What are the Orioles doing atop the order?

Re-signing Nate McLouth brought more questions for the Orioles.

Is he the everyday left fielder? Will he bat leadoff?

Let’s tackle the second one.

Asked whether McLouth would remain at the top of the order, executive vice president Dan Duquette replied, “Let’s see how it plays out.”

It’s tough to project the lineup without knowing whether Duquette is signing or trading for another player, but the Orioles clearly have three leadoff candidates on the roster: McLouth, Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis.

I think the common assumption is that Roberts will bat first if he’s healthy on opening day. However, I talked to someone in the organization who thinks Roberts would make a good No. 2 hitter behind Markakis or McLouth.

Roberts has hit leadoff in 1,120 of his 1,250 career games, putting up a .282/.356/.419 line. He’s hit second in 80 games, with a .244/.276/.338 line.

Nick_Markakis-sidebar_swing.jpgMarkakis was sensational atop the order this year, batting .335/.390/.489 in 54 games before a broken left thumb ended his season. McLouth replaced him in that spot and hit .263/.342/.455 with five homers in 24 games.

For his career, McLouth is batting .254/.340/.445 atop the order.

If Roberts is healthy - and he’s encouraged as he continues to work out in Sarasota - he figures to bat first for manager Buck Showalter. But it’s nice that Showalter has so many options.

Maybe Roberts, McLouth and Markakis make up the top three in the order. Maybe Hardy keeps batting second and McLouth is lowered. Maybe the Orioles acquire a cleanup hitter and Adam Jones moves up to third.

Shameless plug alert: Maybe you should tune into “Wall to Wall Baseball” from 11 a.m.-noon on MASN. I’ll be joining Tom Davis and Dave Johnson.

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