Finding a replacement for Roberts

Mark Reynolds hits the longest foul balls in the world. Some people might describe them as majestic.

That doesn't help your fantasy team, but I wanted to mention it anyway.

I think one ball traveled an estimated three miles last night, but it landed on the wrong side of the left field foul pole.

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Straighten 'em out, Mark, and you're in business.

I'll hit you with a quick question, which we debated in the press box last night before heading to our cars:

Which ending was more exciting for you: Nick Markakis' leaping catch at Tropicana Field on April 2 or Adam Jones' walk-off homer last night?

I chose Markakis' catch simply because I've probably seen more walk-off homers, though they're always a rush, and the memory of last April's blown save from Michael Gonzalez at The Trop still hung over all of us.

Each time I was asked to predict where the Orioles would finish this season, I banged the same drum about how they could be .500 or slightly better if they avoided injuries to key players.

They also needed certain veterans to have bounce-back seasons and the rest of the division to come down to them.

One out of three isn't too bad, and certainly not in this sport.

Brian Matusz hasn't thrown an inning for them, and he'll make at least one more start in the minors. Justin Duchscherer remains at extended spring training, with no firm date for his next start down there. That's two-fifths of the projected opening day rotation.

I'll find the silver lining and point out that Zach Britton wouldn't have made 10 starts for the Orioles if Matusz hadn't gone on the disabled list with a strained left intercostal muscle. Britton was rushed to St. Petersburg, Fla., and held the Rays to one run over six innings April 3 - the first of his eight quality starts.

There's no silver lining in the Brian Roberts saga. The Orioles couldn't afford to lose him, and they've lost him. Again.

Robert Andino has started the last three games since Ryan Adams made his major league debut. One reason could be that Andino is viewed as one of the few substitute leadoff hitters on the roster. Manager Buck Showalter doesn't have many choices.

Felix Pie has batted first in Roberts' absence. I've suggested J.J. Hardy, but I should point out that he's done it once in his career.

I'm not sure if it would really present too big of a challenge for him. Is it not in his skill set?

Thinking back to a phone conversation I had with Showalter over the winter, he mentioned Andino, Pie and Hardy as three possible leadoff hitters. He pointed out that Andino would have to make the club first. It wasn't a given as spring training approached.

Andino singled and walked last night. He also bunted into a double play after offering at the first pitch following back-to-backs walks by Royals rookie Danny Duffy.

I'll pose a bonus question before looking ahead to tonight's game:

Do the Orioles need to go outside the organization to find Roberts' replacement - he's expected to miss at least the next three weeks - or should they stick with Andino and Adams or dip into Triple-A Norfolk's roster for Brendan Harris or Nick Green?

The Orioles held onto Harris and Green in case they needed a middle infielder, and especially if Roberts hit the disabled list again. They stocked up on utility types.

Harris is batting .199 with eight doubles, one triple, four homers and 14 RBIs. Green is batting .201 with 10 doubles, six homers and 24 RBIs.

The Orioles get Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar tonight.

First, the good news: He's 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in four career starts against them.

Now, the bad news: He's registered four straight quality starts this season, and allowed one earned run in two of his last three games totaling 15 2/3 innings.

Pie is 3-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs against Hochevar.

It looks like he'll be batting first tonight.

Jake Arrieta was responsible for the Orioles' only win in Kansas City earlier this month. He held the Royals to one run and three hits in seven innings, and he struck out eight batters.

Arrieta needs to rid himself of the stench from Friday night's 17-5 game. He got the Nationals' party started by surrendering six runs and six hits, and walking three, in 3 2/3 innings.

Yeah, he was the guy. It's easy to forget who started that debacle.

A hot shower isn't enough, but a quality start might do the trick.

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