Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Training Updates: Week 3

The end of the third week of spring training games is upon us, so lets see how these position battles are shaking out.

Before the season I listed 5 things to watch:

1. Pie versus Reimold - Felix Pie is hitting .211/.231/.263 still with just the two doubles over 39 plate appearances with a walk and two strikeouts. Nolan Reimold is, quietly it seems, hitting .333/.458/.564 with 2 homers, 3 doubles, 8 walks and 5 strikeouts over 47 plate appearances. Reimold is lapping Pie at this point.

Until Derrek Lee actually plays a game, this is probably a moot point. But it would be a shame if Pie has to be exposed to waivers to give Reimold his shot this spring. Pie is a nice fourth outfielder at worst and could be pretty useful in that role. But he could get exposed to waivers...because the Orioles decided to pay Valdimir Guerrero $8 million for this season. We shall see...

2. Chris Tillman versus Jake Arrieta - Arreita has a 4.00 ERA, Tillman has a 3.55 ERA. However, Tillman's peripherals no longer are better (0 HR, 7 K, 5BB) than Arrieta's (1 HR, 8 K, 2 BB). But some other supporting numbers are. Tillman has a lower WHIP, has lower OBP against and alower SLG against. I said this battle would be decided by who shows the best control or woh had the better K/BB ratio and that's where Arrieta has the edge. But overall, they are pretty even still. I'm still not sure why Arrieta's spot in rotation seems to be a fait accompli while Tillman is viewed as being on the outside looking in.

3. Brian Roberts Rebound - We have not seen Roberts on the field since this time last week. His MRI showed nothing new but he seems no closer to action than he was last Friday.

4. The Battle for the Backup Backstop - Hey, let's face it. Unless Buck Showalter doesn't think Jake Fox can catch well enough, this battle is over. Fox is hitting .356/.370/.911 and leading all of baseball with 7 homers this spring. Given the potential in his bat and his versatility, he's the man.

Now, some people have derided Fox's lack of walks this spring (he has but one) but I am not very concerned about that. His minor league walk rates were OK and I expect them to be better during the season. He came into Spring Training on the bubble for this team. He probably figured he needed to make an impression and you don't make a big impression watching that fastball that may be a bit high in the zone. You get noticed by depositing that ball over the leftfield fence.

Conversely, Fox will be a decent backup and a nice bat off the bench. He is not a guy you want starting for you. His spring is fooling people that he is more valuable than he actually is. He is not going to hit like that during the season and he would be exposed if he was in the lineup everyday. He's a nice player, the kind that the Orioles should be picking up cheap and finding a spot for him. I like him a lot. But he's a backup. Not a starter. Calm down.

5. Who's the Backup Middle Infielder? - Nobody has hit. Cesar Izturis still probably has the job by default at this point. But if the coaching staff believes Izturis has lost what little offensive skills he had, don't be surprised if he is jettisoned and Brendan Harris or Robert Andino is given the job instead.

Further developments: Justin Duchscherer is a couple of days away from throwing again. Opening Day is a mere two weeks away. It's hard to imagine that he will be ready to go by then...Zach Britton has continued to be impressive. He is still likely to start the season in Norfolk since the Orioles have other options but he likely won't be there long...Kevin Gregg was tinkering with his mechanics and over two appearances, it was to poor results. He and new pitching coach Mark Connor are abandoning the experiment...Rule 5 pick Adrian Rosario has not made an appearance in more than a week and looks very unlikely to make the club. He will soon be returned to the Brewers unless the teams can work out a trade...RHP Pedro Beato has a 2,57 ERA for the Mets and is pitching OK. The Orioles might not get him back. RHP Pat Egan has a 0.00 ERA and hasn't given up a walk in 4 appearances for the Brewers. There's an outside chance the Orioles don't get him back either.

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