SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles are an unsettled team with three games remaining in Florida.
We haven’t figured out the rotation beyond Chris Tillman, Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez. We haven’t figured out who’s playing left field, since the club continues to check on available players. We don’t know whether the Orioles are keeping Hyun Soo Kim, though I’ll point out again that he wants to stay in the U.S. unless he had a sudden change of heart overnight.
We don’t know who’s filling two spots in the bullpen, the second vacancy created by Brian Matusz’s pending trip to the disabled list. We don’t know if the Orioles will carry an extra pitcher, outfielder or utility infielder while Kevin Gausman is on the disabled list.
There are 41 players in camp. You’re only allowed to carry 25. This isn’t the NFL.
Gonzalez is trying to hold onto his spot in the rotation, but Wright and Wilson are breathing down his neck. Or has he moved behind them?
It’s an unsettled team.
Gonzalez needs a good start tonight. Not so-so or good at first and then dissolving into a mess. He needs to be on top of his game.
Gonzalez is 1-4 with a 12.56 ERA in five starts, with 20 runs and 28 hits allowed in only 14 1/3 innings. He’s walked six batters and struck out four, surrendered five home runs and put himself at risk of being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
The Braves may leave most of their regulars back in Lake Buena Vista, just as the Orioles do in Sarasota when they’re forced to make the trip. And by “most,” I mean all of them.
If Kim isn’t in tonight’s lineup, the club will be pressed for an explanation beyond, “He’s working out.” If David Murphy’s jersey is hanging in a locker, well ...
I checked again last night and the Orioles definitely are open to moving Kim, whose performance hasn’t met expectations. The emergence of Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard makes it easier, though the club is leaving itself wide open for criticism.
Kim has played 16 exhibition games and received 44 at-bats. His supporters will say that’s an inadequate sample size for a player adjusting to life in the U.S. and major league competition.
If Rickard is the real deal, and that seemed to be the prevailing opinion before he played his 24th game yesterday, he’d improve the outfield defense, bring much-needed speed and base-stealing ability, and perhaps give manager Buck Showalter a true leadoff hitter.
We’re talking about two unproven players here, but one has been superior this spring and isn’t making $7 million.
The Orioles want to improve their on-base capabilities, which is a big reason why they selected Rickard in the Rule 5 draft and signed Kim to two-year deal. Rickard has shown off that skill in the Grapefruit League with a .462 OBP, along with others that Kim isn’t going to match, taking us back to speed, basestealing and superior defense.
They weren’t supposed to go head-to-head down here, but it’s sort of worked out that way. At least, that’s how it appears. Rickard was supposed to back up at all three outfield positions if he made the club. Well, he’s made the club and earned a larger role.
One of his teammates yesterday made a big deal out of Rickard’s ability to draw walks, using a touch of humor to illustrate that it’s basically like finding a unicorn in the clubhouse. The kid is the feel-good story of camp.
It’s just a shame that so many people are starting to feel badly for Kim.