Pat yourselves on the back folks, you’ve unofficially made it through the MLB off season. I say “unofficially” because the games haven’t started yet, however Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers and catchers will report to camp at Ed Smith Stadium today. For the record most of them are already there, along with many position players such as Nick Markakis. Therefore while the grind of the day-to-day stuff won’t start until April, the long doldrums of the off season is kind of over and done with. I say “kind of” because again…we’re only talking about workouts as opposed to games. The Orioles won’t play a game until next Saturday (February 23rd) at Ed Smith Stadium against the Minnesota Twins.
So aside from the pitching, what should fans look for during camp? I would say that the right side of the infield will be under a microscope. Is Brian Roberts defaulted into the starting slot, or are Alexi Casilla and/or Ryan Flaherty in play? How is Chris Davis going to work out at first base? He was slotted to be the team’s first baseman last year, however that didn’t work out quite according to plan. And then we have Nolan Reimold, who’s had injury problems out the waazoo the past few years. What happens in left field?
I think that left field and first base are probably the most intriguing question marks. If Chris Davis falters at that position, does Danny Valencia get a shot? Furthermore, who’s the “everyday left fielder?” The first base situation is something that will have to figure itself out in spring training and perhaps even early in the regular season. However if history is any indication, the Orioles will probably have a two-headed left fielder in Reimold and Nate McClouth. Think back to last season…I don’t know how many different lineups Buck Showalter used, but it seemed like he had something different for every day of the week. In other words he’s not bound by the chains of one stagnant lineup that has to be used six out of seven days each week, and then one Sunday lineup. If either McClouth or Reimold falters horribly then I presume the other will see more and more time, however for the time being I would suspect that’s how left field will work.
It’s also worth mentioning that Nick Markakis and Jason Hammel are returning from injuries. How do they respond? Again, if history is any indication I think we know the answer to that. But it’ll be interesting to see how things go. I’ll make a larger note of this towards the end of next week as the actual games get closer, however I wouldn’t make too big a deal out of the first two weeks worth of Grapefruit League games (good or bad). Last season the O’s looked pretty bad in the first half of spring training, and they turned it on so to speak in the second half. Translated, that means that the first part of the Grapefruit League schedule is more for working out kinks whereas the second part is about coming together as a team. Ultimately, the journey “unofficially” begins today…the Orioles’ hope is that it ends sometime in October.