Paying the utilities

The Orioles have bigger fish to fry than a second utility player. A first baseman comes to mind. It jumps right into the boat.

I'm not overly concerned about a veteran starter, though I understand the team's interest in acquiring one. Manager Buck Showalter wants more options for the five spots. He's counting six right now, which doesn't give him much room if there's an injury or a young arm - we'll use Zach Britton as an example - isn't deemed ready. Rick VandenHurk, who's out of minor league options, might be ticketed for the bullpen if he makes the club.

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But let's go back to utility player. When I mentioned the bench to Showalter yesterday, I inquired whether he could afford to carry Cesar Izturis, the backup catcher and either Brendan Harris or Robert Andino. Showalter interjected with, "Or someone else."

He knew where I was going with this question: There isn't much offensive punch on the bench.

"I know against right-handed pitching...I know what you're saying, but the offseason's not done," he said. "There are some options we're looking at. We look and see the same thing you're talking about."

Showalter veered a bit and talked about all the left-handed starters the club could see in the first month, though he won't have to worry about Cliff Lee, and how Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy should be a big help for the offense.

The fact that he brought up right-handed starters makes me wonder if he wants another left-handed bat. Otherwise, free-agent Jorge Cantu would make sense as a backup corner infielder. He's definitely got some pop, though it didn't surface in Texas.

I'd rather not have the Orioles settle for Cantu as their regular first baseman, though you can probably envision a Cantu/Luke Scott platoon if the Orioles signed a designated hitter.

Probably not what you asked for when you sat on Santa's lap and read from your list.

I'll make another plea for Adam LaRoche, who could give you 25 homers and better defense, and then I'll stop. Well, I'll also repeat that he's still very much in play. I still sense that he's the Orioles' top choice among the remaining free agents, though they won't come right out and say it. Discussions are ongoing.

By the way, Reynolds has heard the comparisons to Garrett Atkins. He doesn't go online and check out all the stories that include his name - he told the local media crew not to take it personally - but his family and friends keep him apprised.

"I think I've been compared to him a few times by a lot of people out here, both of us coming off down years and the Orioles trying to take a chance on us," he said. "I feel like I'm a good player and I'm not pressured or nervous by any means to perform. I know I can."

Meanwhile, it looks like the Red Sox have reached agreement with free-agent reliever Matt Albers.

I tried to contact Albers last week and was caught looking at my phone. I never heard back from him, making me 0-for-2 since the season ended.

I know there's a joke in there somewhere.

Anyway, best of luck to Albers as he moves up the standings - well, if he makes the team out of spring training.

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