Mancini on Hays: “I think he’s going to be a force in the league”

Trey Mancini made 79 starts in right field last season to lead the Orioles, but he also made 52 at first base to rank second behind Chris Davis (86) and five in left field. He served as the designated hitter in 17 games.

The super-utility competition in camp won’t involve Mancini, but he has a tendency to move around in various versions of the lineup.

Mancini won’t express a position preference, but he knows where we won’t find him in 2020.

“I can confidently say I don’t think you’ll be seeing me in center. I don’t think that would be the greatest thing in the world for anybody involved. But I think right or left, either way, honestly, I really don’t have a preference and I’m fine in either place,” Mancini said during his appearance on the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan.

“A lot of times, whenever we play in Fenway, I get to play left there a lot, especially with the Monster there, and it’s a little less ground to cover. So I still get some reps out there, especially when we play in Boston. It’s not too tough of an adjustment going from side to side.

“I felt really good in right last year, especially toward the end of the year. I think that showed up on paper, too. Maybe in the second half of the year my defensive metrics might have been a little better. But it really doesn’t matter, either side.”

No matter where Mancini roams, he’s going to have Austin Hays covering lots of ground as the center fielder.

The Orioles want to get a full season out of Hays and they know exactly where he’s going to play.

Austin-Hays-Diving-Catch-Black-Sidebar.jpg“We all saw in September what he can do and we’ve all known it for a while,” Mancini said. “He’s just had a couple of really unfortunate setbacks injury-wise, and to have Austin healthy and for him to showcase what he can do all of September ... He had so many highlight reel plays that were some of the best catches in MLB last year, and it feels like he was there all year almost, but he was there for a month.

“It’s so great to have him out there and I’m really excited and yeah, curious to see what it will be like to have him there all year, because I think he’s going to be a force in the league.”

Mancini will hop aboard the Orioles’ caravan later today, with stops at the Ellicott City Fire Department for a private tour, a meet and greet at Susan Campbell Park in Annapolis and Happy Hour at Calvert Brewing Company in Upper Marlboro. His next stop will be in Sarasota for spring training.

Never a doubt in his mind that he’d still be with the Orioles and the trade chip label would be torn off - only to be sewn back on during the summer.

Mancini says he was convinced that he’d stick around “and I still am.”

“I said the same thing at the trade deadline, too, in July. There’s always going to be rumors and it’s part of how it goes. It’s a business and I know that, and I know that at any point anybody can be traded hypothetically. But I always felt confident that I was going to stay here in Baltimore and I’m so excited about that.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what this year brings us as far as taking that next step forward in the rebuilding process.”

It’s going to bring another tidal wave of questions about his status in the organization and why he wants to stay on a team that’s many steps away from the threshold of contending.

I asked Mancini, only half-jokingly, if he’s grown tired of it. He laughed and replied, “I get it. It’s something that’s always going to be always going to be asked because there’s always going to be rumors and that’s how it goes.

“It’s something that I know needs to be asked and I’m never afraid to answer the question, so no, it hasn’t gotten old yet, but I’ll let you know if it does.

“I’m well-versed in the question, for sure.”

(I’ll pause here to note again that if you’re going to have a face of the franchise on a rebuilding team and a go-to guy for the media, you could do a heck of a lot worse than Mancini. His presence in the clubhouse and community are extremely important.)

Observers of the 2019 Orioles from within and outside the organization often mention the heightened energy level emanating from a group of players who had plenty of reasons to feel beaten down, but never showed it. They kept battling until the last out, returned to the clubhouse and vowed to reduce the mistakes and keep trying to improve.

“I think that starts with (Brandon) Hyde,” Mancini said, giving a nod to the first-year manager.

“That was his main message coming into spring training last year when we had our whole team meeting was that we’re going to play with a high energy and no matter what, we’re going to be in every game and be a team that people won’t really enjoy playing, and I think we definitely lived up to that. And I think we can be even better this year just from the fact that we lost so many close games, so many gut-wrenching, heartbreaking losses last year I feel like by one run last in the games. If we can even win a few more of those games, I think that will show up big time on paper. So I definitely expect our team attitude and the way we play to get even better from last year.

“At the end of the year I just remember when the season ended thinking how quickly it went by. It was so fun to come to the field every day and play with that group of guys. Even though we went 54-108, it did not feel like that at all.”

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