Who’s batting first for the Orioles?

I want to lead off this entry by wishing everyone the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of holidays. Be safe if you’re traveling today.

And speaking of leading off ...

We don’t know who will play second base for the Orioles next season. They’re not counting on Brian Roberts, so I won’t, either.

I’ve stated many times that it will be viewed as a bonus if he’s ready for spring training and the opener. There’s no way to be certain that the headaches and dizziness will subside. Concussion specialists can speculate. They can’t provide a guarantee.

You see what’s happened to NHL star Sidney Crosby. And you saw how Roberts’ symptoms returned - by simply diving into first base in a May 16 game at Fenway Park.

Roberts didn’t seem to be encouraged by his progress when interviewed earlier this month at Dave and Buster’s at the Arundel Mills Mall. He didn’t say much about his health beyond how he was taking it day by day. His lack of enthusiasm and his body language spoke the loudest.

Perhaps a different Roberts shows up at Ed Smith Stadium in February, but the Orioles haven’t acquired a crystal ball.

It’s on the list.

Roberts’ contract runs through 2013. He’s owed another $20 million. I can’t imagine him walking away from it, but that’s another issue for another time. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

So who bats leadoff if Roberts can’t play?

We’ve tackled this topic in the past, but I’ll lower a shoulder again.

Manager Buck Showalter would prefer to bat J.J. Hardy lower in the order, and Hardy holds the same preference. Endy Chavez is a career. 267/.299/.369 hitter in 201 games in the leadoff spot, but he’s not currently projected as a starter. He’s supposed to back up Adam Jones in center field and share time in left field with Nolan Reimold, who’s batted first in eight career games.

It’s easier to answer this question if we know who’s playing second.

The candidates include Robert Andino, Matt Antonelli, Ryan Flaherty and Steve Tolleson. Andino’s led off in 41 games. It’s also possible that he’ll be a utility player, making him absent from the lineup on many nights.

The Orioles have talked to the Braves about second baseman Martin Prado, who’s a career .297/.339/.462 hitter in 137 games atop the order. He would be a solution if he were here, but this isn’t a fantasy league.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette is making contingency plans at second base in case Roberts isn’t ready, but that’s only half the problem.

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