On a day when manager Brandon Hyde said he wanted Orioles left fielder Trey Mancini to lighten up on himself and just play free through his slow start to the spring, Mancini did just that.
Starting with a flare single to right field in his second at-bat, Mancini had a three-hit day in the Orioles' 12-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday at CenturyLink Sports Complex to potentially jump-start a spring where he collected two hits in his first seven games.
“I could tell after the first at-bat, I struck out — again — and just haven’t really been feeling great since I came back, for whatever reason. I could just tell after that at-bat, I was pretty cool, calm and collected, and just said, ‘I’ll get the next one.’ From there, I got that cheap little hit the second one, and started rolling after that. I felt loose and had some good conversations with several people, too, the past few days, that are trying to [tell me] … Everybody says it’s spring training, all this stuff, but I still want to go out there and do well, no matter what the situation is. It definitely felt good to contribute out there.”
Mancini, the team's left fielder elect, was off to one of the slowest starts of any player in spring training with the Orioles. He missed a few games with a jammed pinkie that took away some time to get into a rhythm. Even since Mancini has been back, Hyde hasn't played him too often as the Orioles try to get a good grasp on the rest of their fluid outfield situation.
“He's been grinding, and he's so hard on himself,” Hyde said. “I just want him to relax and worry about taking good at-bats. Just concentrate on taking good at-bats every time and whatever happens, happens. Let the results take care of themselves. He got one to fall and that probably loosened him up a little bit, and he had some really good swings.”
Mancini acknowledged that 19 at-bats isn’t really much to judge anything by, and said he had been thinking about his swing after the injury, as he was swinging at pitcher’s pitches. But he also used some of the lessons from last season’s first-half struggles.
“You’ve got to learn your lessons any time you go through them, and that was certainly the hardest point of my baseball career, back then,” Mancini said. “If you don’t learn your lessons from your hardest times, then that’s pretty much what failure is — not learning from your mistakes. You’ve got to find a way to get through not feeling great.”
Mancini's three-hit day came as the Orioles tried to erase an early nine-run deficit. The Orioles scored three runs in the fourth inning, two in the fifth and two in the sixth. Two hitters on the opposite end of the hitting spectrum from Mancini — Joey Rickard and Drew Jackson — continued their hot springs to help chop away at that deficit. Rickard had two hits and three RBIs — both off right-handed pitching — to give him a .382 spring average.
The initial 9-0 deficit, built before the Orioles even had a hit, was cut to 9-7, and Hyde praised his team for not packing it in on a muggy day in Fort Myers after those long innings.
“You get down 9-0 in a spring training game, and I thought our at-bats, all day long, team-wide was really impressive,” Hyde said. “I thought we used the whole field really well, and I thought our defense was fantastic. Turned a couple nice double plays. I'm really happy with how we played.”
Hess Express off the rails
The Orioles found themselves in such a state because right-hander David Hess, making his fifth appearance of the spring and starting for the third time, was blasted by the Twins for nine runs on nine hits — including four home runs — in 2 2/3 innings.
Hess was left to hope that one showing wouldn’t do too much harm to his case to make the rotation behind the entrenched trio of Alex Cobb, Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner. He said pitching coach Doug Brocail told him he was cutting off his delivery instead of finishing through the plate, but the only use for that information was to fix it as he threw extra pitches in the bullpen and take that forward.
"Simply put, some days it's just not your day. I think that the pitches and the mistakes that I would make, they were just taking it deep, for lack of a better term," Hess said. "Really, just the quality of pitches wasn't quite there today.
“But me and Broc have already talked about it. He gave a little bit of input and I went down to throw some more pitches and work on stuff. Just keeping in mind days like that happen every now and then, and it's not ideal. It's not what you want to focus on, but ultimately, I think you learn from it, you put it behind you and you make the best of it."
Josh Lucas and Richard Bleier finished the game with scoreless relief innings.