No longer making a case for Casilla

SARASOTA, Fla. - As soon as the Orioles signed Alexi Casilla to a minor league contract in January, I penciled him onto the 25-man roster as a utility infielder. No doubt in my mind.

Casilla would back up at second base, short and third. He was a necessity with Ryan Flaherty projected as Brian Roberts' replacement at second. He offered more versatility than Jemile Weeks.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, let's start with the injury to Casilla's right hamstring and continue with his hyper-extended left knee.

casilla-fielding-orange-14-sidebar.jpgCasilla has been limited to five at-bats over three games. Manager Buck Showalter didn't express much concern over the time missed due to the hamstring, pointing out that the Orioles already knew what Casilla offered. He didn't really need to audition. But now comes the knee injury, which sidelines him again indefinitely.

Now comes doubt in my mind.

It's quite possible that 15-year major league veteran Alex Gonzalez has moved ahead of Casilla. He signed a minor league deal on Feb. 1 and hardly anyone noticed. The only real interest came from determining which Alex Gonzalez, but he's 9-for-21 with a double, two homers and six RBIs in eight games, and he can still flash the leather.

Manny Machado's uncertain status complicates any and all 25-man roster projections. If he begins the season on the disabled list, Flaherty could move to third and Jonathan Schoop could start at second until Machado returns. Schoop is 11-for-24 this spring, and Showalter praised his work at shortstop yesterday.

No matter the composition, there's room for Gonzalez because someone needs to back up.

That someone was supposed to be Casilla, but he needs to get on the field and stay on it.

Two other non-roster players - outfielder/DH Delmon Young and reliever Alfredo Aceves - haven't made the anticipated impression in camp. Young is 4-for-24 with one RBI and six strikeouts. Aceves has allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings, and he's surrendered three home runs over his last two outings.

Young already had to contend with Nelson Cruz, another right-handed outfielder/DH signed to a one-year, $8 million contract. Now he's got Steve Pearce trying to push him off the roster.

Pearce is 9-for-33 with three doubles, a homer and four RBIs. He's hit into a lot of loud outs. He's squaring up everything, as Showalter has mentioned more than once while meeting with reporters.

Pearce is out of options and he leads the club with 33 at-bats. Showalter is giving him every chance to make the team, or the Orioles are giving scouts a long look at him.

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