Sunday Night Baseball is back at Camden Yards tonight for the first time since 2005 and it’s only fitting that the game is against the Yankees. Tonight also marks the return of the longest tenured Oriole, veteran 2nd baseman Brian Roberts.
If you haven’t heard his name much over the past 4 seasons, you’re not alone. Since 2009, when Roberts came tantalizingly close to breaking the single-season doubles record, the injury bug hit him hard & he has played a total of just 119 games.
With the return of Roberts, called into question is what to do with hot-hitting Ryan Flaherty.
Flaherty is riding an 8 game hitting streak, he has gone 14-27 including 4 home runs & 9 RBIs, including a monster three run homer in yesterday’s shellacking of the Yankees. Granted, his average is still an anemic .212, but the consistency with which he is swinging the bat & providing superb defense at 2nd base cannot be taken for granted.
Inserting Roberts back at 2nd base creates a bench of Flaherty, Chris Dickerson, Danny Valencia, and Alexi Casilla. Additionally, it sounds like Nolan Reimold is close to being activated off the DL, adding another body to a suddenly very crowded 25-man roster. At first glance, it seems as though the odd man out would be Casilla, since Dickerson, Valencia, Flaherty and Reimold can all play multiple positions; Flaherty can actually play all 4 infield positions and both corner outfield spots. That decision is made more difficult by the fact that each of those players has come up with big hits in big games that helped the Orioles to victories. Even at the veteran age of 35, Roberts will probably need some time to readjust to big league pitching & defensive speed, so a decision on when to play Flaherty vs. Roberts may not have to be made right away.
Eventually, however, decisions will have to happen, and manager Buck Showalter is as good as any manager in the league at tinkering with lineups, fielding rotations, and making the changes that need to be made for success. The chemistry of infielders Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy, Flaherty, and Chris Davis has helped lessen the burden created by shaky pitching and a brutal schedule. It will be interesting to see, as Roberts makes his return tonight at Camden Yards (he is the DH & batting 9th) how it impacts the team heading into the 2nd half of the season.