After the July trades where some veteran leaders exited the Orioles clubhouse, a much younger and less experienced team emerged. There were fewer veteran leaders and there may be fewer yet in 2019.
Outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini looks around the clubhouse and sees that he has become a veteran on this team almost overnight. This time last year, he was wrapping up a strong rookie season, one that led him to a third-place finish for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
A year later, has he already transitioned from a rookie to a leader?
The answer seems to be yes and Mancini is fine with that.
“You know, we traded away so many guys that had been here for a long time,” Mancini said this afternoon. “You look up and all the sudden, you’ve been here longer than 90 percent of the locker room, which is crazy. Especially since I was a rookie last year. I feel like I’ve just kind of been thrown into a role of being one of the veteran guys.
“You feel like you have to be a mentor to some of the younger guys. Whoever we are facing that day (on the mound), give them some pointers. Some guys are coming to me, and I know how it is when you get up here, too, so I will seek them out also and help any way I can. Kind of gone through the transition from a wide-eye rookie and always have an older guy to look to and now being that person.”
Does Mancini embrace that challenge?
“Absolutely. Yeah. When I got here the bar was set very high,” he said. “It was veteran guys that had been here since 2011, 2012. Just kind of watched the way they operated and I knew how things should be done from a professional standpoint. You learned, through watching them, how to be a professional and handle your business, and you try to instill that on the younger guys coming up now.”
Mancini knows that on a team that will finish with both the worst record in the majors and worst in Orioles history, you need to find some small victories and reasons for hope and encouragement. He said he saw some recently.
“Actually, I think (the team is holding up) really good. I think we have started to mesh a little bit,” he said. “It takes a while. How many guys have we had - 56 play on the team this year? With that comes a lot of turnover and I think getting to know guys on a more personal level goes a long way. I think we have this group here now that going forward, hopefully we will all be here for a good amount of time. So once you have that group together you get to know each other and you start clicking and it’s been really fun.
“Especially the New York series, I was proud of the way guys like DJ (Stewart) and Cedric (Mullins) and a lot of our pitchers, they came in and played great. That was a playoff game (atmosphere) in New York. They want to host that (wild card) game very badly. There are no morale victories and we lost the first two games. But sometimes after losses you can be down, but those games were encouraging and we got rewarded for that on Sunday. I was impressed with how we handled that environment.”
As a product of the Oriole farm system, Mancini is particularly encouraged by some of the players that came up this year from the minors.
“I’ve been seeing it. They do a really, really good job in the minors here with a good line of communication that guys know what they need to do when they get here coming up through our system,” he said. “I’m proud of the way some guys have developed. Tanner (Scott), for an example. Had some early struggles and he’s been looking awesome lately. Things like that are really encouraging to see. Our younger guys are looking, not comfortable, but they are starting to be a little less timid in the games. It’s exciting going forward seeing that.”