SARASOTA, Fla. - Absolutely nothing should be read into a spring training lineup in February. And the level of importance scrapes the bottom if it’s an opener and played on the road.
The Orioles kept most of their regulars back at the Ed Smith Stadium complex yesterday, including first baseman Chris Davis, shortstop José Iglesias, third baseman Rio Ruiz, infielder Hanser Alberto and outfielder Trey Mancini.
Five catchers made the trip and Pedro Severino wasn’t among them. I kept looking for Chad Moeller.
Austin Hays led off and played center field. That one might have hit the mark. But otherwise, it’s unlikely that anyone in the lineup will be in the exact same spot on opening day.
A handful few of them could be at minor league camp.
José Rondón is trying to stay as a super-utility player. He played second base yesterday, where he’s made 16 starts in the majors and 16 in the minors.
Name a position and he’s played it. (Just don’t say catcher.)
The resume includes one inning in center field in Caracas. I’m counting it.
The importance of being versatile is repeated often in Orioles camp. Manager Brandon Hyde talked about it again yesterday. The infielders are aware.
“Yes, it is,” Rondón said. “I mean, that really opens doors for you. The more positions that you can play, the more versatility you can show, and that’s what I’m looking for.”
Rondón stayed at second base yesterday until Ramón Urias replaced him. Pat Valaika and Dilson Herrera split time at first base, Renato Núñez and Rylan Bannon played third and Richie Martin and Malquin Canelo handled shortstop.
“It’s a really good competition going on,” Rondón said. “You just have to go out there and play as hard as you can so that the staff and the coaches can make a decision on you.”
Rondón lined a single into left field in his first at-bat - equaling his number of plate appearances with the Orioles last season. They selected him off waivers from the White Sox on July 30 and designated him for assignment after his only game on Aug. 1.
The Orioles re-signed Rondón to a minor league contract over the winter. He didn’t really consider going to another organization.
“No, not really,” he said. “As soon as the team reached out about it and showed interest in me, I was interested in them. I was sure of what I was doing, so I’m really happy to be here.”
With the possibility that the Orioles carry multiple utility players on a 26-man roster, Rondón might be able to extend his stay beyond one at-bat in one game.
Being taken off the 40-man roster so quickly and not returning “felt a little bit weird,” Rondón said.
“At the same time those are the kinds of things that happen in any sport. So I just tried to keep my head up, tried to play hard in the minors to be called up again.”