Trusty old Izzy is back.  The Orioles signed SS Cesar Izturis to a one year, $1.5 million deal this offseason, despite the acquisition of J.J. Hardy from the Twins the day before.  Izturis, the Orioles primary starting shortstop for the last two season, looks to take on a utility role this year on the bench.  Able to play shortstop and second base, Izturis is basically set in stone to be the main middle infield backup on the roster.

Izturis is not a slugger.  We all know that.  2010 was his worst year as a hitter since beginning his ML career in 2001 with the Blue Jays.  His almost pitiful line of .230/.277/.268 brought many O’s fans to their wit’s end, hence the move for an offensive upgrade at SS.  His defense, on the other hand, was once again top notch, and even deserving of a top spot in Gold Glove voting (but we all know what happened there).

But why come back to Baltimore?  From this post by Roch Kubatko:

Izturis said that lots of teams were interested in him, “but not to play every day.”

“Why go someplace else?” he said.

“The organization has been great to me the two years that I’ve played here,” he said. “Andy (MacPhail) and (Buck) Showalter talked to me the whole time and said they needed me here. I like the club, I like the people. My family, they are happy in Baltimore. You have to consider that with them, too. They were excited. My family and me decided to come back. My teammates are great. We’re going in the right direction.”

“I think it’s going to be different, but I’ll make an adjustment,” he said. “I’ve been taking ground balls (at second) and working out, even at third. Whatever they want me to do, I’m going to do it.”

It is hard to predict his plate appearances or even defensive appearances for 2011, mainly because we cannot know how injuries will affect the team in 2011.  Going with the scenario that Brian Roberts and J.J. Hardy both stay healthy for all of 2011, I would expect Izturis to rack up about 100 plate appearances between some starts on those guys’ rest days and some late game replacements.  With those ABs, we can’t expect much more than a .230 average and a few RBIs.  What we can be sure of is that when he is put into games, the defensive side will be top quality, and Orioles players have said in the past how much of a good influence he is.  He plays the game in the right way, goes about his business, and does not get involved in any trouble.

With guys like Robert Andino, Josh Bell, Brandon Snyder, Nick Green, and Brendan Harris all battling in camp for other utility roles with the club, Izturis is the only guy out of the bunch signed on to a major league contract, almost guaranteeing that he makes the roster.  With his trusty glove and solid base running abilities, he gives the Orioles a very good option late in games as a defensive replacement and/or pinch runner.  Especially with Brian Roberts plagued with injuries in 2010 and Hardy missing a good chunk of the year with wrist problems, Buck will look to Izturis to fill in those roles, even in extended amounts, throughout the 2011 campaign.