Lining up the starting nine

The Heat beat the Mavericks yesterday in a rematch of the NBA finals, which leads me to this question: The NBA season has started?

We’re still waiting on baseball. I told you earlier this month that pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 18. Position players report Feb. 23, with the first full-squad workout being held the following day.

Is anyone here Sarasota-bound?

The renovations continue at Ed Smith Stadium. The clubhouses are being upgraded, and changes also are being made to the back fields. For instance, the row of pitching mounds will be laid out in a different direction. If I’m not mistaken, they will be pointed toward the Camden Yards field. I’m not sure why, but you might notice the difference if you wander back there during a workout.

I’d expect the Orioles to continue working on their roster before the first report date. I don’t think we’ve seen the finished product.

If the season started today, you’d need to wear a heavy jacket to Camden Yards, and manager Buck Showalter would probably craft a lineup from a starting nine of catcher Matt Wieters, third baseman Chris Davis, shortstop J.J. Hardy, second baseman Robert Andino, first baseman Mark Reynolds, left fielder Nolan Reimold, center fielder Adam Jones, right fielder Nick Markakis and (insert your designated hitter here.)

I’m making the assumption that Brian Roberts isn’t ready on this date. Otherwise, he’s obviously the second baseman and leadoff hitter. And I’m also assuming that Showalter is keeping Endy Chavez on the bench against the Twins’ opening day starter, which puts Reimold in left.

Perhaps Matt Antonelli starts at third base and Davis serves as the designated hitter with the roster as it’s currently constructed.

This team needs another bat.

You could always insert Prince Fielder at first base, make Davis the DH and hit Reynolds about 5,000 grounders at third every morning in Sarasota.

It’s just a thought.

I was sifting through the comments from yesterday’s entry about the leadoff hitter, and I noticed that a few fans suggested trying Markakis atop the order. I’ve always preached that he’s needed lower in the order to produce runs, though how often after the first would he actually be leading off an inning?

(Yeah, I know, in the fourth and seventh if the Orioles don’t add more offense.)

Markakis hit a career-low .284 last season, and his 15 home runs were the second-fewest after the 12 he produced in 2010. He’s driven in 60 and 73 runs the last two years after totaling 101 RBIs in 2009.

Markakis has batted everywhere but first in his career, including ninth in 65 games, which I do not recall. Must have been real early in that career.

He’s led off an inning in 537 games (just never the first inning), and is a career .318/.381/.481 hitter in those circumstances, with 38 doubles, two triples, 21 homers, 63 walks and 127 runs scored in 647 at-bats.

Do I think Showalter would consider batting Markakis first? Not really. Do I think it’s a bad idea? Not really.

Markakis isn’t a big stolen-base guy, averaging only nine a season, but he’ll get on base for you (his .351 on-base percentage led the team in 2011.) And the list of legitimate candidates is a short one.

If the season started today, Andino would probably bat first ahead of Hardy and Markakis. Or Markakis could hit second and Jones third. But you also need a cleanup hitter, and it could end up being Jones by default. He did hit .383/.434/.638 in 47 at-bats in the fourth slot last season.

Still too soon to slot Wieters fourth? Does Reynolds make more sense after leading the team in home runs and RBIs?

This team needs another bat.

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