The need for a left-handed hitting outfielder

The Orioles signed Colby Rasmus to a minor league deal because they wanted a left-handed hitting outfielder who could give them plus-defense in right and also back up in center. He made it through eight games before going on the disabled list with a hip injury and only two hits with 13 strikeouts in 21 at-bats.

colby-rasmus-crouched-bat-spring.jpgRasmus is playing in extended spring training games and the Orioles miss him. Not the injured, .095 hitting version, but the guy that they envisioned after reaching agreement on a deal that guaranteed $3 million if he played in the majors.

The flaws in the 25-man roster include the lack of a left-handed hitting outfielder. They carried switch-hitting Anthony Santander through the first 44 days until his Rule 5 status expired. He was batting .198 when the Orioles optioned him to Double-A Bowie, where he’s batting .289 in nine games and hit his first home run yesterday.

Trey Mancini continues to play left field despite a sore knee that’s led manager Buck Showalter to bring in defensive substitutions late in games. Joey Rickard and Craig Gentry are nice role players who hit from the right side. Mark Trumbo is below-average with the glove, but gets starts in right to enable Showalter to use Pedro Álvarez as the designated hitter.

Trumbo is a career .282/.338/.523 hitter when used in right field, but Showalter is basing his decision more on the need to fit two potentially productive bats in his lineup. Two players who profile as designated hitters, though Trumbo is regarded as a better first baseman than outfielder.

In a perfect world that eludes the Orioles like a greased pig, a reliable left-handed hitter would at least platoon in right and Trumbo with a healthy knee would be the designated hitter. The roster would include Gentry or Rickard as a right-handed option, pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

(Trumbo’s knee isn’t healthy and he’s scheduled to undergo an MRI today.)

The Michael Saunders signing didn’t pan out. He was batting .165 when he opted out of his contract and signed with the White Sox. Alex Presley also opted out and signed with the White Sox. I’m pretty sure it was coincidence and not a package deal.

Jaycob Brugman began last night batting .254 for Norfolk. DJ Stewart .263 with a .358 on-base percentage.

Not that anyone asked, but I’d give serious consideration to selecting Cedric Mullins’ contract from Double-A Bowie. He’s a switch-hitter who can run and defend and he’s batting .293 in 43 games with a .347 on-base percentage and a nine-game hitting streak where he’s collected 16 hits.

Put him atop the order and lower Mancini, as Showalter would prefer to do if he had someone who better fit the description. What exactly do they have to lose? More games? They’re hauling the second-worst record in baseball to Tropicana Field.

With Trumbo unavailable and awaiting his MRI, Álvarez figures to be the regular designated hitter against right-handed pitching. Danny Valencia can DH versus southpaws, but left-handed hitting Jace Peterson would have to play third base.

The Orioles will see two right-handers in their three-game series against the Rays, with reliever Sergio Romo tabbed for tonight and Sunday afternoon. Saturday’s starter is reliever Ryne Stanek, who’s never started a major league game.

The Orioles will counter with Eddie Watt twice and Pete Richert.

Actually, it’s David Hess, Andrew Cashner and Kevin Gausman, but I also like my idea.

Romo has made two starts in 590 career appearances and they’ve come on Saturday and Sunday in Anaheim. One inning apiece with no runs or hits allowed, two walks and six strikeouts. He’s come out of the bullpen twice this season at Camden Yards.

Right-handers are hitting .188 against Romo in his career, but do matchups really matter for a one-inning start? I’m pretty sure the Orioles will have Mancini, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop in the first four slots.

In eight career appearances against the Orioles, Romo has allowed three runs and six hits with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

Invited to the small sample size party, Jones is 2-for-4 lifetime against Romo and Valencia is 1-for-2 with a home run. Trumbo is 0-for-8 with five strikeouts.

Rookie left-hander Ryan Yarbrough is expected to back up Romo. He’s 4-2 with a 3.54 ERA and 1.107 WHIP in 11 games, including three starts, and he allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings Saturday to earn the win after replacing Romo.

Left-handers and right-handers are batting .205 against Yarbrough.

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