The Orioles are getting a much-deserved day off in Boston. They’ve played 29 innings in the last two nights. They have plenty stored up.
The Red Sox are countering with Jon Lester, Aaron Cook and Felix Doubront, who are a combined seven games below .500. Cook has the lowest ERA at 4.93.
Doubront is the only one in the group who’s above .500 at 11-9, but he’s carrying the highest ERA at 5.08.
The Orioles didn’t commit an error last night, running their streak to nine consecutive games and 103 innings. Manny Machado and Mark Reynolds continued to shine at the corners, which wasn’t the initial plan when the Orioles broke camp.
Reynolds was supposed to play third base. Machado was supposed to play shortstop - at Double-A Bowie and later at Triple-A Norfolk. Chris Davis was penciled in at first base, with Wilson Betemit getting his at-bats as the designated hitter and backing up at the corners.
Reynolds committed six errors in 15 games at third, and he failed to make other plays that were scored hits. He’s made five errors in 95 games at first and has saved countless others with his ability to lunge for throws while keeping his toe on the bag. It’s become his patented move.
The Orioles hold an $11 million option on Reynolds’ contract for 2013 that includes a $500,000 buyout. It wasn’t long ago that the thought of picking up that option seemed absurd, and I still have my doubts, but it’s worth debating.
Reynolds has 21 home runs and 65 RBIs. He leads the club with 70 walks and ranks among the leaders with 25 doubles and a .348 on-base percentage. His 145 strikeouts are 11 fewer than Davis’ total.
The question is, what value do you place on a 20-plus home run hitter who offers plus-defense at first base and is one of the most popular guys in the clubhouse - a gamer with a great sense of humor? He’s only hitting .228, and his bat was in deep freeze for the first half of the season. Consistency isn’t one of his tools.
Reynolds hit nine homers from Aug. 31-Sept. 8. He hasn’t launched one since then, but he’s always a threat to go on another long-ball binge.
The Orioles apparently want him back in 2013, which wasn’t the case in spring training and over the first few months of the season. They could decline his option and negotiate a lower deal. Reynolds could become a free agent and seek a better deal, though he’s perfectly happy in Baltimore.
Machado is making a solid case for entering spring training next year as the starting third baseman, with shortstop his eventual move once J.J. Hardy is gone. He’s played every inning at third since the Orioles purchased his contract on Aug. 9, and he’s committed only two errors in that span. One of them was bogus, but it counts.
The Orioles have made only 12 errors during that stretch, and their fielding percentage leads the American League. In one of the strangest twists to the season, they’re now regarded as being good defensively, and all it took was moving Reynolds to first, inserting a 20-year-old minor league shortstop at third and putting Nate McLouth in left.
Do the Orioles cross the infield corners off their winter shopping list and focus more on the rotation and second base? For that matter, do they ignore left field and hope that, just maybe, Nolan Reimold can stay healthy and at least platoon with McLouth?