Ryan Mountcastle isn’t here to sit.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde inserted Mountcastle into tonight’s lineup, giving one of the organization’s top prospects the start in left field and batting him sixth. And Mountcastle is going to stay busy, including the possibility of making some starts at first base with Chris Davis on the injured list.
“I’m going to play him a lot,” Hyde said today in his Zoom conference call with the media.
“He’s playing left field tonight. We’re going to give him a lot of work in left field. Possibly play some first base also, but give him a lot of at-bats for the next 30-plus games. I know he’s excited to be here and looking forward to watching him play.”
The Orioles decided that Mountcastle finally was ready to vacate the alternate camp site at Bowie. Nothing left for him to do there.
“I just think we feel comfortable with the work that he’s put in at the secondary site,” Hyde said.
“This isn’t a snap decision. This is something we’ve talked about for a while now and we felt like today was the day. He’s been playing well down there, he’s been putting a lot of work in. The coaches down there have been really impressed with the work he’s put in, the improvement he has shown, not only defensively but at the plate. And we’re all on board for him to make his debut tonight.”
Said Mountcastle: “I feel like I got a bunch of at-bats down there. There weren’t that many position guys, so we definitely got our chances to hit and I feel like I’m ready to go.”
Hyde welcomed Mountcastle to the team this afternoon, congratulated him and planned to speak more with him on the field. Mountcastle did some hitting indoors prior to batting practice.
“It was just, be yourself, enjoy this moment, have some fun tonight,” Hyde said. “I don’t want to put any pressure on him. I don’t want him to feel like he’s got to do anything different than he would in a normal game.
“Today’s going to be a big day, he’s going to have butterflies, he’s going to be nervous. So I just want him to feel as relaxed as possible.”
Mountcastle is aware of the hype surrounding him and how fans grew impatient with the organization’s deliberate approach to introducing him to the majors. Hyde will keep checking to make certain that the rookie avoids falling into the trap of doing too much in order to please everyone immediately.
“I just think you’ve got to stay positive,” Hyde said. “We’ve all been through guys making their debuts, prospects making their debuts. Some go well, some don’t, some figure it out later than others. We talked about that a little bit. So I just want him to be as comfortable as he can possibly be. I want him to feel like he belongs here.
“I think he’s a confident guy. Half of the battle is to feel like you belong here and I think he feels that way. But I just want him to play his game and be a part of the team and not feel like he needs to carry any load, but just take four good at-bats a night. We’ll continue to work on his defense and just be part of our lineup and part of the team.”
Said Mountcastle: “I’m just going to go out there and play my game and not try to do too much. That’s all you can do. I’m not going to be trying to hit the ball 800 feet. I’m just going to try to stay within my approach and keep doing what I’ve been doing.”
Keegan Akin, one of the top pitching prospects in the organization, made his major league debut on Aug. 14 before the Orioles optioned him back to the alternate camp site. Mountcastle was next in line.
He won’t be the last.
“It’s exciting,” Hyde said. “It’s exciting to watch guys make their debut, it’s exciting to see young players get here, guys that we feel like could be part of the future arrive.
“I was part of a lot of debuts in Chicago and the excitement with a lot of those guys finally getting there, really talented guys. And watching them progress in the big leagues for the next four years there. And I think it’s the same here. (Hunter) Harvey made his debut last year, Ryan’s making it tonight. There will be others down the road. So it’s an exciting time for our organization, somebody that got drafted high here a few years back that did well in the minor leagues and got to the big leagues. I think a lot of people have been reading about him and now they get to watch him play.
“You see the guys in spring training, but spring training is such a different look than the season, so for one of our homegrown guy to make it, I think it’s exciting for everybody. It’s exciting for the whole organization. A lot of people put a lot of work into this. Not just Ryan, but development guys, coaches, the scout that signed him, front office. And so it feels good organizationally to have somebody make their debut that you feel like is ready and can impact the team.”
Davis is on the 10-day injured list with left knee patellar tendinitis and there’s no timetable for his return.
“He’s got some knee soreness,” Hyde said. “He mentioned it to me about four or five days ago and we just felt like the right thing to do was put him on the IL to continue to get treatment. It acted up on him after the game two days ago, so it was really sore yesterday and felt like the right move was to put him on the IL and give the knee some rest.”
Hyde doesn’t know whether the knee provides an easy explanation for Davis’ continuing struggles at the plate. He’s batting .122/.173/.184 with three doubles, three walks and 16 strikeouts in 52 plate appearances.
Davis had knee soreness earlier this season and also was absent from the team for two days with a sinus infection that caused a low fever and put him in COVID-19 protocol.
“That would be something I’m not really sure,” Hyde said. “I know that it’s been bothering him, so I don’t think that’s helped him. He mentioned to me a little while ago that his knee’s been bothering him and it’s something that he has been going to get treatment for, so I’m sure it hasn’t helped, the way that he’s been feeling.”
The IL move is backdated to yesterday. The Orioles aren’t going to rush him back. There’s no motivation to do it.
Asked whether Davis could be gone for longer than 10 days, Hyde said, “I’m not really sure, not really sure. We’re going to 10-day IL him and we’ll see how he feels over the next 10 days.”
Davis joins Harvey, outfielder Austin Hays and shortstop José Iglesias on the 10-day injured list. Harvey could rejoin the team on the next road trip. Iglesias is getting close, but Hays’ fractured rib is slow to heal.
“Iggy’s hopefully going to be with us here at some point in the road trip, Austin hopefully sometime during the next week to two weeks also,” Hyde said.
“I’m not really sure on his timetable right now. He’s still feeling the rib a little bit, but Iggy’s progressing well.”