Thursday, February 14, 2008

5 Things to Watch in Spring Training

Pitchers and catchers report today baseball fans! Here's five things I'll be watching during Spring Training.

1. The Bullpen Auditions

With the acquisition of George Sherrill, the bullpen now has three spots locked up. (Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford being the others.) That means Rule 5 draftee Randor Bierd, Rocky Cherry, Brian Burress, Kim Mickolio, Greg Aquino, Jim Hoey, Bob McCrory, Dennis Sarfate, maybe Esteban Yan and others will be involved in a Battle Royale for the last three or four spots in the bullpen. None of these guys could be any worse than the crew we had last season...I hope.

2. The Scott Moore Factor

Unless Scott Moore completely tanks in Ft. Lauderdale, he is gong to push for significant playing time and will possibly push some veteran right off the roster. But where will he play? If he shows a good glove at third, Melvin Mora will quickly find himself on the trading block. If the club gives him primary duties at first, Jay Gibbons won't get a chance to redeem himself this season.

3. The Young Arms

With Erik Bedard gone, there are two spots open at the back of the rotation for a young hurler to grab. (Let's not fool ourselves, if there are viable options among these rookies, Steve Trachsel is not going north. Not yet.) Troy Patton comes over from Houston with the best resumé. Garrett Olson, Matt Albers, Radhames Liz, and Jim Johnson will also get a look. Hayden Penn will have to prove he's healthy before he gets a real look.

4. The Least Repulsive Option At Shortstop

Luis Hernandez has a near lock on the shortstop job at this point but despite what happened last season, it's going to be ugly for him at the plate. That fact may open the door for Brandon Fahey should he swing the lumber this spring. If neither look good on offense, the play in the field may decide the case. If both look bad, it may get Freddie Bynum more playing time at short but I would expect him to still be a utility man.

5. The Battle for the Backup Backstop - Part II

Unfortunately for Oriole fans everywhere, Paul Bako beat out Rule V pick Adam Donachie for this honor last season.

There's nowhere to go but up at this point. Former top prospect Guillermo Quiroz has the inside track but he's hardly a lock as he tries to recapture some of his lost potential. Chris Heintz played sparingly in Minnesota last season but has hit .313 against lefties in his career. Former big leaguer Ben Davis will be trying to get his career back on track and there is always the smallest chance that Matt Wieters will be so impressive that he makes the team, splitting time with the incumbent Ramon Hernandez. A real dark horse is IF Mike Costanzo who the Orioles acquired in the Miguel Tejada trade from Houston. He has been invited to report with pitchers and catchers to work out at the catcher position.

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