The left side of the infield has been a red-hot topic of conversation during the Orioles’ frigid start to the 2018 season. Returning Manny Machado to shortstop upon his request, experimenting with Tim Beckham at third base, the plays that haven’t been made while the losses piled up.
Manager Buck Showalter said at FanFest that the change could be reversed in spring training, though the commitment made to Machado didn’t figure to come with a March expiration date. The Orioles will stick with it while Beckham goes through some growing pains.
“You could talk about that for a long time,” Showalter said before last night’s 3-1 victory over the Indians. “Everybody put a lot of thought into it. I’m not going to get into something that’s going to reflect poorly on a player. I’m just not going to.”
In other words, Showalter isn’t going to dissect Beckham’s errors and misplays, which stood out in the final game in Detroit, and tear him down in front of the world. He’s not going there with any player. Doesn’t see the benefits. Doesn’t see the point.
“Tim’s working very hard,” Showalter said. “He had a good spring. He’s made some good plays for us there. Manny’s done things at shortstop that other guys can’t do. You also think about all the other parts that change with stuff like that. But we always look for a way to put the best club out there, so, say you do this, what does that mean for Tim on the other side, whether it’s shortstop or second base?
“Everybody acts like just infield is infield. There’s a lot of challenges to it. But I understand the concern.”
Losing second baseman Jonathan Schoop to an oblique injury in Boston caused a brief reshuffling, with Beckham moving to the right side of the infield and Danny Valencia playing third. That didn’t work out and Beckham is back where he started the year.
“I think the biggest issue we’ve got going on right now is not having Jon here,” Showalter said. “Once that gets there, there’s a lot of things come together.”
There’s plenty that’s gone into the decision to remain patient with Beckham, including the absence of an alternative while Machado stays at shortstop. It won’t be Valencia, Chris Davis or Pedro Álvarez. No one in the farm system is regarded as a big upgrade with a bat that can contribute on a daily basis.
If you’re waiting for Showalter to put Machado back at third base, you’ll need to find a comfortable seat. Prop up your feet.
Beckham and Chance Sisco let a pop up fall near home plate last night - the second one to land in two innings. Fans booed. Beckham apparently called for the ball and Sisco backed off. But the Orioles’ error total held at 13 for the season, tied for seventh-most in the majors.
Machado made an excellent stop up the middle and flip to second base to get the force and strand runners on the corners in the seventh inning.
The outfield could take on a different look today, with Craig Gentry starting in left, depending on how Trey Mancini’s right knee responds to last night’s collision with the wall in foul territory. Gentry is a plus defender, but Mancini has done a nice job with the glove and he certainly has earned a lengthy stay atop the order.
Mancini extended his hitting streak to eight games last night with his tie-breaking, two-run double in the fifth inning. He’s batting .324 during that stretch. He’s posted a .328 average in 14 games as the leadoff hitter.