Wondering about Orioles’ outfield alignment

The days are dwindling until Orioles pitchers and catchers report, and the intrigue and curiosity are building as more storylines begin to develop.

Others will surface with the front office continuing to explore the free agent and trade markets, but we’re already off to a good start.

The various competitions will provide copy, including the rotation, bullpen and bench. Someone is bound to get hurt, which requires daily updates and the hope that it’s anything except a groin. And there’s usually one work visa situation that delays a player’s arrival in camp.

I’ve been doing this long enough to know what’s coming.

Most of the time.

There are subjects that won’t warrant as much attention as, for instance, how the back end of the rotation unfolds or which reserves are included on the 26-man roster, but they’ve got to be tracked over the course of six weeks in the Florida sun.

mancini-trey-leaping-catch-white-sidebar.jpgAn example is whether Trey Mancini stays in right field, shifts to left or moves back and forth.

Mancini made 85 starts in left field in 2017, but former manager Buck Showalter often stated that the rookie was better suited for the other corner. Mancini made 94 in left the following season, but he led the club with 78 in right in 2019.

Anthony Santander was runner-up with 37. He made 32 in left but seems to prefer right - the opposite of Dwight Smith Jr., who is strictly a left fielder.

Mancini will play anywhere, including first base when Chris Davis is out of the lineup. He’ll gladly serve as the designated hitter, while others would rather have toenail fungus than “DH” written beside their name on the lineup card.

Manager Brandon Hyde has an outfield decision to make beyond the starters and reserves. Santander is slated to become a more regular presence in the lineup, but where?

An early prediction is that Mancini remains in right, but we’ll see how it plays out in drills and exhibition games.

The 52 starts at first base could increase substantially depending on what happens with Davis.

There’s no mystery in center. It’s a one-piece puzzle. Austin Hays is the guy as long as he can avoid another freakish injury.

He won’t suffer a thumb injury at the minor league complex because he isn’t going to be optioned.

Hyde also has to figure out whether Smith is miscast as a reserve outfielder, since he isn’t the type who backs up at all three spots. He’s out of options and could stick as the left fielder when the lineup is adjusted to put Mancini at first base.

Cedric Mullins and Mason Williams are valued for their ability to play center and also move around. And yes, Stevie Wilkerson made the most starts in center last season and could head north again as a super-utility player.

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