An order of nuggets

You’ve watched this team all season.

You’ve seen players on the opening day roster, you’ve seen players recalled from the minors and you’ve seen the Orioles purchase the contracts of other players in the system.

Manager Buck Showalter is looking for nuggets, and not the breaded and processed kind. No dipping sauce.

Matt Wieters is a nugget, though some publications prefer the word “bust.” He’s a keeper. He’s a guy you bring along while moving forward. He’s a Gold Glove catcher - whether or not he has the hardware to prove it - and he’s got 20 home runs in his back pocket.

He might be more comfortable squatting without them, but nonetheless...

Adam Jones is a nugget. He’s in a 6-for-55 slump and he’s got a sore thumb, but he’s a nugget.

J.J. Hardy is a nugget. He hasn’t homered since Aug. 29 and he’s 10-for-52 this month, but he’s a nugget.

Jim Johnson is a nugget. He’s recorded saves in his last four appearances and he hasn’t given up a run in 12 of his last 13. I look at him and I see a nugget.

That’s four nuggets off the top of my noggin.

I’d like to check out your complete list of nuggets. Let me know who you’re comfortable including in your rebuilding plans. Who are your definite keepers?

Speaking of Johnson, it’s looking more doubtful that he’ll make a start this season. We’re down to the last 14 games. He’s being used to close out games.

Somebody has to do it.

Showalter says it isn’t imperative for Johnson to crack the rotation in 2011 if the right-hander is going to start in 2012. He can still prepare as a starter over the winter and during spring training. But earlier this summer, it sounded like the Orioles wanted to avoid that scenario.

Anyway, you have to wonder whether Showalter is starting to view Johnson in another role - ninth-inning specialist.

Kevin Gregg has a 4.45 ERA, a 1.66 WHIP and seven blown saves in 27 chances. He’s not going to be cut after signing a two-year, $10 million contract, with an option, last winter.

Johnson has failed as a closer in the past, but it’s possible that Showalter is ready to give him another chance. Or he still views Johnson as a starter. He isn’t tipping his hand.

Showalter’s body language suggests closer - and I’m referring to how he’s raised his right arm and pointed toward the bullpen while Johnson has been warming up.

Showalter considers Johnson a nugget. He just might be trying to figure out what kind.

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