With much to gain in Toronto, Mountcastle won't leave O's shorthanded

TORONTO - Much like the American League wild card standings entering Monday night, the glove on Ryan Mountcastle’s left hand tonight will be tight. Perhaps uncomfortably so.

But with so much riding on the Orioles’ three-game series in Toronto, the 25-year-old will “jam” the mitt on and get back on the field. 

The Orioles kept Mountcastle out of Sunday’s lineup in St. Petersburg, Fla., opting for fellow righty Tyler Nevin. The day off made a massive difference, said Brandon Hyde.

“I think that the entire day (Sunday) of getting some rest on that hand was beneficial,” Hyde said in the visitors dugout before batting practice. “He spent the majority of the day getting treatment on it yesterday and then today as well. He responded pretty well and is feeling a lot better, so he’s back in there.”

Mountcastle was frustrated he had to miss the series finale against Tampa Bay. But with the Blue Jays in control of the top wild card berth and the Orioles just 1 ½ games out of the final spot, he’s playing through some pain in the hopes of helping the team gain some ground.

“He did swing in the cage, that felt a lot better than yesterday,” said Hyde. “We’re gonna hit him some ground balls and he’s going to take some throws just to make sure that everything … It’s a pretty big bruise in a tough spot, so hopefully he’s going to be OK."

Mountcastle’s swollen hand is the latest in a strangely long line of injuries to that particular part of the anatomy for the 2022 Orioles. Austin Hays suffered a hand laceration in May and Trey Mancini had a bone growth that kept him out of action.

Had the Orioles tied the score or taken the lead in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Rays, Hyde would’ve needed Terrin Vavra to take over at first base, a position the rookie has never played in pro ball. Vavra came in as a pinch-hitter for Nevin in the ninth inning.

“I like the fact that he’s so versatile,” Hyde said of Vavra. “He has outfield experience, has some second base experience. Actually, yesterday we were hitting some ground balls (to him) at first base, just in case I pinch-hit for Nevin. We’re moving him around the field, I think that’s fantastic. The more guys you can have like that that are versatile, the deeper your roster’s going to be.”

Vavra will be making just his second big league start at second base tonight against lefty Yusei Kikuchi, a sign of confidence from Hyde in the 25-year-old.

“The one thing that Terrin does is manage the strike zone pretty well,” said Hyde. “Kikuchi is a guy that has really good stuff. Gotta get him in the strike zone. When he has his problems is when he throws a lot of pitches outside the zone. Hopefully Terrin can take some good at-bats against him tonight.”

Vavra is the only true lefty in the O’s lineup tonight against Kikuchi, whom the Orioles tagged for five runs seven days ago in Baltimore.

Ryan McKenna leads off in place of Cedric Mullins, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Sunday. But Hyde could use the 2021 All-Star center fielder off the bench in the series opener.

“If a righty comes in the game, there’s a great chance you’re going to see Cedric in the game,” Hyde said of Mullins. “We’re going to face a lot of right-handed pitching after today.”

Kyle Bradish gets the ball for the O’s tonight as they look to improve upon their 4-2 record against the Jays.

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