BY BRIAN REID, @bshupresident
As Trey Mancini stepped up to the plate for his second major-league at bat on September 20, 2016, a million thoughts must have raced through his head. He needed to impress the coaches and front office to secure his spot on the roster, while trying to get the fans behind him as well. There was also the difficulty of the game situation: The Orioles were down 2-0 to the Boston Red Sox in a series that would be critical in determining if the Orioles would make the playoffs.
The pressure is unimaginable for those of us who have never been to the big show, but who could forget how Mancini responded? He crushed the one-ball, one-strike delivery from Eduardo Rodriguez to left-center, 433 feet away. In his next start, two days later, Mancini homered again. In his third start, he managed what only two others have done by homering in his first three major-league starts. Fans around Baltimore were delighted and could not wait to see what Mancini could bring next season.
Unfortunately, we may not see what Mancini can do over the course of a full season this year. Mancini’s only defensive position in the minor leagues was first base, and Chris Davis has that position locked down for the foreseeable future. The option for Mancini to be the designated hitter was eliminated last month, when the Orioles re-signed Mark Trumbo. Trumbo’s poor defense in the outfield, along with the acquisition of Seth Smith, makes him the likely everyday DH.
With that being said, it looks like Mancini will become the odd-man out. He isn’t versatile enough to make the team as a utility man, and the idea of manager Buck Showalter using a valuable spot on his bench for a second designated hitter is ludicrous.
However, MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski indicated late last month that Mancini is taking outfield practice. If the Orioles elect to let Mancini play the outfield, he will likely find himself in direct competition with Rule 5 draft pick Aneury Tavarez for the final spot on the bench, assuming two things: the Orioles will carry 12 pitchers and 13 position players as they did last year, and that Joey Rickard and Ryan Flaherty will be two of those 13 position players.
Therefore, Mancini’s chances to make the roster right out of spring training are not looking all that great. We all know how much executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette values his Rule 5 guys, and Showalter loves Flaherty for his ability to play anywhere, and Rickard for his outfield defense, speed, and able grind out at-bats.
Mancini will probably have to wait in Triple-A Norfolk for his chance to get back to the majors, but I would bet that we see him sooner rather than later. Mancini has had incredible success hitting the ball at every level, and if Tavarez struggles, Showalter may find a pothole for him to free up space for Mancini.