After the 2008 season the Baltimore Orioles realized they did not have, within the organization, a player who was ready to handle the shortstop position on a regular basis. The Orioles were wise to sign Cesar Izturis before the 2009 season. No he is not a Derek Jeter, a Jimmy Rollins, a Jose Reyes, or even an Edgar Renteria offensively, but Izturis proved to be a vast defensive improvement over anyone the ’08 Orioles trotted out to the position. Itzturis’ steady defense will be key for the Orioles in 2010. With a young pitching staff, solid defense up the middle will go a long way to building confidence.
It seems reasonable to expect that Izturis will be able to duplicate his defensive performance of last year. The question is whether he can become more of a table setter in the Oriole offense. Manager Dave Trembley plans to bat Izturis primarily 9th in the Orioles line-up. Makes sense considering that Izturis is the weakest bat of the O’s regulars, but the hope is that he can bookend Brian Roberts at the top of the order and the pair can cause some havoc with their speed on the base paths. In order to take advantage of that speed Izturis will need to get on base more often in 2010. Izturis batted .256 in ,09 and had an OBP of .294. The problem is that those numbers are not far from Izturis’ career averages. It is not likely to happen but if he can get on base at a .315 clip, steal 20-25 bases then Izturis will provide many more opportunities for the top of the Orioles line-up.
The other factor in Cesar Izturis’ contribution to the 2010 Orioles is his ability to stay healthy. His stint on the DL last year gave the Orioles management and fans a closer look at the capabilities of Robert Andino. Andino played well at times and for the most part showed his glove can play in the bigs, but Izturis is the Orioles preference to play 145 plus games at SS, something he has not always been able to do. Izturis has only played more than 145 games twice in his career, perhaps him being healthy for that many games in 2010 is as unlikely as him improving on his offensive performance over last year. The good thing is that the O’s are not counting on Izturis being an offensive dynamo. He needs to, along with Brian Roberts and Adam Jones, make the Orioles pitchers confident to let hitters put the ball in play knowing up the middle is solid.