BOWIE, Md. - When the Double-A Bowie Baysox open a new season tonight at Prince George's Stadium against Harrisburg, LJ Hoes will bat third and play left field. But tomorrow night he will likely be at another position.
About 10 days ago, the Orioles moved Hoes from left to center field at camp and he will likely begin playing center field for the Baysox tomorrow night. Bowie manager Gary Kendall said it might become a permanent change.
"Could be. Everything is subject to change," Kendall said a few moments ago in his office. "We'll see how the season goes and how he does. I think this makes it more viable for him down the road. I know he made a good impression with our manager and coaching staff in big league camp. If you can play left, center and right and hit some, you make yourself a candidate for a look see or a roster spot.
"I know that is what the organization is possibly thinking down the road. He's a good enough athlete and we are going to give it a try. He's on board with it and the organization is on board with it."
Maybe this is why Xavier Avery, who some assumed would return to play center field in Bowie, is on the Triple-A Norfolk roster. It opens center for the 22-year-old Hoes, who moved from Single-A Frederick to Bowie last May 23.
"It's not going to be a one-day thing and if it backfires, then we are going to (change it back). It's going to be a work in progress," Kendall said.
He added that he does not expect Hoes to play any in the infield this season. Last year, Hoes, ranked as the club's fifth-best prospect by Baseball America, made 13 infield starts and 77 as an outfielder.
Kendall said Hoes has improved on defense in the outfield.
"I just think his comfort and his routes," Kendall said. "When he was an amateur, I remembering seeing him throw, he use to have a lot more length to his arm and then when he changed to become an infielder, he had to shorten up to make quicker throws. It takes time to stretch that arm back out again. He had a little more on the ball this year.
"Also, I think his routes have improved and I thought he did a solid job last year. Last season he played defense like an average major leaguer. He might surprise us and be better than that."
As for Hoes, who hit .305 with six homers and had 54 RBIs with Bowie in 2011, he is all for this move.
"I like it. I played center field in high school. Get a chance to get back out there and that is going to be great," Hoes said.
"They think I can play there (the Orioles) and being able to play multiple positions will help me out in the long run. Whether it be for next year or moving up this year, being able to play multiple positions makes me more versatile."
Here is tonight's Baysox starting lineup:
CF - Antoan Richardson
3B - Buck Britton
LF - LJ Hoes
RF - Robbie Widlansky
SS - Manny Machado
1B - Brandon Waring
DH - Tyler Townsend
C - Caleb Joseph
2B - Jonathan Schoop
P - Tim Bascom
Later, I'll post some quotes from Kendall about Machado and Schoop as the pair get set to make their Double-A debuts tonight.