The Orioles aren’t in a position to make significant changes to their lineup next season with the bulk of their primary starters back in uniform. The infield appears to be set and they easily could turn over the catching duties to Caleb Joseph and rookie Chance Sisco if Welington Castillo exercises his $7 million option.
Castillo is expected to test free agency. That’s the industry buzz.
The early outfield speculation puts Trey Mancini in left field, Adam Jones in center and Austin Hays in right, with Mark Trumbo getting most of his at-bats as the designated hitter. But the Orioles won’t hand Hays a starting job and there hasn’t been confirmation on the actual alignment if he stays.
Jones campaigned at FanFest for better defenders in the corners. He didn’t necessarily figure on Mancini and Hays - one a converted first baseman and the other a 2016 draft pick who started the year at Single-A Frederick and later took away at-bats from Seth Smith.
“First thing with Trey is he doesn’t care,” Jones said during the final series at Tropicana Field. “He doesn’t care about running into walls. He’s a ballplayer. To me, he’s like Steve Pearce. He’s a Steve Pearce-esque guy. A little bit more athletic ability.
“Don’t tell Steve I said that. But that’s who he reminds me of. Just a guy who you can say to, ‘OK, I’m going to put you here.’ You can put him at second base. Remember when we put Steve here at second base and he just played second? Like I can’t make the infield but this guy can? That’s how I view Mancini, just a guy who you can write his name in the lineup and he’ll show up.
“Hays, we drafted him last year and I didn’t know anything about him. He’s just a powerful little guy. He plays the game the right way. He plays the game hard. He’s going to have to learn how to hit at the big league level, but that comes through repetitions. But I like what he does defensively. He plays hard. He’s a center fielder by trade. He can throw.
“Then you add Cedric Mullins. He’s knocking on the door for next year, possibly the year after that. I like the athleticism we’ve got coming up in the minor leagues.”
It grows more important with Jones eligible for free agency next winter.
“Do I know if I’m going to be with these guys after next year?” Jones said. “I don’t know, but it’s good that you have guys who have talent that you can look to in the future in this organization.”
* The surgical procedure on Eduardo Rodriguez’s right knee, which the Red Sox confirmed yesterday in a press release, probably came as no surprise to the Orioles.
They weren’t rooting for it. They just wondered if the knee would become a chronic issue for him. A few people in the organization have expressed that concern.
Dr. James Andrews performed patellofemoral ligament reconstruction on Rodriguez yesterday and the Red Sox say the left-hander will resume pitching in six months.
The Orioles didn’t trade Rodriguez to the Red Sox for medical reasons. They wanted Andrew Miller. They tried to entice the Red Sox with different prospects and the deal nearly fell apart. The Tigers became the favorites to land him before executive vice president Dan Duquette agreed to surrender Rodriguez.
I’ll always defend the trade. Miller was a huge reason why the Orioles advanced to the American League Championship Series. The Tigers bullpen imploded in the Division Series.
Miller became a rental after leaving as a free agent, with the Orioles declining to negotiate. That’s a separate issue. The trade still made sense.
Rodriguez is 19-20 with a 4.23 ERA and 1.290 WHIP in 66 games with the Red Sox. He went on the disabled list June 2 and missed more than a month with a partial dislocation in the knee after falling in the visiting bullpen at Camden Yards. He missed five weeks of spring training in 2016 and nine weeks of the regular season with a dislocation, and tweaked the knee in winter ball after slipping on the mound.
* Former Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold is being inducted this weekend into Bowling Green State University’s Athletics Hall of Fame. He will be part of the 51st class.
Reimold was the 2005 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year and a second-team All-American before the Orioles drafted him in the second round. He was a two-time first-team All-MAC player and twice was chosen as Bowling Green’s Most Valuable Player.
Reimold’s 20 home runs in 2005 are the second-most in school history and he tied a record with eight RBIs in a game against Toledo. His 62 RBIs in his final season rank third, his .366 career batting average ranks eighth, his 35 home runs are fifth and his 136 RBIs and 320 total bases are ninth.
He did all of it in three seasons.
“Many of my favorite memories occurred as a Bowling Green Falcon and I am so honored to be selected as a Hall of Fame inductee,” Reimold said in a press release. “Playing baseball while my older brother, John, played basketball for BG was a time in my life that everyone in my family looks back upon with fond memories and laughter.
“Coach Schmitz instilled a valuable work ethic that I still carry with me today. He was a great coach who followed my career into the big leagues and supported me at several games.
“Finally, thanks to my teammates who made my college baseball days some of the happiest times of my life. I was fortunate to play with so many talented and admirable guys who I’m still lucky enough to call my friends. Bowling Green has been such an important and formative part of my life. It was the platform to my Major League Baseball career and I’m so grateful for the education and opportunities it provided to me.”
Reimold, who turned 34 last week, is the second-highest draft pick in Bowling Green history. He played in 451 games with the Orioles over parts of seven seasons, batting .247/.325/.422, and also appeared in 29 games with the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks in 2014.
Fully recovered from two surgeries to repair a herniated disk in his neck - the second a corrective procedure - Reimold appeared in 19 games with the independent Long Island Ducks this year before retiring in late May. The team made the announcement on its web site.
Reimold might not be done, however. He started a new training program this week and may attempt a comeback.