Second (or third) look at second base

We’ve debated which starting pitchers are realistic targets for the Orioles. We’ve kicked around the idea of the Orioles making a run at Prince Fielder or Michael Cuddyer or any hitter with a pulse and a productive bat. We’ve argued whether Adam Jones should be traded while his value is high and his free agent year is still a little ways in the distance.

With yesterday being devoid of GM news - and non-update updates give me a full body rash - I figured to revisit the potential vacancy at second base.

The Orioles must prepare for life without Brian Roberts and hope that it doesn’t become a reality. Manager Buck Showalter has indicated that Robert Andino is too valuable as a super utility guy to hold down an everyday position, though it’s not a closed case. The team figures to venture outside the organization, which won’t meet the approval of the Ryan Adams support group.

So who’s available via free agency and potential in a trade? addressed this topic right here.

Also from MLBTradeRumors, here’s a list of second basemen who are, or could be, available as free agents:

Clint Barmes (33)
Willie Bloomquist (34) - $1.1 million mutual option with a $150,000 buyout
Orlando Cabrera (37)
Robinson Cano (29) - $14 million club option with a $2 million buyout
Jamey Carroll (37)
Alex Cora (36)
Craig Counsell (41)
Mark Ellis (35)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (36)
Bill Hall (32) - $4 million mutual option with a $250,000 buyout
Aaron Hill (30) - $8 million club option for 2012, $8 million club option for 2013
Kelly Johnson (30)
Adam Kennedy (36)
Felipe Lopez (32)
Jose Lopez (28)
Aaron Miles (35)
Brandon Phillips (31) - $12 million club option with a $1 milllion buyout
Nick Punto (34)
Drew Sutton (29)

Cano is unlikely to hit the open market. He can hit everything else, though.

Keep in mind that, ideally, the Orioles would like their second baseman to also possess leadoff skills. Showalter wants to remove J.J. Hardy from that spot. Also ideally, this player would have the versatility to switch positions if Roberts is full-go in spring training and on opening day.

Going back to yesterday’s entry on Steve Johnson, he handled adversity in his Arizona Fall League start Monday afternoon that included more than the errant throw in the bullpen that fractured his nose. He discovered early on that the only pitch he could locate was his fastball, yet he managed to give the Mesa Solar Sox three scoreless innings.

“I’m a pitcher who throws four pitches - fastball, changeup, curveball and slider,” he said. “Fortunately, when one pitch isn’t working, I can usually go to another pitch. In the first inning, I threw 24 pitches and it was a tough inning. I was going to everything I had and couldn’t throw any for strikes except my fastball. It got me behind in a couple counts and I got in counts that I didn’t want to be in, but I used my fastball and was able to get through it.

“The next inning, I threw one changeup for a strike in a big situation. I tried my slider and it didn’t work. In the third inning, I threw one curve for a strike and it helped me in that at-bat, but other than that, I couldn’t throw anything else for a strike. You just have to work through it. Locate the fastball and get ahead early and make them put the ball in play and right at people. It worked out.

“I don’t want to throw that many pitches in the first inning to figure that out, but I had to do it. It kept me from going four innings. I’ll get to four innings one of these days.”

Johnson plans on making his next AFL start, despite his injury.

Before Johnson could report to Arizona, he had to sign another minor league deal and give up a shot at free agency. A few teams already had expressed interest, but the local kid wanted to stay home.

“That’s a big part of it,” he said. “The Orioles have been my team since I was growing up. My dad (Dave) played for them. I really wanted to be home. That’s really what I want to do, make it with my hometown team. It would mean a lot to get to the big leagues, and it would mean a lot more to get there with the Orioles.

“I want to be part of this team when we win again. I was there at the playoff games in ‘96 and ‘97, and I’d like to be part of a team that gets to the playoffs for the first time since then. That’s a big reason why I wanted to come back to the Orioles. Hopefully, it can happen.”

The next step is to get back on the 40-man roster.

“This is a big opportunity to show what I can do and maybe make them put me on the 40-man, if that’s the case,” he said. “I want to go out my last couple of starts and prove to them that they can do that.”

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