BOSTON — Orioles standout outfielder Trey Mancini used the last day of the season Sunday as an occasion to affirm his desire to stay with the team throughout its rebuild, a process Mancini said he feels is going well based on what he saw this year.
After his name was floated in midseason trade discussions in the Orioles’ first season under executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde, Mancini remained with the team and enters the first of his three years of salary arbitration eligibility coming off his best season yet. Mancini hit .291 with a .901 OPS and 35 home runs entering Sunday, and wants to continue his growth with the Orioles.
“I’ve always felt strongly about it,” Mancini said. “That’s never wavered at all. I wasn’t anticipating getting traded at the deadline, and again, I’m glad I didn’t. I definitely feel very strongly about being here and I definitely like the direction that we’re headed.
“I feel really good about it. I was kind of thinking about it last night, reflecting on it, and last year the last game of the season, there was so much uncertainty leaving the field after the game, not knowing who was going to be back or what was going on. Now, we’re going in a pretty clear direction, and I really like where we’re headed.”
Mancini’s growth was one of the most visible success stories the Orioles had this year, with a first half worthy of an All-Star, and he’s finishing with a standout September. The Orioles as a team are finishing better as well, but Mancini sees clear pathways for improvement next season.
“We played so many close games this year, and we lost a lot of them," he said. "We still can get better with that and we’re learning how to play as a unit. We’ve gotten a lot better with it, and next year, I’d really like to win a lot more of those close games. … It has been tough losing a lot of those. I would really like to win more of those in the future.
“Obviously the biggest thing we’re trying to do right now is increase the talent in the organization, but winning the close games is the difference between winning 54, 55 games and I think we could have easily gotten up close to 70 this year. We let a lot of games slip out of our grasp, so that’s certainly something that we need to get better at. That comes, A, with experience, and B, just jelling more as a unit and as a team."
Hyde on the staff
Hyde said he didn’t have an idea of how quickly any potential changes to the coaching staff might be sorted out, and said it was more a question for Elias. He did, however, praise the staff — assembled at the last minute — for its work this year.
“They’ve been fantastic," Hyde said. "They’ve been incredibly supportive. It’s a worker group, and it’s a grind group. When we were putting the staff together, we kind of targeted these types of guys, and they’ve been just amazing. Player development guys, they’ve created great relationships with our players. I think it’s always been a good vibe in our clubhouse and a good vibe on the field and the dugout, and I feel like our players have said, too, that these guys have a lot to do with that. I’m very, very fortunate in my first year to have the group around me that I’ve had.
Around the horn
>> Orioles infielder Jonathan Villar became one of five players in the majors to play all 162 games this season, joining the Kansas City Royals’ Jorge Soler and Whit Merrifield, Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien and Miami Marlins infielder Starlin Castro.
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>> Hyde, who came to the Orioles from the Chicago Cubs, had praise for manager Joe Maddon after Maddon was let go Sunday. He said Maddon could manage anywhere he wants next season.