This, that and the other

PITTSBURGH - While the Orioles continue their evaluation of Austin Hays as a potential starting outfielder on opening day, they also must decide whether he should play left or right.

Hays has made nine starts and 14 appearances in right with the Orioles and four starts and five appearances in center, but there’s been talk of Trey Mancini switching sides with him. It certainly isn’t because of Hays’ arm, which is a plus tool.

No matter the arrangement, an outfield consisting of Mancini, Hays and Adam Jones - and I’m assuming he stays in center - with Mark Trumbo as the primary designated hitter again leaves the Orioles in need of a left-handed bat. They’re not exactly flush with them at the moment and Seth Smith figures to leave as a free agent.

Hyun Soo Kim was traded to the Phillies, but he barely made it off the bench.

A left-handed bat will be a priority over the winter. Not ahead of multiple starting pitchers, but a defined need on the club. And it’s true whether or not Rule 5 pick Anthony Santander, a switch-hitter, breaks camp with the Orioles.

buck-showalter-smell-baseball.jpgPedro Álvarez appealed to manager Buck Showalter over the summer because of his production from the left side, but he didn’t have a position. He was a platoon designated hitter on a team carrying Trumbo.

* Mancini and Hays were noticeably absent from various prospect rankings. Caleb Joseph didn’t crack anyone’s Top 100. Mychal Givens was drafted as a shortstop and has turned into a valuable reliever. Jonathan Schoop went from undrafted free agent to All-Star second baseman. Donnie Hart lowered his arm slot and made the majors last summer as a lefty specialist.

The work of the player development staff shouldn’t go unnoticed.

“Our player development situation is as good as I’ve ever been around,” Showalter said. “I think it’s outstanding. If we get the players, which he have, some, we’ll develop them. Our guys, if it’s there, they’ll develop it. It’s as good a situation as I’ve been around. They have really good people down there.”

* The Salt River roster in the Arizona Fall League includes Steve Wilkerson, an infielder at Double-A Bowie who no longer will fly beneath the radar.

Wilkerson, 25, batted .323/.407/.426 in 41 games at Single-A Frederick and .295/.357/.423 in 66 games at Bowie. The eighth-rounder out of Clemson University is a switch-hitter and plus-runner who can move around the infield, and he will be considered for a utility role next season.

Ryan Flaherty has appeared in only 22 games due to a shoulder injury and a set infield. Schoop and Manny Machado don’t get many days off. The former Rule 5 pick made $1.8 million this season, he’s a pending free agent and he’d have to take a reduced deal to return after being a non-tender candidate last winter.

Wilkerson, who turns 26 in January, is viewed by some eyes in the organization as a legitimate candidate to replace Flaherty despite not playing above Double-A. He wouldn’t be the first to make the jump.

* As if losing to the Pirates 10-1 on Tuesday wasn’t painful enough, they had to trot out Steven Brault for the last three innings. Brault didn’t allow a run and recorded his first career save.

If the name sounds familiar, the Orioles traded Brault and left-hander Stephen Tarpley to the Pirates before the 2015 season for outfielder Travis Snider, who was supposed to represent a seamless replacement for Nick Markakis.

The Orioles withdrew their four-year offer to Markakis due to concerns about a herniated disk in his neck that required surgery. Markakis has appeared in 156 games or more in his three seasons with the Braves and began last night with a .357 on-base percentage. Snider didn’t make it through the season, appearing in 69 games and batting .237/.318/.341 before his Aug. 15 release.

Not a good comparison, as it turns out.

Snider has spent the last two years in the minors with three organizations after returning to the Pirates. Tarpley, 24, hasn’t reached the majors, but he was 7-0 with a 0.88 ERA and 0.878 WHIP this summer in 18 combined games with Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in the Yankees system, failing to allow a run in 30 2/3 innings in the Florida State League. Brault, 25, was named the International League’s Most Valuable Pitcher and the Pirates’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 10-5 with a 1.94 ERA and 1.072 WHIP in 21 games and 120 1/3 innings. Teams batted .199 against him.

Also, consider that Brault was the player to be named later in the Snider deal, his inclusion coming a month later.

The Orioles also surrendered two minor league pitchers to acquire outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox on Aug. 30, 2014. I’m guessing that a small percentage of fans remember their names.

Mark Blackmar pitched for the independent Long Island Ducks this summer after the Nationals released him in May, his 6.89 ERA with Double-A Harrisburg costing him a roster spot. Miguel Chalas, also a right-hander, didn’t pitch in the minors in 2016 and appeared in only seven games this year with Double-A Birmingham, allowing eight earned runs and 17 hits in eight innings.

We know what Jake Arrieta has done since the Orioles traded him to the Cubs. I’ll hold firm to the belief that he wasn’t going to duplicate his success without a change of scenery. It’s still painful, though. The truth hurts.

Zach Davies has registered 17 wins, the second-most in the majors. The Orioles traded him to the Brewers on July 31, 2015 for outfielder Gerardo Parra, who batted .237/.268/.357 in 55 games and had a knack for taking bad routes in right field. Not the same guy after moving to the American League.

Davies has a 3.90 ERA in 33 starts. Anything under 4.00 nowadays is cause for celebration. The game has changed.

* Josh Bell collected an RBI single and two-run homer within the first three innings last night at PNC Park.

Orioles fans always ask whether it’s “the same Josh Bell.” This one is a first baseman and formerly a top prospect who’s hit 25 homers this season. The other was a third baseman and a disappointment for the Orioles after they acquired him from the Dodgers along with pitcher Steve Johnson on July 30, 2009 for reliever George Sherrill.

The latter Bell, criticized for his low-energy approach, hit .200/.221/.264 with three home runs in 79 games with the Orioles from 2010-2011. He appeared in 21 games with the Diamondbacks in 2012 and went 9-for-52.

Bell has spent the last two summers with the independent Lancaster Barnstormers.

Not the same guy.

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