Jackson made his first professional appearance in right field yesterday in Lakeland and was set to play left today, but the Twins never left Fort Myers, didn’t post a lineup and waited for the inevitable.
The Orioles want to know whether Jackson can be a fourth outfielder along with his other utility duties. A sunny day would have left only pitching, catching and first base on his position to-do list.
Jackson has shagged fly balls in left field, but nothing live. Manager Brandon Hyde could try again Wednesday night when the Orioles host the Red Sox.
“Assuming it’s just like right,” Jackson said. “Just opposite angles. I think I’ll be fine out there.”
The plan for Jackson has been laid out for public consumption. Play the Rule 5 pick everywhere and take him north for opening day.
“Like I keep saying, wherever they put me, I’m stoked,” he said. “This just opens another door of opportunity for me and show myself in a new position. And I just know wherever they put me, I’ve got to be polished and be the best player I can be at that spot. Do whatever I can to make plays for the team and help this team win.”
Rio Ruiz would have started today in his continuing push to win the third base job over Renato Núñez, who has a sore right arm. Ruiz is batting .297/.400/.541 with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs in 15 games. Núñez is hitting .226/.265/.452 with one double, two home runs and seven RBIs in 12 games, and he’s committed four errors.
A fourth round of roster cuts are coming. Anxiety could be building for many of the 38 players who made it this far. Ruiz isn’t one of them.
“Nothing to be nervous about,” Ruiz said. “I’ve done what I’ve had to do and I came into camp with a clean slate and a new opportunity and I’ve just tried to take full advantage of it.”
Has he done it?
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “I mean, without nitpicking, I think I’ve done pretty well for myself. I feel like I’ve done everything that I’ve been asked to do. For myself, I think I’ve executed my plan so far. There’s still a week full of games left, so I’ve still got to finish strong and I have full intention of doing that.”
“When you stop trying to play GM, you stop trying to figure out what guys are going to do,” said Ruiz, claimed off waivers from the Braves at the Winter Meetings. “When you start trying to figure out what guys are going to do, that’s when you’re wrong the majority of the time.
“You see the guys that they sent out and you realize how good of a camp they actually were having and how good of ballplayers they actually really are and what they showed that they’re capable of doing throughout their long careers. It definitely is eye-opening, but at the same time, they’ve got a job to do. They’ve got to put the best team together and take everybody up north.”
Ruiz has a past relationship with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, who was in the Astros front office in 2012 when they drafted Ruiz, and plucked him off waivers in December. But the decision between Núñez and Ruiz could come down to minor league options.
Ruiz has two, Núñez none.
Can Ruiz live with that scenario?
“I’m going to have to, you know what I mean?” Ruiz said. “It’s ultimately their decision. They put the team together and we all know at this point in baseball it’s a business, so whatever decision they make, wherever I end up to start the season, I’m going to put my best foot forward and go from there.”
The Orioles haven’t announced their pitching plans beyond today’s rainout. They could try to find innings under cover for Dylan Bundy, who was supposed to start.
The upcoming Orioles starters include David Hess on Wednesday night against the Red Sox in Sarasota, Josh Rogers on Thursday afternoon against the Pirates in Bradenton, Mike Wright on Friday night against the Blue Jays in Dunedin and Alex Cobb on Saturday night against the Twins in Sarasota.
Update: The Orioles have updated their pitching schedule, and Bundy will pitch Wednesday night with Hess starting Thursday.