Ryan Mountcastle didn’t get a hit in his long-awaited major league debut. Instead, he found a way to impact the game in another way, a surprising way.
In an 0-for-2 debut, Mountcastle walked twice and had one strikeout — a stark contrast from his time in the minor leagues.
Last year at Triple-A Norfolk, he struckout 130 times and walked just 24 times in 553 plate appearances. But his power and batting ability more than made up for the fact, as he batted .312 with a .344 on-base percentage and 25 home runs.
The Orioles lost their sixth-straight game in an 8-5 defeat at the hands of the Red Sox, somewhat spoiling his debut. The loss also dropped the Orioles to 12-14 on the season and further slipped them down the AL East standings. But on Friday, there was hope for the future.
“Two walks, I think he might’ve walked 10 times in his whole minor league career and he’s up here and he gets two walks in his first game,” starting pitcher John Means cracked after the game. “So I was kind of giving him crap for that. He’s going to be so good for this team for such a long time, I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about him.”
Mountcastle played left field — a position he’d been drilling consistently over the last few months — and batted sixth.
His two walks bookended a strikeout and a lineout to right field, so he’s still waiting for his first major league hit. But his performance Friday showed the plate discipline drills he’d been practicing at the team’s alternate site in Bowie have made, at least for one night, a difference.
“I thought those were two good at-bats,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Really happy with both those walks. Nice for him to get his feet wet tonight, caught a couple balls out there in left and took a couple good at-bats.”
On a smaller scale, Mountcastle’s debut was the first of 30-plus games in 2020 for the 23-year-old slugger that should prove as a good taste of the major leagues before he all but assuredly makes the Opening Day roster in 2021.
On a larger scale, however, it was the first look at what could be the Orioles’ outfield of the future with Mountcastle in left, Cedric Mullins center and Anthony Santander in right field. Santander went 1-for-5 but extended his hitting streak to 16 games and Mullins went 3-for-4 with a home run.
With Austin Hays still to return due to injury this year, the Orioles’ future could be happening sooner than some may realize.
“It’s always fun playing with Ryan,” Mullins said. “I’ve been playing with him since short-season A-Ball. We always have a great time. I think what helps us strive as ballplayers is just having fun while we’re out there and making the most of our opportunity.”
Hyde promised to get Mountcastle a ton of at-bats as the season goes along, which should give the Orioles a look at a young and promising group of outfielders for a significant portion of the season.
“I think that we’re on the right track with getting talented guys in the system,” Hyde said. “Some of these guys are starting to get to the big leagues and probably getting a lot of playing time.”