Things just got a little more interesting in Sarasota.
Since 21-year-old stud Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will start the 2014 season on the disabled list, Buck Showalter‘s team has a plethora of options when it comes to laying out his infield. I have to assume that Ryan Flaherty (better known as Flash) will make the roster and get the Opening Day nod at the hot corner filling in for Machado.
Flash is slashing .310/.362/.571 this spring (for those that care about spring stats). He played all four infield positions for the Orioles in 2013, spending most of his days (65 games, 59 starts) at second base. Flaherty appeared in just seven games at third posting a 3.18 RF/9. At second base he proved to be an above average defender with a 4.91 RF/9 (4.64 was the league average).
Weeks, acquired from Oakland in the Jim Johnson deal, hasn’t turned any heads this spring with his .143/.295/.171 slashline over 44 plate appearances. The hope was (or is, I guess) that he would be able to repeat his rookie season in 2011 in which he hit .303/.340/.421 over 97 games with the A’s. So far, it’s looking like that may not happen.
Jonathan Schoop has every Orioles fan excited with his big spring. Big in a lot of ways actually. Apparently the Curacao native bulked up over the winter and has put together an impressive spring with that big, beautiful .400/.436/.686 slash. It’s been such a great time for Schoop down in Sarasota, that everyone thinks I’m a jerk for pointing out the pitchers he’s faced. I am a jerk, but that’s not a good enough example of why.
It would be tough to deny Schoop the starting gig at second after he clearly won the battle royale against Weeks this spring, but what happens when Machado comes back? Does Schoop keep the job at second and put Flaherty on the bench? It’s an unpopular opinion, but perhaps some consistent at-bats at Norfolk may be a good compromise — especially with the new guy in town giving the Birds another option.
New Guy is the pride of Atholton High School in Columbia, Maryland — Steve Lombardozzi. Lombo spent three seasons with the Washington Nationals before being sent to Detroit Rock City in the Doug Fister trade. He was in Lakeland with Brad Ausmus‘ club for a few weeks before packing his bags and heading to Sarasota to join the O’s. Dan Duquette sent 37-year-old infielder Alex Gonzalez to the Tigers, who are searching for a replacement for Jose Iglesias and don’t want to pay Stephen Drew, and the Orioles received our guy, Lombo.
In three seasons in D.C., Lombardozzi hit .264/.297/.342 over 755 plate appearances in 257 games. He too has experience playing around the diamond, spending 102 games at second, but receiving time at shortstop, third base and in left field. His 5.44 RF/9 over those three seasons is above the league average of 4.75.
From my perspective, it makes sense for the Orioles to send Schoop to Triple-A to receive consistent playing time and avoid starting the arbitration clock early on the 22-year-old. It might not be the most popular opinion, but I think it makes the most sense. Lombardozzi gives the Orioles another option while they take their time and wait patiently for Machado to make his triumphant return.
Image Credit: Keith Allison