Orioles manager Brandon Hyde likes what he sees from the team’s new-look infield.
Freddy Galvis and Yolmer Sanchez were each acquired in the offseason and will patrol shortstop and second base, respectively. Trey Mancini is back with the team after fighting colon cancer and will take over at first base. Rio Ruiz is the only holdover who got regular playing time last year and is expected to start at third base.
Hyde was already well acquainted with Mancini and Ruiz. He’s been impressed with the new energy that Galvis and Sanchez bring to the club.
“You can watch them do their defensive work and they make it important,” Hyde said of the middle infielders. “I know they’re working hard right now with our hitting guys, making some adjustments, and want to have good offensive years. I think anything’s possible.”
The wild card among the infielders is Jahmai Jones, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for right-hander Alex Cobb. He has a high upside and can make an impact this season.
Here is a breakdown of those players:
Galvis, who has spent time with Phillies, Padres, Blue Jays and Reds, has hit .247/.291/.385 during nine major-league seasons and has a deft glove. Last season, he batted .220/.308/.404 with five doubles and seven home runs with Cincinnati.
Galvis, 31, has taken on a leadership role for some of the younger players and is routinely providing advice and tips during drills and between innings.
“We try to communicate and talk baseball, about every situation that could happen in the game,” Galvis said. “That is part of being a good baseball player and a good teammate. Especially right now for me, I’m trying to get to know everybody, put some names with faces, and so far it’s been good.
“It’s coming naturally — just talking baseball and [trying] to help my teammates. They want to learn, they know they are young guys in the league. They want to learn some new stuff, so trying to win and help them every single day.”
Sanchez, 28, will provide the Orioles with a solid glove and dependable bat. He was claimed off waivers from the White Sox Oct. 30. Sanchez has hit .245/.300/.360 during seven big-league seasons while winning a Gold Glove as a second baseman in 2019. Sanchez is versatile and plays second base, third base and shortstop.
“I believe in my talent, but I don’t take anything for granted,” said Sanchez, who played in just 11 games in 2020. “Last year was a tough year for me, but I believe I can play my best baseball in the big leagues and I see myself as a starting second baseman.”
The return of Mancini has provided the club with an emotional boost after he a cancerous tumor removed from his colon nearly 12 months ago. The 29-year-old received a standing ovation from his teammates, the opposing Pittsburgh Pirates and the fans in his spring-training debut Feb. 28.
“It was amazing,” Mancini said. “I almost teared up a little bit, I’m not going to lie, when I was up there. You know everybody gave me a standing ovation and I saw the guys on the field clapping and the Pirates in their dugout, our team and all our fans. It meant the world to me.”
Mancini last played in 2019 when he was the Orioles’ MVP, leading the team in doubles (38), home runs (35), RBI (97), extra-base hits (75), total bases (322), OBP (.364), slugging (.535) and OPS (.899). Mancini is confident he’ll regain that stroke, which is good news for the Orioles.
Ruiz has been a regular at third base for the Orioles since he was claimed off waivers in December 2018. Last year, he slashed .222/.286/.427 with 11 doubles, nine homers and was tied for the team lead with 32 RBIs in 54 games. Ruiz, 26, is looking to be more consistent this season and put together a breakout season.
“Confidence is everything. It’s OK to be a little arrogant when you are on the field. I think you have to be,” Ruiz said. “I think that’s half the battle in the big leagues because everyone is so dang good, man. If you have any self-doubt, it’s going to creep in, no doubt about it, through a 162-game schedule. Confidence is everything and I’ll do everything I can to keep that level of confidence throughout the year.”
Jones, 23, made his big-league debut in 2020 for the Angels, finishing with three hits in seven at-bats. He was the Angels’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2017 after hitting .282/.348/.446 with 29 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs, 86 runs, 47 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in a combined 127 games between Low-A Burlington and High-A Inland Empire.
During his minor-league career, Jones has slashed .258/.338/.386 with 90 doubles, 24 triples, 35 home runs and 96 stolen bases in 484 career games. He could add more versatility to the Orioles because of his ability to play second base and the outfield.
Even if he doesn’t make the club out of spring training, Jones could eventually make his way to Baltimore at some point during the 2021 season. He’ll spend time at both second base and in the outfield during the spring.
Either way, Jones is ready to make an impact.
“I definitely knew this was an organization that wanted guys that were young, hungry players,” Jones said. “Wanted guys that could be developed into great players and I definitely think I’m a good fit in this organization. And the team around me already has been great. The staff has been great. I’ve loved every minute of it so far.”
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