Betemit injury alters thinking on whom to keep


March 25, 2013; Sarasota, FL; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Wilson Betemit is helped off the field after suffering an injury during the fifth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium. Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The news on Wilson Betemit is sad for Wilson Betemit, the man. He has posterior cruciate ligament damage and will miss at least 6-8 weeks, after making a misstep between first and second base and appearing to hyperextend his right knee against the Red Sox on Monday. The MRI done immediately after the injury reportedly showed a Grade 2-3 tear, which made surgery a possibility, but instead, Betemit was told to ice it and go through a rehab process. More details may be in the offing.

Sympathy is okay, since it is never pleasant to see a man injured. But in the baseball business – the sports business in general – every man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. His having to start the season on the DL makes at least one roster decision easier and ultimately means a better (read: more complete) player will end up making the team.

What Betemit brings to the table is that he hits .300 with what we’ll call occasional power against righties. Period. If he hit .300 with regular power, since he is 6-2, 220 pounds, he’d be more of a candidate for a regular job. His utility is being a lefthanded-hitting DH, in other words a limited player, which is the cold, hard fact of the matter, even though our point is not to sing about a man’s bad news.

To present the financial picture, he is in the second year of a two-year deal worth a total of

But the other candidates for the DH spot also hit righthanders and have power, and they have better defensive track records. Ryan Flaherty‘s odds of breaking camp with the team become a notch better, as do Steve Pearce‘s and Connor Jackson‘s, although perhaps not all three, considering Taylor Teagarden and Alexi Casilla have to get two of the bench spots.

If Buck Showalter wants to pinch-hit a lefthanded batter, he can use Flaherty and put him in the field; or just pinch-hit him and leave him at DH, so as not to take a defensive player off the field; or use the switch-hitting Casilla as a pinch-hitter from the left side, putting the bunt in the defense’s mind, and leave him in the game for speed with no dropoff in defense. Of course if the DH is Nolan Reimold on a given day as expected, Buck would most likely not want to pinch-hit for him.

But to say those things is seeing it clinically as well as stating the fairly obvious. Showalter’s handling of the situation is part and parcel to the story. His publicly taking the side of sympathy for Betemit as a man communicated to the team that he cares just as much about the 25th man on the roster as he does for any one of the stars of the team. That’s a great way to win the hearts and minds of those seldom-used people whose best performance whenever called upon is crucial to the team’s success. He intended it as humanity and understanding. What also came out was skillful management technique.

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