Mazara on the much needed single revisiting the reduced rotation competition
SARASOTA, Fla. — Nomar Mazara knew the media was ready to speak to him in the bullpen area last night, but fans weren’t done asking for his autograph. He signed baseballs, which were thrown at him over the fence that separated them. A child asked for his cap, which he kept on his head.
Jokingly saying he’s a man of the people, Mazara smiled and said that’s what happens when you’ve played for so many teams.
He wants the opportunity to involve the Orioles.
Mazara has been tussling at the plate, pushing him further behind the competition for one last place on the bench. He was 3-for-23 before bouncing a game-winning two-run single into right field in the second inning.
The next two at-bats ended with a comeback that put Franchy Cordero in a rundown between third base and home and a line drive to Blue Jays first baseman John Aiello.
Another ball landed, resulting in an out.
A bouncer through the right felt like vengeance, but it’s still owed.
“Cage work and stuff like that,” he said. “The results weren’t there, but just try to go out every day and just have good bats. In the last couple of games I’ve been hitting the ball better and just right at people.
“It doesn’t mean I’ll try to do extra stuff because I have a routine, I work thousands of swings every day to trust what I have here. I’m not worried about that. I know what I’m capable of and seeing more bats, starting to feel better in my legs. Seeing a result is also huge for the confidence and work that is being done in the cage.”
Mazara is trying to make a late push and avoid getting caught in an upcoming round of cuts. The Orioles were filled with left-handers who are not in the roster, with Mazara being an exception among players eligible to play at first base. He would need a big spring offensively to mess up the team’s outfield plans and it didn’t happen.
“I’m feeling good about the swing,” he said. “I don’t see daily reps so I feel pretty good when I’m playing every other day and still being out there and seeing the courts well and trying to be a good slugger every time. The results weren’t there, but that doesn’t mean anything. I work very, very hard, I know what I’m capable of and I know that one day I can help this team.”
There could be a wait in the Triple-A for Mazara, who tied for fifth place in the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year with the Rangers and hit 79 home runs in four seasons with them. Cordero had three more hits last night, including a pair of doubles, and is 14-to-26 with seven extra base hits. Josh Lester sang in his only at-bat and is 13 against 32.
Ryan O’Hearn is close to returning from a right knee injury and is 9-for-19.
“It’s a really good competition,” Mazara said. “Of course everyone is here to help the team and that’s a good thing. This is a difficult decision for the front office. They know what they’re looking for and we’re talented. We have depth and that’s good. We have so many lefties that can do a really good job now, later, whenever they want, whatever decision they want to make.
“The competition has been good and hopefully we can continue that.”
Mazara wanted to move on from his interview seat after the last question, but a woman called him in Spanish and asked if he would sign something for her young son. More children crowded the fence as he walked over to them.
“You have to be nice to the kids,” he said.
* Mike Baumann was a long shot to make the spring training rotation but was among a dozen candidates on the 40-man roster.
Baumann is out and manager Brandon Hyde confirmed last night that the right-hander will be used for short relief.
It seemed a good fit as Baumann retired the Blue Jays with an eighth-inning strikeout.
“That was impressive tonight,” said Hyde. “High ’90s fastball, a good slider, cutter. At the moment we are looking at a shorter sprint for him.”
Baumann worked two, three and two innings that spring, allowing eight runs with five walks and 10 strikeouts. Six of the runs were scored in two innings in Dunedin on Saturday.
Twelve candidates became nine, with Drew Rom an option and DL Hall, still awaiting his debut and unable to rack up the necessary innings to start. Rome was also a long shot.
Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin and Grayson Rodriguez are in, and Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer will have to assess their chances. Kremer is back from the World Baseball Classic and starts today against the Twins at Fort Myers, with Rodriguez getting the ball on the Red Sox’s home turf on Saturday.
Tyler Wells, Austin Voth, Spenser Watkins and Bruce Zimmermann are not eliminated.
* With a camp list of 51 players, Lester and catcher Maverick Handley escaped from the auxiliary clubhouse across the hall and found lockers in the main area.
The back room is now reserved for players traveling to games from minor league camp.