“Definitely ready to get it going,” Mancini said. “I always like coming a few days early. Once the new year starts you’re always ready to go. I was definitely ready to get down here at this point.”
The expectations for another last-place season in the rebuild hasn’t crushed the enthusiasm.
“I think we’re all looking to improve this year in a lot of areas,” Mancini said. “Improve our record, for sure. I think that should be an expectation. We lost so many close games last year and I think this year we can build on that, and if we win a few more of those games it will obviously show up on the record.
“I think playing with all these guys for a year and us being together as a group for that long is really going to help in that regard, too.”
Camp is flooded with prospects this spring, including catcher Adley Rutschman and pitchers Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Bruce Zimmermann and Alex Wells. Mancini has laid eyes on a few and otherwise knows them only from what he’s read and heard.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I think we’ve done a really good job drafting last year and a couple years before, and we’ve got some really good, young arms coming up. I saw what they all did on the farm last year, so I’m excited to see them in person.
“I think we’ve got, like, 67 guys here right now, so it’s a lot of guys to see, but I think it will be really fun and the fans should be really excited about a lot of these guys that they’re going to get to see for the most part for the first time this spring.”
Also, Mancini is still “very glad” that he wasn’t traded. Updates to follow as they become available.
Cody Carroll is healthy and trying again to earn a spot in the bullpen after back surgery last summer limited him to two appearances in the Gulf Coast League and a stint in the Arizona Fall League.
“It feels like it’s been two or three years since I’ve been able to do anything,” he said. “It’s just been long, but it couldn’t come quick enough for me.”
Something happened to Carroll last spring after he left major league camp, where he allowed only two runs with one walk and nine strikeouts in seven innings and led the club with three saves. He never sustained a back injury of any sort before 2019.
“It was tough, but you just have to roll with the punches you’re given and go day by day. It’s kind of what I ended up doing,” he said.
“I ended up having a microdiscectomy, so they just shaved off a piece of my disc in my lower back. It is what it is, but we’re healthy now and that’s all that matters.”
Carroll, obtained from the Yankees in the Zack Britton trade in July 2018, doesn’t know how he sustained the injury.
“It just kind of came out of nowhere,” he said.
Sort of like John Means, who has gone from surprise inclusion on the 25-man roster last spring to perhaps the opening day starter next month.
“A little bit different mentality,” he said, “but I want to come in here still thinking that I’m competing, still thinking that I’ve got to go out there and prove something. And that’s usually how I want to go out there and pitch.”
Means and Alex Cobb are the only certainties for the rotation, assuming the latter remains healthy after undergoing hip and knee surgeries. Asher Wojciechowski is expected to join them, though he has to compete for a spot.
Beyond the trio are a host of question marks and competitions.
“I think we have a lot of guys here who can go out there and perform,” Means said. “The same thing with me last year. You just never know with guys who don’t have any time. Don’t know what they did this offseason, don’t know how they’re going to come out, so I’m excited to get everybody out there and see what they’ve got.”
The Orioles didn’t truly know what they had in Means prior to last spring training, and he can pass along his experiences to the younger, less-heralded pitchers in camp.
“I think I bring a unique kind of look at it because I wasn’t a prospect, I wasn’t a guy that came up and they were thinking was going to be here,” he said. “Just to talk to these guys who have been in the minor leagues and the transition that it takes to pitch in the big leagues, I think I bring that to it, but I’ll probably just dish off the leadership roles to the older guys.”
Means basically hit the replay button on his previous offseason, again working out at Premier Pitching and Performance in St. Louis. The only change was he also got married.
“It was about the same as last year,” he said. “I was driving back and forth. I spent the weekends in Kansas City and then the weeks in St. Louis. Got an apartment this year in St. Louis. So spent a little bit more time, probably, but pretty much the same thing.
“Now that I had a year under my belt, I had some things that I definitely wanted to work on and I went there and tried to accomplish those goals and see how it looks.”
* The Orioles announced a series of minor league hires, including Liz Pardo as the first female strength and conditioning coach in the organization’s history.
Pardo, who has been assigned to short-season Single-A Aberdeen, was the strength and conditioning coach for the Georgia College and State University women’s soccer and men’s basketball and baseball teams.
Other strength and conditioning coaches hired by the Orioles are Trey Wiedman (Triple-A Norfolk), Jonathan Medici (Double-A Bowie), Kevin Mixon (Single-A Frederick), Tim Chiarolanza (Single-A Delmarva), Brandon Farish (Rookie-level Gulf Coast League) and Julio Diaz and Andres Tarazona (Dominican Summer League).
The Orioles also hired Nick White as minor league strength and conditioning coordinator. He spent the last five years as Coastal Carolina’s assistant director for speed, strength, and conditioning.
Ethan Stewart joins the organization as player performance facilitator and Amaíma García is the new education coordinator.