2019, while guiding Triple-A Columbus to an International League title, he managed veteran players who weren’t much younger than him.

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He served as Cleveland’s infield coordinator in 2020 before manager Terry Francona’s health issues thrust Mansolino onto the Indians’ major league staff as third base coach.

“It was an honor, especially because it was Tito [Francona] that asked me to do it,” Mansolino said. “I think anytime somebody of that stature asks you to fill in onto his staff, I think you’ve got to take it as a compliment. In terms of going to the big leagues, I think the initial thing was it was quick. It’s a fast version of the game. I think when you are at the Triple-A level, it’s as close as you can get, but obviously, the big leagues are a little bit different.

“In terms of being in the environment, it was comfortable, and I say with all due respect to what the big leagues are but understanding that I’ve grown up in this my whole life. I traveled with my dad as a kid, I spent my whole life in the clubhouse growing up, and a lot of it in a major league clubhouse, so being in that environment, being at that level, it was comfortable if you can actually say that for being in the big leagues for the first time.”

Mansolino was preparing to return to his role as infield coordinator when one of Cleveland’s assistant general managers, fellow Vanderbilt product Carter Hawkins, called to inform him of the Orioles’ interest in him for their third base coaching position, which was left open when the team elected to not retain José Flores.

Unlike some of the Orioles’ recent coaching hires, Mansolino had no clear connections to Hyde or executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias. Chris Holt, the only other addition to Baltimore’s coaching staff this offseason after pairing major league pitching coach with his director of pitching duties, was the only Houston Astros employee that Elias and assistant general manager Sig Mejdal initially brought along with them to Baltimore.

“It kind of came out of the blue, to be honest with you,” Mansolino said. “Obviously, I jumped all over it, and here I am.”

He inherits an infield in flux after, in a two-week span this offseason, the Orioles designated Renato Núñez for assignment, non-tendered Hanser Alberto and traded José Iglesias, losing their 2020 leaders in starts at first base, second base and shortstop, respectively.

Yolmer Sánchez, a Gold Glove winner in 2019, is a logical replacement for Alberto at second. With about a month until pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report for spring training, adding a shortstop to compete with Richie Martin and Pat Valaika remains an offseason priority, with rookies Ramón Urías and Rylan Bannon also being up-the-middle candidates.

Trey Mancini could return from his colon cancer battle to serve as Baltimore’s primary first baseman, with Ryan Mountcastle coming in from left field to occasionally spell him and Chris Davis potentially filling in as well. After a strong start to 2020, third baseman Rio Ruiz, among Elias’ first acquisitions at the helm of Baltimore’s baseball operations department, tailed off on both sides of the ball.

Mansolino hopes to find ways for all of these players to improve their infield defense.

“I think the most important thing for me to come in is to partner with each player individually, find out what he’s good at, what he isn’t good at, what he wants to get better at, and partner with him to help him improve wherever he needs to improve,” Mansolino said. “The most important thing is meeting with these guys individually as we kind of get closer to spring training, into spring training and partner with them. Find out what they want to do, find out what they feel like they need to get better at, probably cross-reference that with some of our internal scouting reports and our internal data and come with a plan with the player to help him get to where he wants to be.”

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