Spring training is in full swing (half over really), and aches and pains are likely to change the opening day landscape.
Derrek Lee has yet to play in a Grapefruit league game due to tendonitis in his right wrist. His off season thumb surgery has healed just fine, but he will continue to rest in order to have his wrist ready for opening day. In the mean time, the Orioles have to be thinking of a back up plan. Several names are thrown around capable of starting at first. I for one hope Jake Fox is near the top of that list. He’s had a great spring so far showing pop in his bat, tied with Adam Jones for most home runs at 3 each. He is trying to make the opening day roster as back up catcher. I think he would prove more valuable as our second utility guy. Using Fox at first would keep Luke Scott in the outfield and would give the Orioles much needed stability in at least one area of the field.
Stability someplace will be important, because Brian Roberts, the lead off spark is being plagued by back spasms and will continue to sit out. He will be undergoing an MRI which will likely be used side by side with last seasons to see if the problem has progressed. Let’s be honest, back problems are ongoing and hard to overcome. Cesar Izturis will likely play in Roberts place if he’s not ready opening day. Ryan Adams, rookie second basemen has been getting some playing time in spring training and so far is 7 for 15 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI’s. I’m not sure if the Orioles want to take a chance on him to start the season, but if Roberts is on the DL which seems likely, what do you really have to lose. Adams may possibly be your future second baseman, and with Roberts lumbar issues, the future may be closer than we think.
I want to see both Roberts and Lee on opening day, and the whole season for that matter. But if they can’t go let me be the first to say, give youth a chance. With the appearance of a legitimate rebuilding going on, and a manager like Buck teaching good habits, mixing in some youth throughout the season seems like a winner. Expectations for the Orioles are high this year, but not pennant high, more like 82 wins high. If I’m going to watch a player bat .230 (Izturis avg. in 2010) I would rather it be Ryan Adams. If Lee is on the DL and Jake Fox is strictly a backup catcher, let’s keep Luke Scott in left and possibly give Joseph Mahoney or Brandon Snyder a shot at first. So far this spring Mahoney is 7 for 17 and Snyder is 15 for 25 with a homer.
I’m not against acquiring players later in their career, or am I ready to write off a great player like 2 time All Star Brian Roberts. But if we have to replace them, even temporarily, I would rather have lack of experience with upside potential than established mediocrity.