When Orioles closer Zach Britton pitches for a minor league affiliate tonight, it will be his first game action this year, and first since his December Achilles surgery. It will be a nice step forward for Britton.
But Britton also knows that while it will be a big step toward his return to the Orioles, it could also lead to his being traded by the Orioles at some point this summer. The players see the reality of the situation. They understand as they look around their clubhouse these days, some of the faces may be gone by this year’s trade deadline if not sooner. Britton is one of four key pending free agents and for the second year in a row his name will likely come up in trade discussions.
“Last year we had a lot of experience with trade talks,” Britton said. “I think you realize that it is part of the situation we are in. We haven’t played well and a lot of guys are free agents. You always want to be wanted by other teams, so it’s not a bad thing that maybe teams are interested in acquiring you. But it’s not for us to decide. It’s for the organization to figure out what they want to do. Whatever they do, I’ve just got to get healthy and get back on the mound. And wait for the organization to kind of decide where they want to go.”
The better Britton pitches upon his return to the majors, the sooner he will show potential suitors he could help them via a trade.
“I think just pitching well in general (is my goal) and getting back to where I want to be. That is with the Orioles, that is where I’m at now. If it’s with another team pitching well (later in the year), as competitors, we just want to play well, no matter where we are. You want to be helping a team.”
The Orioles are now 21 games under .500 (17-38) and 21 games out of first place. Even the most pessimistic fan or analyst probably could not have seen this team falling so far so fast in 2018.
“This is disappointing,” Britton said. “We had high expectations for ourselves coming into the year. A lot of us knew this could be our last chance to win with this organization and we’re pretty disappointed about where we are. The fact we have to deal with conversations about the trade deadline and so forth.”
“Yeah, I mean. When you say the numbers and look at the standings, it’s mind boggling where we are. With the guys we have on paper and the track records, it’s pretty much just unacceptable. That is probably the best word for it. And I think we know that. We know that we haven’t lived up to the standards that we should. You try to figure out a way to turn it around right now, I guess. You continue to come to the field and try to play well. For ourselves individually, but maybe for another team. But right now it’s about helping this organization try to get back on track. Whatever happens in a month from now is completely out of the players control.”
Britton doesn’t have to look far to find a player that has been the subject of continued rumor and speculation but has not let it impact his game.
“Individually, you watch a guy like Manny (Machado). There has been talk about him since last offseason. And the way he has played with that pressure, I don’t think you realize how hard that is, for a guy his age to do that,” he said.
Mancini points the finger at himself: I’ve been covering baseball long enough to know that fans respond with a measure of respect for a player that points the finger at himself when he’s not playing well.
Orioles left fielder Trey Mancini did that in a big way when I interviewed him before Tuesday’s game. Mired in a .118 (6-for-51) slump over his past 13 games, Mancini said, “We’ve been struggling and you feel responsible for that if you are not playing up to your standards.”
He is taking his current struggles hard adding that, “Sometimes I can go out there to try and prove that I belong here still and there is no reason for me to do that.”
That is for sure. Mancini belongs in the bigs. This too shall pass, but right now he can’t find a middle ground that lies somewhere between caring almost too much and relaxing enough to stop some paralysis by analysis, and get his bat going again. He probably feels like he’ll never get another hit and at the same time, the offense has been awful and so is the team. He feels somewhat repsonsible, but we all know there is plenty of blame to be spread around for a team with such a terrible record.
“It has honestly been the toughest two weeks since I’ve been called up to the majors,” Mancini said. “The only time I can compare it to is the beginning of my time in (Single-A) Frederick in 2015. I had a pretty rough time. It’s just been tough. Baseball, when you are down and not going well, it can really keep beating you until you get yourself out of it somehow.”
“I think I’ve almost been searching too hard. I think I’m over-analyzing. I’m up at the plate and thinking about what I need to be doing instead of just clearing my head and going up and hitting. Been trying to switch things up too much instead of just committing to an approach. That hasn’t worked for me.”
Maybe getting a bit of a break by not starting last night gave Mancini time to step back, take a breath and realize he’s not the only one coming up short here. To read more about the interview from Tuesday with Mancini, click here.
Bundy’s night: It didn’t appear that Dylan Bundy had his pitches working last night close to the level he had in his 14-strikeout game last week in Chicago. But he scattered 11 hits - tying a career-high - as he kept his team in the game last night. He allowed just three runs over six innings, recording a quality start, yet taking the 3-2 loss versus Washington. Bundy held the Nationals to 1-for-9 when batting with runners in scoring position.
Center fielder Adam Jones said it was a veteran-like performance from Bundy to battle as he did and hold the runs down for Washington.
“At the end of the day you will give up hits,” Jones said. “It is what it is. Those guys get paid too. But when you can minimize that damage and still go out and get six-plus innings, that is when you get that maturation process. You see some of the big names in the game, no matter how they throw, they often wind up with 120 pitches. Once you get in that mode, that level, management will always be comfortable with you throwing 100-plus pitches no matter the results. Tonight he scattered 11 hits against an offense that drives in a lot of runs. He did a helluva job.”