Guerrero going to the bench (Viola joining team)

If you need a distraction from Jeremy Guthrie’s MRI today and the possibility that the Orioles will be hit with more bad news, you can ponder how the lineup will look without a designated hitter.

The Orioles are heading to their first National League ballpark in 2011 as they begin a three-game series with the Nationals. They’ve also got three games in Pittsburgh before returning home.

Since the moment that the ink dried on Vladimir Guerrero’s contract, fans and media have wondered if the Orioles’ cleanup hitter would sit on the bench in NL venues or whether he could make a few starts in the outfield. Guerrero shags fly balls before games. He does own a glove.

Manager Buck Showalter has been reluctant to show his hand, but he isn’t going to use Guerrero tonight unless he needs a pinch-hitter. And it would be surprising if Guerrero starts in the outfield before the Orioles get back to Camden Yards.

Showalter is very hesitant to put Guerrero in the field. Rangers manager Ron Washington supposedly has regrets for doing it last season. And Showalter previously stated that he’d have a great pinch hitter on the bench.

No offense to Craig Tatum, but he meant Guerrero.

Guerrero would most likely have displaced Nick Markakis in right field. He’s only played left once in his career, and that was last season. For seven innings and one putout. He’s played center field twice, in 1996 and 1997.

It’s a fairly amusing image, but it’s not going to happen under Showalter’s watch.

The Orioles will just have to accept that they’ll need someone else to bat cleanup. And the best candidate tonight might be...wait for it...Derrek Lee.

As I tweeted yesterday (@masnRoch), Lee is 17-for-35 (.486) with five homers and 11 RBIs lifetime against Nationals right-hander Jason Marquis. He’s also walked four times and posted a 1.510 OPS.

Yes, I’m aware that Lee is batting .214 with four home runs this season. I doubt that he was red-hot before every game against Marquis.

Marquis might be the perfect slump-buster, and I know a thing or two ... never mind.

Guerrero will be missed. He’s 9-for-23 (.391) with three doubles, two homers, six RBIs and a 1.183 OPS against Marquis.

Adam Jones has been batting third. He’s 1-for-4 with an RBI against Marquis. Small sample size, as we like to say.

I’m thinking about a lineup that looks like this: Hardy, Markakis, Jones, Lee, Scott, Wieters, Reynolds, Andino, Britton. You could flip-flop Scott and Wieters, if that works better for you, but Scott is 6-for-22 with two doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs against Marquis.

Wieters is 1-for-2 with a double and two RBIs. Very small sample size.

I honestly don’t expect Lee to bat cleanup tonight. It’ll probably be Scott or Wieters. But I felt like throwing it out there for discussion.

And see, I bet you forgot all about Guthrie’s MRI.

Chris George started last night for Triple-A Norfolk, so he’d be working on normal rest Tuesday if Guthrie goes on the disabled list. He took Jason Berken’s turn last night, starting for the first time since May 23. He had a 3.50 ERA in 25 relief innings and a 5.63 ERA as a starter.

George was going to be called up earlier this season when it appeared that the Orioles would have to skip a starter (Chris Tillman? My memory is failing.)

Keep in mind that Berken has been stretched out enough that he could start. Tillman and Brad Bergesen always are options.

Update: Left-hander Pedro Viola, who threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his only appearance for the Orioles this season, will join the team today. I’m assuming that he would be officially recalled from Double-A Bowie if Guthrie goes on the disabled list, giving Showalter an extra arm in the bullpen, but at this hour of the morning, the best I can do is assume. And yes, I know what happens when you do that.

Viola is 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 20 games with the Baysox. He’s allowed 17 hits, walked eight and struck out 25 in 24 innings.

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