Orioles manager Brandon Hyde didn’t possess inside information on the voting process for the Most Valuable Oriole award. However, he seemed to know what was coming.
Hyde expected Trey Mancini to receive the honor, which the club announced earlier today.
“Well, it’s not a surprise to me,” Hyde said. “Well-deserved. Had an amazing year. He’s finishing the year extremely strong and he’s done everything for us this year. An All-Star type year and he’s a great player and one of the better years for me in the American League.
“Class guy, everything you want. So well-deserved.”
Mancini joins a list of recent winners that includes Adam Jones in 2018, Jonathan Schoop in 2017, Manny Machado in 2016, Chris Davis in 2015 and 2013 and Nelson Cruz in 2014. Jones won it three times.
“I’m very honored,” Mancini said. “We’ve got so many guys on this team that were deserving. It’s a great honor and it’s something I definitely don’t take for granted and I’m very appreciative of.”
Mancini enters tonight’s game with a .286/.356/.536 slash line, 36 doubles, two triples, 34 home runs, 93 RBIs, 100 runs scored and 56 walks. He leads the club in doubles, home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases.
The strong finish really is getting him noticed.
As the Orioles endure a 4-14 spell this month, Mancini is slashing .366/.405/.662 with six doubles, five home runs and 19 RBIs.
“I think it just shows you how driven he is, wanting to finish strong and not cashing anything in and not sitting on numbers,” Hyde said. “Really trying to have the best year that he can possibly have.
“I think the way he’s swinging the bat right now, you’re not going to do that for a full season, but he’s getting the ball in the air so much more now and when he gets the ball in the air, good things happen. That’s why you’re seeing the homers and the line drives into right-center or down the right field line last night, a couple of pull homers in Detroit where he stays behind the ball and gets the ball up. It’s loud and it’s usually in the seats.”
Hyde has been learning about Mancini since his first day on the job. The reports and statistics only tell so much.
“I saw the intensity in spring training when, I think it was his fourth or fifth at-bat, he grounded out and he was almost snapping in the dugout,” Hyde said. “I had really never really seen that from a player, who was an everyday-type player who was just getting his at-bats in during the first week of spring training. I talked to him and I said, ‘You always like this?’
“He’s just so hard on himself and I talked to him a lot about that this year. Just so competitive and so driven. But I think just watching him, a couple of the first homers I saw him hit the other way was different than you see most players. He’s just got so much power to right-center and so strong. He’s a really good player.”
The attitude is common among players who aren’t high draft picks. Mancini lasted until the eighth round coming out of Notre Dame in 2013. Pitcher John Means is similar, “and a couple players in Chicago were like that,” Hyde said, “where they weren’t on the prospect list early and have to prove themselves all the way up, have to put up numbers at every level to advance. It just kind of stays with you and once they got here, they weren’t just satisfied to be here, but wanted to be the best player they could possibly be.
“I feel for him because these losses hurt him and he takes it really hard. I think that’s why sometimes there have been a few ninth inning situations where the game’s a little bit on the line and he comes up and you want him to come through and he tries so hard to come through, not for himself but for the team because it matters to him if we win or lose and he puts a lot of pressure on himself.
“I wish he would just relax a little bit, but it really matters to him if we win or lose, so I give him a ton of credit for sticking with this and looking forward to the day to see him be on a winning club.”
Mancini has been ready to emerge as a clubhouse leader, noting at FanFest that players were coming to him about their 401Ks and other matters. He won’t be the loudest guy in the room, but he could wield the most influence.
“I think you’re going to see Trey start to take on even more of a leadership role,” Hyde said. “I think really the second half I’ve seen that a little bit. He’s not the vocal guy. He’s really, really conscious of staying in his own lane. I think he’s very, very professional in that he doesn’t want to speak out of turn, but now for me he can. Now it’s time. Now it’s time to not just let his actions show everybody what kind of player he is, but also he can lead guys, too, in different ways.
“He’s really smart, he’s engaging, he’s fun to be around. Guys really respect him. Has a great attitude. So as he gets more comfortable being in the big leagues and putting up years like he’s putting up, it’s going to be more natural for him to be able to pull guys aside and teach along the way, as well.”
Hitting seems to come naturally. He’s been doing it all year.
I’m very proud of that (consistency),” he said. “I think especially after last year, the first half in particular was just really tough. Tough year. I always knew that I was still the player that I knew I was. But I think there was some doubt from maybe a lot of people and rightfully so as to whether I was more the 2017 or 2018 version of myself. And I always knew it was more the former.
“I wanted to go out every night and play my hardest and play for the team every night. And I knew that if I did that then on a personal level I would be happy with myself at the end of the year.”
Left-hander Richard Bleier makes his first major league start tonight as the opener, and how long he goes depends on his pitch count.
“We’ll see,” Hyde said. “Bleier can have a four-pitch inning. That would be great. I don’t want to put any kind of ... I talked to him earlier, we’re just going to talk after the first and if he pitches a four-pitch second, then we’ll talk about the second. We’ll see it goes. It’s his first start. I know he’s excited about doing it.”
Austin Hays is back in center field after his spectacular catch last night to rob Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of a home run. Hays also homered into the Orioles’ bullpen.
The larger celebration came after the catch, with Hays pounding his chest and his glove and raising his cap to acknowledge Guerrero’s salute.
Hyde joked that the reaction in the dugout pretty much equaled the one from Hays. It was quite a party, and the Orioles enjoyed it.
“We talked a little bit about that in the coaches’ room,” Hyde said. “You like players with edge. I think Austin’s got a little bit of edge to him, where he’s out to beat you and he’s out to make a play and he’s out to have the best at-bat possible. Not scared, but playing the game hard and playing the game to win.
“He’s got great athleticism. He can really run. He’s got some power. You saw it last night, we saw it in spring training. I’ve seen him hit some opposite-field home runs in spring training. But there’s also the way he plays. There’s an attitude there. I think the more guys you have like that the better, and the more guys you have like that that are driven to do something special, that’s when good things happen.”
For the Mariners
Shed Long LF
J.P. Crawford SS
Kyle Seager 3B
Kyle Lewis RF
Omar Narváez C
Austin Nola 1B
Daniel Vogelbach DH
Dylan Moore CF
Dee Gordon 2B
Félix Hernández RHP
Update: Kyle Lewis hit a two-run homer in the first inning.
Update III: The Mariners cut the lead to 4-3 in the fourth on Austin Nola’s RBI grounder, but Hanser Alberto hit a solo homer in the bottom half.