BOSTON—Before Friday’s opener against the Red Sox, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde thought his designated hitter might be uneasy.
“We have Ryan Mountcastle, who’s never played in front of fans before in the big leagues,” Hyde said. “You try to remind them this is the same game they’ve played their entire lives on a little bit different stage, and it’s on TV.”
If Mountcastle was unnerved, he didn’t show it. After an impressive preview, in which he hit .333 in 35 games with five home runs and 23 RBIs, the 24-year-old, who’s still eligible for Rookie of the Year honors because he fell four at-bats short of the 130 at-bat maximum, is eager to prove last year wasn’t a fluke,
In 2020, a season in which fans weren’t allowed to attend games because of the pandemic, Mountcastle played left field in 23 games, was the first baseman in nine and the DH in two. This year, with Trey Mancini back after missing 2020 because of colon cancer surgery, Mountcastle might be the DH more often.
On Friday, his two-run, sixth-inning double gave the Orioles their first runs of 2021 on the way to a 3-0 Opening Day victory over the Crimson Sox earlier than 4,452 followers. John Means, who allowed just one hit in seven standout innings, was the star. Trey Mancini, who had a stroll and a success in his first sport again, was the feel-good story. However it was Mountcastle, whose double was stored within the park by Fenway’s Inexperienced Monster, who was the offensive hero.
“I assumed he hit that ball out,” Hyde mentioned. “To contribute the best way he did and put a very nice swing to provide us the lead and break the ice for us …
“Opening Day is particular for everybody. When it’s your first one, it’s one thing you’ll bear in mind for the remainder of your life. Whenever you produce the best way he did, it was an unbelievable second for him, and massive for us.”
A lifelong Floridian, Mountcastle was trying ahead to the primary Opening Day sport, even when it was 37 levels at sport time.
“Yeah, I haven’t performed in climate like this a lot in my profession,” Mountcastle mentioned. “I’ve received to get used to it in some unspecified time in the future, I assume.”
Mountcastle had his stepfather, youthful brother, girlfriend and her household for help. And despite the fact that he wasn’t capable of socialize freely with them due to well being and security protocols, the restriction didn’t hassle him.
“I’ve gone to huge league spring coaching 4 or 5 instances, and I’ve gotten despatched down each time,” he mentioned earlier than the sport. “The primary time I get to interrupt with the membership, it’s undoubtedly a surreal second, one thing I’ll cherish for certain.”
Final yr was a enjoyable experience for Mountcastle. This yr could be tougher.
“They’re going to do their scouting studies and all that stuff,” Mountcastle mentioned. “They’re going to attempt to do no matter they will to get me out. It’s as much as me whether or not I wish to alter or not. That’s a part of the sport.”
Hyde is assured that Mountcastle will probably be as much as the problem.
“He’s a menace when he swings the bat,” Hyde says. “He has a middle-of-the-field strategy and understands the best way to keep on the baseball, which he does nearly all of the time. He’s very, very harmful as a result of he’s athletic, he’s received nice fingers, he’s received enormous energy, and he’s going to should make changes this yr.
“I’ve seen loads of good, younger gamers come into the league and have two good months, after which it’s powerful for some time. That’s completely regular. I don’t wish to put an excessive amount of strain on him. I believe he’s going to have ups and downs this yr like most good, younger gamers do. However I actually imagine within the potential, and I actually imagine within the upside, and I believe he has an opportunity to be an excellent participant on this league for a very long time.”
Means, who retired the final 18 batters he confronted after a leadoff hit by Kiké Hernández, is impressed.
“He’s a particular expertise,” Means mentioned. “He’s received an ideal mentality for this sport. I don’t assume any second is just too huge for him. He stays inside himself. You’re going to be seeing this child for a very long time.”
Mountcastle has been talked about for a very long time within the Orioles’ group. From the time he was drafted as a shortstop in 2015, Mountcastle struggled to discover a place. He was moved from brief to 3rd base, then to first base and left subject. Final September he received to play in Fenway and performed left subject in entrance of the Inexperienced Monster.
“Something over your head is off the Monster,” Mountcastle mentioned. “You’ve received to play it off the wall. It virtually really feel such as you’re within the shortstop’s again pocket taking part in on the market as a result of it’s so shallow, too. I wouldn’t say it’s too tough, nevertheless it’s undoubtedly totally different.”
He’s now comfy in left, as he’s with the chatter that he can win the American League’s Rookie of the 12 months award.
“I’ve simply received to go on the market and play my sport,” he mentioned. “If I try this, I believe I’ve a fairly good shot at getting it. I’m probably not going to press to win any awards.”
Hyde selected to place him within the cleanup place at designated hitter on Friday. Mountcastle didn’t let him down.
“He’s a younger child that’s performed a month within the huge leagues, and he’s hitting fourth within the American League East, and since he’s received poise, as a result of he’s received confidence, this man goes to be a very good hitter on this league,” Hyde mentioned.