Hall of Fame voter Mark Zuckerman on the 2014 class
The Orioles have strong and sturdy core players. Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Nick Markakis all played at last 148 games.
Had Machado not been hurt in his 156th, it’s possible that he would have played all 162. Manager Buck Showalter decided to break Jones’s streak of 322 consecutive games played after the team was eliminated from playoff consideration.
The Orioles hope Machado comes back without restrictions from his October knee surgery and is ready for Opening Day action.
If Machado is not ready, Ryan Flaherty could move from second to play third. There’s Rule 5 draft pick Michael Almanzar, who has played first and third, but never above Double-A in the Red Sox organization.
Alexi Casilla, Ivan De Jesus, Jr. and minor league signee Brock Bond have limited experience at third.
Hardy was on the disabled list in 2011, but has missed just seven games in the past two years. Casilla is the obvious choice to substitute for him.
Davis was in the lineup for 160 games. He injured his left knee in May and was out for one game. He was also rested for one when the team was eliminated and hurt his wrist in the final game of the season.
The Orioles have a number of first base candidates. Steve Pearce has played first base often. Markakis and Wieters have played there briefly. Flaherty has played first, too. Chris Marrero, who was a minor league signee, has major league first base experience with the Nationals.
In 2012, Markakis was out twice for lengthy periods. Pearce helped out, and Davis played some right field. Nate McLouth was available when he was hurt in September.
Last year, Markakis proved that 2012’s injuries were an aberration. He played in 160 games and missed one because of the birth of a son. From 2007-2011, Markakis averaged 160 games.
There are multiple options if the Orioles need to replace Jones and Markakis for any lengthy period of time. David Lough, who’s the nominal starting left fielder, has experience at the other outfield positions.
Pearce plays well in right field, and Quintin Berry, Xavier Paul and Delmon Young, who signed minor league contracts, have experience at all the outfield positions. So does Julio Borbon, who was selected in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft. Francisco Peguero has no major league experience in center, but has played there in the minors.
Wieters has had just one stint on the disabled list, in July 2010. Steve Clevenger looks to have the edge as his backup. Johnny Monell has some major league experience, and the team picked up David Freitas in the Jim Johnson trade, though he hasn’t played above Triple-A.
NOTE: The Orioles have two scheduled ESPN Sunday Night Baseball appearances. On April 20, they face the Red Sox in Boston at 7 p.m. They’ll face the Yankees at Oriole Park on July 13 at 8 p.m.
It’s possible the Orioles will get additional Sunday night appearances. ESPN has scheduled just 10 of the slots.