On Sunday afternoon, Orioles manager Buck Showalter wasn’t tipping his hand on his starting lineup for Monday’s opener against the Minnesota Twins.
The primary reason is Joey Rickard, the 24-year-old Rule 5 pick who has just 104 plate appearances above Double-A.
You have to think he’ll get the start in left field against Minnesota right-hander Ervin Santana. He definitely earned the spot with a tremendous spring in which he batted .397 with a .472 on-base percentage in 63 at-bats.
But will he bat leadoff?
He fits the spot better than anyone else on this roster. He reached base constantly in the spring and he can run – he stole five Grapefruit League bases.
Opening Day at Camden Yards, though, is a different animal than an exhibition game at Ed Smith Stadium. Showalter recognizes that. So that’s a reason why he hasn’t announced his lineup yet.
“That’s one of the things I want to think through a little bit,” Showalter said about Rickard. “There’s some advantages, disadvantages. I think we all understand what that spotlight is like.”
I had a chance to talk to Rickard on Sunday – and he couldn’t be more thrilled about being at Camden Yards. He made a point of mentioning just how big the lockers are. That excitement wasn’t lost on Showalter.
“I’ve seen his face twice down the hall and it’s fun to look at,” Showalter said. “I’m living through him. That’s pretty cool. Fun to watch him.”
Showalter asked the media whether we would have Rickard lead off on Opening Day.
I say yes. Unless the Orioles make the playoffs, the kid’s not going to have a moment like that all season. So let’s see how he handles it.
Giving Kim a break
It’s going to be interesting to see how the fans Monday treat outfielder Hyun Soo Kim as he runs down the orange carpet. It’s very possible he gets booed. I’ve heard it before – like when newcomer Michael Gonzalez was booed during his Camden Yards’ carpet run at the home opener after a rough start to the season in Tampa Bay.
Gonzalez was a major league veteran, though. And the boos were performance-based. So he could take it, and probably deserved it in a sense.
I hope that’s not the reaction to Kim on Monday, simply because he chose not to go to the minors.
Some will call him selfish, but the Orioles agreed to the contract which gave him the ability to refuse a demotion. Criticizing that call by management, and not Kim, makes more sense. Now if Kim still struggles offensively this season, well, that’s a different story.
Kim was asked about what kind of reception he expected on Opening Day. Through interpreter Danny Lee he said, “I’m not too sure what kind of reaction the fans might have because I’m new to this place.”
The last player to be cut by the Orioles this spring was outfielder Xavier Avery, a former second-round pick by the club in 2008 who returned to the organization on a minor-league deal this winter.
Avery had a tremendous spring, hitting .313 with a .476 on-base percentage. He homered four times – and the mix of speed and power he showed is definitely intriguing.
He’s only 26 – and so he is definitely worth keeping in the organization. That’s not a problem now, since he could be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers.
The organization has a crowded outfield at Triple-A, but Avery is ticketed as the primary center fielder down there (Christian Walker will be in left, Dariel Alvarez will be in right and L.J. Hoes also needs to get playing time).
The roster crunch means that 30-year-old Julio Borbon, who has spent four seasons in the majors and the last two years at Norfolk, will be sent to Double-A Bowie to start 2016.
The organization keeps taking about having depth that can help the big-league club, and now it has three center fielders with major league experience in the minors.
Avery is definitely a guy that we could see in the majors this year if there’s a key injury – or if Kim decides he needs some regular at-bats at Norfolk.