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Leading question: Who will bat No. 1 for O's?

Experimenting with top lineup spot this spring, Showalter says it's a good problem to have
Special to MLB.com

SARASOTA, Fla. -- In 16 Grapefruit League games, Buck Showalter has used five different leadoff hitters. And before Saturday's game with the Pirates, the Orioles manager said he hasn't decided on who his primary leadoff hitter will be.

Last season, Showalter used nine leadoff hitters. Four of them had at least 22 starts: (Seth Smith 54, Tim Beckham 41, Adam Jones 26, Joey Rickard 22).

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- In 16 Grapefruit League games, Buck Showalter has used five different leadoff hitters. And before Saturday's game with the Pirates, the Orioles manager said he hasn't decided on who his primary leadoff hitter will be.

Last season, Showalter used nine leadoff hitters. Four of them had at least 22 starts: (Seth Smith 54, Tim Beckham 41, Adam Jones 26, Joey Rickard 22).

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Smith was not re-signed, and Beckham, who was the primary leadoff man after he was acquired from the Rays on July 31, has led off three times this spring.

Alex Presley, an outfielder in camp on a Minor League contract, has led off five times, the most this spring. Colby Rasmus, another outfielder on a Minor League deal, has led off four times, including in the Orioles' 13-5 win on Saturday. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

Video: PIT@BAL: Rasmus connects for a solo home run

Showalter used Chris Davis on March 2 as the leadoff hitter. Davis has never batted in the first spot in a regular-season game, but the manager pointed out that the first baseman, who's currently out with a sore right elbow, has led the team in walks each of the last three seasons.

"I'm thinking about taking my three best hitters and lining them up," Showalter said, not disclosing who those hitters are.

"How many conventional leadoff hitters -- the way we view them, in our generation -- how many of them are there in baseball?" Showalter asked.

"They're gone. They don't exist much anymore, and when those guys leave, there won't be guys to replace them. It's not a skill set that's easily found."

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In recent years, Showalter has used leadoff hitters that others in baseball might find unconventional. In 2012, he used right fielder Nick Markakis as his No. 1 hitter, and he has also used Jones and Manny Machado there.

"That's because we didn't have that guy, and sometimes that guy is a platoon guy," Showalter said.

Rasmus has little experience batting at the top of the order. In his nine-year Major League career, Rasmus has started just five games in the leadoff spot and had little success (2-for-20 for a .100 average).

Beckham's speed makes him a logical candidate, but the Orioles' new third baseman doesn't walk much, and last year he struck out more than four times as often as he walked (167 strikeouts to 36 walks).

Video: BOS@BAL: Beckham belts a solo homer to center

Showalter has joked about using Davis there, but it's probably unlikely that he'll place a batter who has struck out more than 190 times in four of the last five seasons atop the order.

Showalter also hasn't ruled out using Trey Mancini, who as a rookie last season hit .385 (5-for-13) with two home runs and five RBIs, batting leadoff. He combined with Machado on back-to-back homers Saturday, batting in the second spot.

Because there are no easy solutions, Showalter will have to be inventive.

"It's what's happening in our game," he said, "so what's the solution for your club?"

Spring Training information

Showalter devours stats and will listen to any logical answer for the puzzling question.

"The computer will tell you it's all about who can get their best hitters up to the plate the most times," he said.

Opening Day is still 19 days away for the Orioles, and the answer isn't yet forthcoming.

"It's a good problem that I think we have," Showalter said.

Rich Dubroff is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Orioles on Saturday.

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