Mar 25, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles infielder Everth Cabrera (1) prepares to catch a ground ball in the second inning of the spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
I can hear it now – some are saying, “Covering for Lough is a big deal? Heck, it’s an opportunity to get a better player on the roster!” And I can understand that to some extent, though I’m not ready to throw Lough overboard. He is one of the better pure athletes on the team who possesses a variety of skills when fully healthy.
The certain presumption is that a sixth outfielder will join the five locks to be on the roster: Adam Jones, Travis Snider, Alejandro De Aza, Steve Pearce and Delmon Young. On most days, one of these last four will be the likely designated hitter.
If I were making the decision about a sixth outfielder I would take Reimold, given the excellent spring training he has put together and the way he appears fully healthy for the first time in literally years. But this does not negate Paredes.
In thinking about the temporary (we presume) loss of Hardy, it would seem logical that Everth Cabrera should get most of the starts at shortstop. He possesses the best combination of offence and defense, while also bringing a speed dimension that has been lacking in recent years.
This leaves three players for the positions of second base and utility infielder: Ryan Flaherty, Jonathan Schoop and Paredes. All three of these will likely be on the opening day roster before Chris Davis returns for game two of the season. These three could be kept and Reimold sent down.
However, if I was making the choice, I would send down Ryan Flaherty. Yes, his defense and versatility is better than the other two (excluding Schoop at second base). And yes, Buck loves defense. But it is time to go for something better than a .220 average. He has also shown a propensity for starting the regular season in horrific slumps.
The question could be asked as to what would be done in the event of Cabrera going down with an injury at short. In such a scenario either Machado or Schoop could finish off a game until someone could be secured from AAA. Why sacrifice production in multiple at-bats over a large number of games simply to have the best defensive backup for a few innings in one game?
The question will then be what to do when Hardy returns. But perhaps that question will answer itself in the meantime.
Relative to Hardy: here he is injured at the beginning of his three-year extension. Where might this be headed? Is Hardy prone to bumps and bruises and aches and pains? I have to say that I fear he might not be the most resilient of players. He has had the back issues, and he never looks comfortable. He is constantly stretching his back from side to side and swinging arms and shoulders as if he is feeling tight. Hardy runs in a style that looks like something hurts. But he plays through most of these issues, as do many players over a 162-game grueling schedule – grinding it out is what Adam Jones would say.
Hardy will likely bounce back from this setback rather quickly. My bigger worry is if this puts him behind on catching up with the pace of the game, and the next thing we know it is mid to late May and he is in a slump and not looking recovered fully and up to speed. And could this inhibit the return of more power? We’ll find out later.
Another concern I have for several players mentioned in this piece is the challenge they face if not playing pretty much every day. I think Nolan Reimold might be particularly susceptible to this. Young is amazing in the way he is able to step in without playing for several days and be right on top of the pitch. Showalter tries to involve everyone as much as possible, but I fear the mix-matching he may do will thwart the best effectiveness of Nolan, De Aza, and Snider in particular.
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And relative to pitchers … this is a huge other discussion. Come back in a few hours after this post for the next O’s article by my colleague Nate Wardle – who will take a look at the 25-man roster.