Orioles assembling army of left fielders

Orioles assembling army of left fielders
January 4, 2014, 11:30 am
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You may not have realized it. Over the past few weeks, the Orioles have been assembling a large cast of hopefuls for the left field job.

A new left fielder became necessary when Nate McLouth left to sign a two-year contract with the Nationals. Four days before he agreed with the Nats, the Orioles re-signed two possibilities for left field: Steve Pearce and Nolan Reimold.

Both Pearce and Reimold are right-handed hitters, unlike McLouth, and both had 2013 seasons interrupted by injuries.

The Orioles already had Henry Urrutia on the 40-man roster. Urrutia, who is a left-handed hitter, is a long shot to play there and is currently a leading candidate to be the designated hitter.

Urrutia showed a decent bat, but no power and plate discipline in his time with the Orioles last summer. The team hopes that his time in the Arizona Fall League will help.

If Reimold is healthy, he could be part of a productive duo in left, but he hasn’t been 100 percent since 2011.

The left-handed hitting component of a possible platoon is David Lough, who was acquired from Kansas City for Danny Valencia. Lough’s acquisition was overlooked because it occurred in the midst of the Grant Balfour mess.

Lough batted .286 in 96 games with the Royals. He doesn’t have a great on-base percentage, but has some speed.

Besides Lough, the Orioles have acquired three other left-handed hitting outfielders recently: Julio Borbon, Xavier Paul and Quintin Berry. They’ve also added a right-handed hitting outfielder, Francisco Peguero.

Peguero was signed as a free agent last month. He didn’t have a chance to play much with San Francisco, just 35 games over the last two years. He did hit .315 in Triple-A last year, and both Peguero and Lough are on the 40-man roster. Borbon, Paul and Berry are not.

Berry was signed on Friday as a minor league free agent. A former high school teammate of Adam Jones, Berry has worked with Jones in the offseason to help him steal bases.

In 29 attempts over two big league seasons and postseasons, Barry has yet to be thrown out.

Berry, who is 29, is with his eighth big league organization. Originally drafted by the Phillies, he’s been with the Mets, Padres, Reds, Tigers, Royals and Red Sox. A ninth organization, the Braves, drafted him in 2003, but he went to San Diego State to play for Tony Gwynn.

In 107 major league games with Detroit and Boston, Berry has a .267 average with no power, but lots of speed.

[RELATED: Orioles add stolen base specialist in Berry]

McLouth had 30 stolen bases last year. Jones, with 14, was the only other Orioles in double figures. While it may be a stretch for the team to carry Berry as a fifth outfielder, he has a component they don’t have elsewhere, though Lough has some speed.

Borbon can run, too. He was a low-risk draftee in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5, and stole seven bases in eight attempts for the Cubs last year.

After a promising start to his big league career, Borbon slipped noticeably, and by 2012 was out of the big leagues. Borbon played in the 2010 World Series with Texas.

Paul has played five years with the Dodgers, Pirates and Reds. With Cincinnati last season, Paul hit .244 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs.

Reimold, Pearce, Urrutia, Lough, Borbon, Paul and Berry will all skirmish for spots on the roster. Left field seems wide open, and so does designated hitter. The Orioles will probably sign additional outfielders, probably right-handed, before spring training starts on Feb. 13.
If the Orioles keep Berry, would they also try and keep Rule 5 draftee Michael Almanzar?

Almanzar has yet to play above Double-A, and while he’ll get a chance in spring training, there’s no room at his positions, first and third base. Keeping a third consecutive Rule 5 draftee and a pinch-running specialist could truly hamper Buck Showalter’s maneuverability.

Dan Duquette said on Friday that the Orioles remain in the hunt for additional pitching help. Hopefully, there’ll be as many contenders for the fifth starter and the bullpen as there for left field.