So here we are, exactly three weeks from the day when pitchers and catchers hold their first workout at the spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla.
The roster won’t be set until the Orioles secure another starting pitcher and left-handed reliever. They could add another bat, perhaps for the bench, though Vladimir Guerrero will continue to cast a large shadow until he finds a home.
You would expect more interest in a guy who hit .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs last season. Is he still viewed as too one-dimensional, though it’s quite a dimension? Is he too old? Did the nine homers, 40 RBIs and .748 OPS in the second half turn off executives? Or the .220 average and no homers in the playoffs?
Anyway, he’s still out there and the line has gotten considerably shorter. Not much pushing and shoving. I don’t think we’ll need to rope off the area.
I’m wondering how many fans who were going to give the Orioles A’s and B’s for their offseason moves are now ready to mark them down a grade if they don’t sign Guerrero. Or perhaps the failure to sign a bigger impact bat for first base already put them in detention. Opinions seem to vary. And are we grading on a curve?
The Orioles seem prepared to keep Luke Scott as their designated hitter and let Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold vie for the starting job in left field or share it in a platoon. Those plans only change if Guerrero’s price continues to tumble and he becomes too good to pass up.
Without Guerrero in the picture, spring training will be used to determine the second utility player, backup catcher, fifth starter and last reliever. As we’ve discussed, Jake Fox can sell himself as the backup behind the plate and at the corner infield positions. It depends whether manager Buck Showalter is more comfortable with Craig Tatum handling the pitching staff on the days that Matt Wieters rests.
I wouldn’t expect quite as much media attention on Wieters at camp, only because he won’t be the Sports Illustrated cover boy and this spring training thing already has gotten old. The novelty of having Wieters around is wearing off. But make no mistake, this is an important season for him. He hasn’t exactly burst onto the scene as the can’t -miss kid.
Whichever left -handed reliever joins Michael Gonzalez could be the next Will Ohman, a guy who settles for a minor league deal and wins the job in camp. He’ll have to beat out in-house candidates like Troy Patton and Pedro Viola, plus whichever invites are headed to Sarasota.
Rick VandenHurk will be a curiosity because he’s out of options and he’s a candidate for two jobs, in the rotation and bullpen. He’ll really be pushed in the relief race if Showalter is set on having two lefties. I don’t see how there would be room for VandenHurk unless someone goes on the disabled list.
You know all the right-handers who have been penciled in: Kevin Gregg, Koji Uehara, Jim Johnson, Jeremy Accardo and Jason Berken. We’re talking about a seven-man bullpen. Two lefties brings us to seven, unless my math is even worse than I imagined.
We’ll also eagerly await the first exhibition lineup, which could provide clues to where certain guys will hit once the season starts. Or we’ll be told not to read anything into it.
I’ll read plenty into it. That’s one reason we have spring training, to make bold assumptions and pepper the manager with questions.
We haven’t tossed out lineup suggestions that include Guerrero. We don’t know which player to remove, so that complicates the process. But don’t let that stop you. We’ve still got time to kill.