Who bats leadoff if it isn’t Roberts?

If the Orioles are going to avoid another 2-16 start, if they’re going to make significant progress in 2011 and stop ripping their fans’ hearts out, Brian Roberts will need to stay healthy and stay in the lineup.

That said, it wouldn’t hurt to have a Plan B for the leadoff spot.

The Orioles are close to finishing their roster moves for the winter. A left-handed reliever and starting pitcher remain on the shopping list. As you’ve heard, one of the available designated hitters would have to fall into their laps.

Cesar Izturis is tagged as the backup middle infielder, so he could take over second base if Roberts is hurt. But who bats first?

I posed that question to manager Buck Showalter, who commented that it’s right up his alley. He’s a big “what if?” guy.

“We better be equipped to handle that situation,” he said.

“You try not to disrupt the rest of the lineup if you can avoid it.”

Showalter tossed out a few names as possibilities and said he might be leaning toward Felix Pie. Some of this depends on the whole left-right alignment. Showalter might not want Pie and Nick Markakis batting 1-2 against a left-handed starter.

“You kind of match it up,” Showalter said. “It’s a challenge. In a perfect world, it would be whoever plays second base.”

This isn’t a perfect world, as any Orioles fan can attest.

Showalter also mentioned Brendan Harris “if he makes the club,” Izturis, Robert Andino and J.J. Hardy.

“I’ll look at those names,” he said.

Showalter referred to Andino as “the wild card,” which means he doesn’t get a home playoff game in the first round. It also means that Showalter still likes Andino.

Showalter had some favorable things to say about the infielder last season, but Andino is being challenged to make the club. He’s out of minor league options and he’s got competition.

Pie is a career .190 hitter with a .244 OBP in 84 at-bats atop the order. Hardy has been slotted in the leadoff spot once and doesn’t have an official at-bat.

Andino is a career .267 hitter with a .290 OBP in 30 at-bats. Harris is a career .261 hitter with a .333 OBP in 46 at-bats.

Izturis has the most experience by far. He’s a career .276 hitter with a .316 OBP in 1,151 at-bats. Five of his 15 career home runs have come as the leadoff hitter, and his 88 RBIs are the most he’s accumulated at any spot in the lineup.

The options don’t bring a lot of comfort, but Izturis would probably make the most sense if you don’t want to disrupt the rest of the lineup and you’d prefer having the second baseman in that role. He’s also assured of making the club, unlike a few of the other names mentioned above.

In a perfect world, Roberts stays healthy all year. No back issues, no bumps, no bruises.

If only.

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