ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Orioles were fed a steady diet of opposing left-handed starters early in the season. As they draw closer to the break, there’s been a pronounced shift to the right side, where each series seems to lack a southpaw.
It doesn’t really matter to Trey Mancini. He’s going to be in the lineup no matter who’s facing them.
Mancini destroyed the notion, as if it were a belt-high fastball, that he’d work in a platoon role if he broke camp with the team. That there wouldn’t be enough at-bats for him.
Chris Davis’ oblique injury opened the door at first base, but Mancini already had a job in left field. He just moved to the infield.
Mancini collected two hits last night off Rays starter Chris Archer and is batting .347 with eight home runs in 121 at-bats versus right-handers this season. He received only four at-bats against them in September after his promotion.
Though he doesn’t recall being this prolific against right-handers in the past, Mancini actually hit .355 in 245 at-bats against right-handers with Double-A Bowie in 2015. He hit .370 in 81 at-bats against left-handers. The guy was potent.
Mancini hit .278 with 11 home runs in 370 at-bats against right-handers last summer at Triple-A Norfolk and .283 with two home runs in 113 at-bats versus lefties.
“It’s always a good thing I guess to have those balanced numbers or close to it, and I don’t think that’s always been the case with me at the beginning of my career,” Mancini said. “I hit lefties better. But for whatever reason, sometimes I just think it’s luck of the draw, especially now I don’t have too much of a preference if I face a righty or a lefty. But yeah, it’s something that you always want to be able to hit both sides. It’s a very important thing.
“I’ve just been feeling good and I think, honestly, it’s more of a mental thing. Just going up with the same plan every time, like committing to trying to hit the ball to right-center field. “
Manager Buck Showalter sees no reason why it can’t continue.
“As long as he keeps his ego out of it and continues to take that two-strike breaking ball and stuff and shoot it into right field, a lot of stuff that Manny (Machado) was doing when he first came up here,” Showalter said.
“Sometimes, the power lure gets in the way. I talk to him all the time about, let’s see as you go forward. People are talking about home runs and RBIs and stuff. You’ve got to remember what allowed you to stay consistent. But that’s another byproduct of a guy who made every stop. You don’t see that anymore. Look through the track records of everybody, you won’t see guys that have his background at Aberdeen out of college to Delmarva to Bowie to Norfolk, and doing well at each level. That’s the way it used to be done, where guys weren’t looking back over their shoulder and, ‘Gee, I wonder if I came up too fast.’ Believe me, they think about it. But he’s got such a foundation of success at every level he’s been at. That’s why the left-right thing doesn’t really concern me.
“Early on when you want to get him off right and be careful with him, you gave him a few right-handers that we felt he’d match up with. He took everything we threw at him and that’s why we gave him some more at-bats.”
The Orioles will be introduced to Rays rookie Jacob Faria, who’s making his fourth major league start. He debuted against the White Sox on June 7 and allowed one run and three this in 6 1/3 innings.
A pattern has developed with Faria. Three starts, one run allowed in each of them. He went 6 1/3 innings in Toronto and seven innings in Detroit, striking out nine Tigers and walking only one.
His entire body of major league work consists of 19 2/3 innings, three runs and 15 hits allowed, four walks and 22 strikeouts. The 1.37 ERA fits nicely beside the 0.966 WHIP.
Faria, 23, earned the promotion after going 6-1 with a 3.07 ERA in 11 starts at Triple-A Durham, with a 1.125 WHIP and 84 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. He’s registered a 3.13 ERA and 1.127 WHIP in seven minor league seasons.
The splits are reversed, with right-handers batting .167 against him in the majors and left-handers hitting .292.
Faria and Dylan Bundy, who starts tonight for the Orioles, both came out of the 2011 draft. Faria was a 10th rounder out of Gahr (Calif.) High School. Bundy was the fourth overall pick out of Owasso High School in Oklahoma.
Bundy made his first major league start at Tropicana Field on July 17, 2016 and allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings. He’s 0-1 with a 6.06 ERA in four career games (three starts) against the Rays. He’s started twice here and surrendered nine runs and 12 hits over seven innings, his ledger including five home runs.
Tim Beckham homered twice off Bundy in an April 26 start at Camden Yards. The solo shots were the only runs off Bundy in 6 1/3 innings and the Orioles won 5-4 in 11 innings.
Beckham went 5-for-12 with a double and two home runs in the three-game series.
Bundy will try to give the Orioles much-needed length today and keep them tied with the 1924 Phillies for most consecutive games allowing at least five runs. Failure to do so, or another hiccup from the bullpen, will push the total to 21.
A reliever will be pushed from the minors to Tropicana Field. Another call to fresh arms.