The Orioles completed tonight’s game at Fenway Park having committed 14 errors in the last 12 games after making 10 errors in the previous 19. And we’re not taking into account the numerous balls misplayed in the outfield, the grounders that weren’t fielded cleanly and were scored a hit, the double plays that weren’t turned that gave teams an extra out.
“We are defensively challenged and we just have to be better at it,” said president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail. “Here we’re trying to develop young pitchers and we’re really having a hard time playing behind them to the level that we should. Starting with me, we just have to do better.
“If the defense doesn’t pick up in certain areas, we’ve just got to try to find guys who can do better. We’re just not making the plays to the extent that we need to be.”
I pointed out the number of players who aren’t starting at their natural positions, most notably Miguel Tejada at third base, Scott Moore at second and Corey Patterson in left field.
“That’s part of it,” MacPhail said. “Our depth as a franchise isn’t where it needs to be. We’ve got players playing positions that aren’t necessarily their first position, and that’s part of it. That explains some of it, but not all of it.”
Garrett Atkins moved from third to first after signing with the Orioles, but MacPhail doesn’t include him on the list.
“Tejada short to third is right, but Garrett played a lot of first base and is a better defensive first baseman than third baseman,” he said. “The Tejada thing is a gamble. If you make that move, it does take time. The Atkins thing was less. We saw enough games with him at first to have an idea what we were getting, and we got what we thought.”
With the glove, that is.
The Orioles expected Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold to vie for starts in left field. Patterson has provided an offensive spark atop the order, but he’s struggling in left - especially going to his right and back on balls - and his lapses have come as a major surprise to club officials who expected a smoother transition.
Adam Jones is accustomed to patrolling center field, so unfamiliarity isn’t an excuse for his misplays. He won a Gold Glove in 2009, but he’s regressed.
“His defense is not as good as it was a year ago and that’s a concern,” MacPhail said. “We’re going to have to spend more time trying to get it back to where it was.”
The Sun reported that interim manager Juan Samuel approached Jones yesterday about playing deeper, a suggestion the club also made in spring training.
Is Jones a lock to stay in center field?
Not if he doesn’t correct the mistakes that keep cropping up.
“Eventually, you have to put what you think is your best defensive alignment out there,” MacPhail said. “I wouldn’t commit from now until the end of time. If you have a better defensive alignment, you’re obligated to put it out that way.
“I don’t know what the future’s going to hold. I wouldn’t rule it out. If you got to the position where the manager felt your best defensive alignment was A-B-C, then you do A-B-C.”
Easy as 1-2-3.
The problem with moving Jones to left, if that’s deemed a solution somewhere down the road, is you’ve got another player out of position.
We’re probably getting ahead of ourselves. I don’t think the Orioles are on the verge of putting Jones in the corner. But it’s worth noting that they aren’t promising him the center field job for the long term. He’ll need to play better.