Will Machado, Wieters be ready for Opening Day?
With camp set to open, three questions loom large for AL East champs
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles have started Spring Training, with pitchers and catchers reporting to the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Thursday in advance of Friday's first workout.
The O's added some intrigue to camp with Wednesday's news that they were close to signing infielder Everth Cabrera, though there are plenty of other storylines to follow. In an offseason which Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller departed, Baltimore is relying on its current roster to step up.
With that in mind, here are three key questions to be answered this spring.
1. Will Manny Machado and Matt Wieters be in the Opening Day lineup?
Machado is expected to be a full-go in camp, while Wieters will be taking things slow to start. Manager Buck Showalter confirmed that the backstop will be serving as the club's designated hitter for a good chunk of the early Grapefruit League games, telling MLB Network Radio on Wednesday that Wieters won't do any in-game catching until March 17.
Still, if Wieters sticks to his timetable, he should be able to suit up come Opening Day. The same goes for Machado, provided there are no setbacks. The All-Stars, who both underwent season-ending surgery last year, would be a huge boost to get back at the season's start.
2. Who will take over the corner outfield spots?
Showalter has a few options, and replacing Cruz and Markakis, who manned right field for a long time, won't be an easy task. The Orioles do have Alejandro De Aza, who performed well in a small sample size last year, and Steve Pearce is coming off a career year. David Lough showed some encouraging signs at the plate toward the end of the season, and Travis Snider, who was acquired in a trade from Pittsburgh, will also get some time there this spring. Delmon Young has requested to get some extra reps in right field, and Alex Hassan will also get a look.
It should make for one of the more interesting position battles in camp.
3. Can Ubaldo Jimenez find consistency?
Jimenez has three more years left on his contract, so the Orioles can't just cast him aside. But what will the right-hander do in his second season? It's tough to predict. Jimenez struggled with consistency last season, and the O's have one more starter than rotation spots available as things stand. Jimenez will need to at least show signs of heading in the right direction for Baltimore to feel OK penciling him in among the starting five. Can pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti find a way to make it all click?