This, that and the other

The order of probability among Orioles with an opportunity to make the All-Star team is shifting like an infield defense.

John Means appeared to be a lock, but he’s on the injured list with a strained shoulder after his ERA increased to 2.28 in 12 starts, proof again that he’s also raised the bar if this is deemed as a possible deal breaker.

Pulling back to reality, let’s note that Means’ ERA ranked 12th in the majors and third in the American League last night. His 0.83 WHIP was first in the AL and sixth in the majors. The .182 average against trailed only Tyler Glasnow (.168) in the AL. He’s allowing 5.8 hits per nine innings.

There’s also the no-hitter in Seattle and a past All-Star selection.

Let’s see how long he’s on the IL. The Orioles are going to shut him down for seven-to-10 days and ease him back into the rotation. They’d probably love to have him shut down again over the break rather than pitching in an exhibition game.

Give him the honor as deserved and hope his next innings are thrown for the Orioles.

Thumbnail image for Mancini-Chats-with-Sanders-Black-Sidebar.jpgTrey Mancini plays a crowded position, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leading the pack. Other first baseman on the ballot include José Abreu, Yuli Gurriel, Ji-Man Choi, Matt Olson, Carlos Santana and Jared Walsh.

Handicapping starters and reserves is complicated with the requirement that every team be represented.

Mancini is an irresistible feel-good story after last year’s cancer diagnosis and the long road back. But there’s more to it. Mancini was tied for fifth in the majors with 44 RBIs last night. He also leads the Orioles with 11 home runs.

His reach can extend beyond the Comeback Player of the Year award, though he isn’t consumed with thoughts of it.

“A little bit, but at the same time, once I start doing that I notice that my shoulders feel a little heavier, things like that. So I just totally try to wipe it out,” Mancini said.

“No matter what, All-Star Game or not, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter in the sense that I’m back playing and I’m healthy, and last year I would have traded literally anything in the world for that to be the case, so I try to keep things in perspective. Obviously, I’m really happy so far with how I’ve been doing, but if you look at the AL first basemen this year, it’s a pretty darn good group. I thought a couple years back that if I was at first base, I had a very good chance and I think I do this year, but it’s impressive this year what a lot of guys are doing. So we’ll see.

“It’s still a long way away and something I’m going to try not to think about, really.”

Center fielder Cedric Mullins could be sprinting ahead of everyone.

In his last seven games, Mullins has gone 15-for-28 with two doubles, two triples and three home runs. He had hits in 9 straight at-bats and reached base in 11 consecutive plate appearances before flying out in the eighth inning of Sunday’s 18-5 win over the Indians.

Game 2 of the May 29 doubleheader in Chicago ended with Mullins slashing .291/.360/.457. He heads into tonight’s series opener against the Mets slashing .322/.390/.533.

Mullins began last night ranked third in the league in average and first in hits with 73. His .390 on-base percentage was fifth and .923 OPS seventh.

The same player who broke camp trying to stay in the lineup and prove that he could hit left-handers after abandoning switch-hitting and avoid a possible platoon.

Mullins is 22-for-72 with five doubles and two home runs against southpaws. Point made.

“What he’s doing right now is, I don’t have words,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Just so impressive,”

“It was a lot of confidence involved, with me being on the tear that I am right now,” Mullins said. “I want to be able to continue to spread that confidence as much as I can to the rest of the team and hopefully get some wins.”

Four out of five this month.

* The trade deadline was moved from July 31 to 30 because some teams are playing earlier games on Saturday and it could complicate the logistics.

Means and Mancini won’t be able to avoid the rumor mill. Mancini is making $4.75 million with one more raise coming before he reaches free agency. But there are the obvious circumstances that make it an uncomfortable topic for everyone.

“I try not to allow myself to go too far down that rabbit hole, because I’ve done it before,” he said. “I’ve done it with a lot of things. I’ve done it with an extension. Almost every year since 2015 when I was in the minors I could have been used as a younger trade piece for a major league piece. There’s always been rumors every single year that I could be traded, so I’ve gotten really used to that.

“In all regards, between that and All-Star Game stuff, all that, I’ve really tried to not let all the noise bother me, because it can affect you. A lot of outside noise if you let it can just make you a little more stressed whenever you’re playing and that leads obviously to not optimal performance. I like to think that I’ve learned a lot over the years and one of those is that it’s something that I truly can’t control. And I have no idea what’s going to happen, I really don’t. And I know I’m a complicated situation with what I went through, but I wouldn’t be surprised in any way.

“Obviously, I love playing here, I want to be here, but at the same time I know that it’s a business, as well, and as long as I’m here I’m going to go out there, I’m going to be the best me, be the best teammate and go out there and try to win games for the Orioles and I hope I’m doing that for a long time. But again, I also have an understanding of how baseball works.

“The fans have taken a liking to me, so it means a lot.”

* Yesterday’s news that the Phillies outrighted infielder Scott Kingery reminded me how the Orioles liked him at the 2017 Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The Orioles did their homework on the Phillies farm system after learning of the club’s interest in Manny Machado. Sources told me that the Orioles coveted pitcher Sixto Sánchez, but he seemed untouchable at the time.

Kingery also was on their radar and rated him as the best second base prospect in baseball. He’s turned into a career .229/.280/.387 hitter in 324 major league games.

The other name I heard floated was shortstop Freddy Galvis. The Orioles finally got their man in 2021.

* I’ve never watched a single minute of “The Bachelorette” on ABC and don’t intend to break my streak. However, there’s an Orioles connection with former minor league outfielder Mike Planeta chosen as a contestant for Season 17, which debuted last night.

Planeta, now 31, was selected in the 27th round of the 2009 draft out of Glendale (Ariz.) Community College. He made it to Single- A Frederick in 2013 and was a career .238/.277/.312 hitter in 387 games.

Planeta owns a gym in Arizona. His bio for the show includes how he doesn’t like desserts and occasionally describes himself as “basic.”

But just occasionally.

I’d pass on the show even if I only had basic cable, but here’s hoping that Planeta has more success on the show than he did in the minors.

Unless he’s already been eliminated. I wouldn’t know.

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