Showalter balancing winning and evaluating

Almost lost in the euphoria of competitive September baseball is manager Buck Showalter’s desire to evaluate players for next season to assist in the roster construction that will take place over the winter.

It’s worth pointing out that Showalter hasn’t closed the book on Josh Bell. He’s just taking an extended look at Robert Andino and forming an opinion on whether the infielder fits into his plans.


Showalter heard plenty about Andino before rosters expanded this month, and he wanted to compare those reports to what he saw on the field and inside the clubhouse.

Bell has walked twice and struck out 52 times in 149 at-bats. He might have needed to take a step back, and a seat on the bench, to regroup. Showalter hasn’t given up on Bell, but it’s apparent that he’s at least mildly disappointed in the rookie’s failure to seize the opportunity.

Showalter hasn’t closed the book on Nolan Reimold. He’s just taking an extended look at Felix Pie and trying to decide whether left field still needs to be addressed in the off-season.

Pie hasn’t proven that he can stay healthy through an entire season. His durability is being judged along with every other aspect of his game, so it makes sense for Showalter to keep playing him. And he doesn’t believe Pie has done anything to warrant a seat on the bench.

Reimold is hitting .210 with three homers in 100 at-bats. Showalter is seeing a different version than the one that impressed us as a rookie, and he understands the reasons. Reimold has spent a large portion of the year recovering from his Achilles surgery - which should have been done earlier - and trying to rediscover his swing and focus. Showalter figures that he’ll get a truer read on Reimold next spring.

Reimold’s playing time also has been reduced because Luke Scott deserves to stay in the lineup. And wins still count around here. So does maintaining competitive integrity, another one of Showalter’s expressions.

The Orioles are facing a left-hander tonight in Toronto, University of Maryland product Brett Cecil, so there’s a good chance that Reimold will start. He bats from the right side and he’s 1-for-4 with a double and RBI against Cecil.

Cecil is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in three career starts against the Orioles. He’s allowed 13 hits, walked five and struck out 14 in 18 1/3 innings, and he’s held the Orioles to a .197 average.

The Blue Jays already determined that Cecil will be part of their 2011 rotation. That’s a no-brainer. But the Orioles must decide whether Chris Tillman is ready to hold down a spot - or whether they’d be willing to part with him in a trade that could bring in a big bat.

Tillman has issued 12 walks in his last two outings. You better believe that Showalter will be monitoring how often Tillman falls behind in the count tonight, and how high the right-hander runs his pitch count.

This would be an ideal time for Tillman to pound the strike zone and get back in the dugout before the guys behind him fall asleep or begin to fidget. I’m almost sure that I spotted at least one infielder updating his Facebook status between pitches.

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