Dave Anderson, the Orioles’ minor league infield coordinator, is well-versed on Mountcastle and his defense. He was there with him in Sarasota, Fla., at minicamp in Janauary when the Orioles developed a throwing program for the 20-year-old Mountcastle. He has been with Mountcastle often this season at Frederick and was there for the recent transition to third base at Bowie.
Anderson is a respected baseball man. He played 10 years in the majors, winning a World Series ring with the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers. He managed at each level of Detroit’s system from 1994-2000. Between 2009-13, he coached both first and third base for the Texas Rangers. He became the O’s infield coordinator in 2014, left for one year to manage for the Angels at Triple-A Salt Lake City and returned to the same position with the Orioles in 2016.
“I think we are all excited about Ryan and developing his bat and I don’t think it’s going to hurt him to play another position,” Anderson said. “There will be a few adjustments he’ll have to make. But this was an opportunity to put him at third and see how it goes.
“We have a lot of guys in the minors that have played multiple positions and I think it is good for guys to move around a little bit. It can be a positive thing.
“Obviously, there are some plays that are unique to third base. The bunts, the slow rollers, a lot of plays to your left and right. You’re closer, so the ball gets there quicker, and there are some adjustments with your feet as going to first base is different than short. Some things are easier - the distance you are throwing is closer.”
Mountcastle’s arm strength has been rated below average by scouts and some question his glovework, as well. But his bat has been special this year. He hit .314/.343/.542 with 35 doubles, a triple, 15 homers, 47 RBIs and with an OPS of .885 in 88 games at Single-A Frederick. Since the move to Bowie, his bat has not gotten going yet and he is 4-for-27 (.148) with two doubles and three RBIs in seven games.
Some fans have asked why Mountcastle wasn’t moved to second base and not third. Anderson said that would have meant dealing with a new angle of ball off bat from the right side of the infield, plus Mountcastle would have had to learn to turn the double play from another position, with runners at his back and not in front of him. That would have presented more challenges than third will.
“The big thing for me is being on the same side (of the infield) so the bat angle is the same,” Anderson said. “When I played, I saw the ball a lot better at third than I did sometimes at short. There are just things unique to the position that he will have to learn. But I think he’ll be fine. We’ll spend some time with him, so he knows where to be positioned on bunt plays, cutoffs and relays.
“He had made some strides at shortstop and I think he is more comfortable there than he’s been. Still has a ways to go at shortstop. But I think going to third base is not as big a jump as going to left field or first base, something like that. I don’t look at it as taking him away from shortstop. He could go back later.
“We’re here to help our major league team win. If we can get players to the big leagues, no matter what position it is, we’re doing our jobs.”
While there has been a lot of focus this year on Mountcastle’s defense and what he can or can’t do, that seems to be taking some focus away from the great season he’s had at bat. While that hasn’t translated to the next level yet, few doubt it will. This is a kid that leads all of the minor leagues in doubles and ranks second in extra-base hits.
While Anderson is there to work with him on defense, he’s seen plenty of Mountcastle at-bats this year too. In fact, he makes sure to take a look when he enters the box.
“He is a guy that when he hits you go to the top step (of the dugout) to watch him hit,” Anderson said. “We’ve all been in the game a long time and there are not many players you do that for. You go, ‘Hold on, I want to see this guy hit.’ We have players like that. (Austin) Hays is a guy like that. (Cedric) Mullins is a player like that. It is exciting to see all these guys together and that will help Ryan, too.”
As for the Birds: The Orioles were hoping to get the good Ubaldo Jiménez yesterday and they got just that. After pitching to an ERA of 9.95 over his previous four starts, he gave up just three hits and two runs over six innings with nine strikeouts at Tropicana Field. But the Orioles backed with him just one run on six hits and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position in a 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Orioles scored 10 runs in the three-game series after scoring 51 in the previous six games.
It was a disappointing series to lose. It was against a team that is ahead of them in the wild card race and a team they beat in the series opener, only to lose the last two games.
The Orioles are 6-7 since the All-Star break and they can’t seem to build momentum to make a run at the playoff spot they say they are chasing. We are down to the final days before the non-waiver trade deadline as the Orioles take today off and then start a series at Texas on Friday night.
AFL note: Player assignments will be announced next week, but the Arizona Fall League announced organization and staff assignments on Wednesday. Orioles players this year will go to the Salt River Rafters and join players from Arizona, Colorado, Miami and Milwaukee. That team will be managed by the Diamondbacks’ J.R. House.
Single-A Frederick’s Brian Guzman will serve as one of two trainers for Salt River when the season begins Oct. 10. A 2007 graduate of Penn State University, Guzman, 32, received his master’s degree in athletic training from Long Island University-Brooklyn. He served as an athletic training intern for the New York Mets in 2013 before joining the Orioles in 2014. In his first season, he was an athletic training intern for the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League Orioles before joining the Keys as the athletic trainer in 2015, where he has remained since.