SARASOTA, Fla. -- Ryan Mountcastle's spring training has been a most enjoyable experience. The young third baseman, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Feb. 18, has hit a long home run and demonstrated a quiet confidence.
Mountcastle was a supplemental first round pick by the Orioles in 2015, and last year experienced success at Class-A Frederick. With the Keys, Mountcastle hit .314 with 15 home runs and 47 RBIs in 88 games.
After his promotion from Frederick to Double-A Bowie, Mountcastle switched positions from third base to shortstop, but that success didn’t follow him.
In 39 games with the Baysox, Mountcastle hit 3 homers and 15 RBIs and just a .222 average.
Fielding hasn’t come as easily as hitting for Mountcastle. He committed 13 errors in 82 games at short at Frederick and six errors at third base in 37 games for Bowie.
Now, Mountcastle could be changing positions again. He’s begun talking some fly balls in the outfield, but isn’t talking about that.
"For right now, I’m working at third, and I think that’s what I’m trying to work to get to the big leagues," Mountcastle said.
Last year, Mountcastle was occasionally called over from minor league camp.
"I've come over a couple times when I was on the minor league side with big eyes, open jaw, but now you sort of get used to it after a while," Mountcastle said.
This year, he was a non-roster invite, and while Mountcastle may be heading to the Twin Lakes facility to prepare for his minor league season, he’ll leave with a positive attitude.
"It’s been a great experience," Mountcastle said. "Learning from these guys, just picking up bits and pieces. Starting to feel good, getting ready for the season."
It's likely that Mountcastle will begin the season with the Baysox, but it’s not impossible that he’ll be with the Orioles some time this season. It's something he could get used to.
"It’s awesome. Just playing in front of a big crowd, playing on TV, it's pretty cool just before you even start actual games," Mountcastle said. "It's a good way to get more comfortable."
Mountcastle, who played in the Arizona Fall League late last year, has been given lots of advice in camp, a lot of it positive.
"I've gotten so much; I don’t want to say it's overwhelming," Mountcastle said. "You've got to stay level-headed, especially up here. You're going to be humbled at times. You've just got to be able to stay confident and know that you can do it."
In the AFL, playing with a handful of other top Orioles for the Salt River Rafters, Mountcastle hit .244 with 3 home runs and 14 RBIs.
"I definitely feel more comfortable, especially going to the fall league, playing those extra games and starting now working with [third base coach Bobby Dickerson], I’m starting to feel a lot better," Mountcastle said.
Third base has been somewhat of a jolt for Mountcastle.
"It’s just a little bit quicker," he said. "That’s all I've noticed, the ball gets to you a little bit quicker, but you have more time to throw it and field it and I’m getting more comfortable with that.”
His best moment in spring training came when he hit a long home run to left field in Sarasota against St. Louis Cardinals' right-hander John Gant.
"I mean I just got a good pitch to hit," Mountcastle said. "Pretty cool to get one out in big league spring training game, for sure. It's one hit, one at-bat. Got to move on."
Manager Buck Showalter saw him play briefly last spring and in the AFL. This is Showalter’s most in-depth exposure to Mountcastle.
"It's an affirmation of what everybody has told me and thought," Showalter said. "I think he's going to be a guy that's going to be able to match up with the competition he faces offensively. That’s kind of been the affirmation of what all our minor league people thought."