SARASOTA, Fla. - About a month before Trey Mancini arrived at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, he received a text from Orioles catcher Chance Sisco that included a photo of his locker inside the home clubhouse.
Mancini had moved down to the end of the row. In the corner where Adam Jones always resided in spring training. Sacred baseball ground.
With only two full seasons in the majors, Mancini had become the chosen one.
“I certainly didn’t request it,” Mancini said, smiling. “They had to put somebody there. That’s how I look at it.
“I don’t know if it’s like some sort of rite of passage. I don’t take it as that. It’s just that they had to put somebody at the locker and that’s where I am. But yeah, it’s cool.
“I’m obviously not Adam Jones. I’m not trying to be. Nobody can fill his shoes at all. Nobody can do that. But I’m definitely in position now where we have a lot of younger guys and I’ll do my best to do what was done for me whenever I was a young guy here, which was get a lot of veteran leaders to kind of guide me and help me know how major league camp works. Set an example just by the way I go about my business. So that’s really what I’m going to try to do more than anything.”
Mancini always leaves his ego at the door.
“I could be in the auxiliary clubhouse for all I care,” he said.
Mancini didn’t have much of a reaction after opening the text and seeing his nameplate above Jones’ old locker. No anxiety or excitement. Pretty much a flat-line response.
“I don’t really read too much into that,” he said. “It is an honor. He was at this locker for a long time and it’s definitely weird being here and not having him in the corner with the music hooked up and everything like that. I didn’t bring any of that with me, so I can’t promise the same entertainment value over here at all. But even if I tried, I wouldn’t be able to bring that entertainment value, but I do take it as an honor to have this locker, for sure.”
The Orioles haven’t settled on a union representative after Darren O’Day was traded to the Braves. Mancini is a consideration - he said players have asked him for advice on their 401(k) - but it also could be Mark Trumbo or Chris Davis, who filled in for O’Day last season.
There aren’t a lot of veterans lining up to do it.
There aren’t a lot of veterans.
* The Orioles won’t run into former teammate Caleb Joseph in spring training, but the regular season schedule includes a three-game series in Arizona on July 22-24.
Joseph, who signed a one-year deal with the Diamondbacks worth $1.1 million if he’s in the majors, always will rate as a media favorite in Baltimore. Friendly, entertaining and quotable. His impressions, including one of a certain former executive, were hilarious. And the guy didn’t hold back when offering criticism of the 2018 team.
He ruffled a few feathers late last summer after basically saying jobs should be lost following such a disastrous season. And he didn’t go easy on himself.
In a related story, some jobs were lost and the Orioles non-tendered Joseph. They offered a minor league deal this winter that he refused.
The Orioles had negotiated a three-year extension with Joseph last year, talks starting in February and carrying into April. The sides couldn’t agree on the financial return, though I’ve heard they came close, and it died on the vine.
The rest of the season was hard for player and team. The Orioles optioned Joseph a few weeks later while he was batting .182/.203/.325 with one home run and three RBIs in 24 games. He seemed to be sharper behind the plate upon his return in June, though no one knows whether time spent in Norfolk had anything to do with it.
He’s been lauded for his defense in the past. Probably just got back to his level.
He’s back in the majors, getting the type of deal that other veteran catchers on the market couldn’t fetch. Good for him.