Even though the spring training weather has been ideal for the Baltimore Orioles so far, it’s hard to ignore the black cloud that seems to be lingering over right field.
The most recent mishap -- a wrist injury to Jimmy Paredes in Thursday’s Grapefruit League game against the Tampa Bay Rays -- is merely the latest in what’s been a seemingly never-ending string of corner outfield calamity.
It started in late February, when it seemed as though Dexter Fowler was headed to Charm City. Actually, it started way before that, in December 2014, when Nick Markakis signed with the Braves. The Orioles then proceeded to use 11 different right fielders last season, to varying degrees of ineffectiveness. Among them was Gerardo Parra, whose deadline acquisition was supposed to incapacitate the revolving door once and for all. But after a huge first half of the season in Milwaukee, Parra came crashing back to earth in Baltimore before signing with the Rockies over the winter.
As a result, the Orioles went into the offseason intent on finding a legitimate heir to Markakis, only to come up empty -- at least until Feb. 23. That’s when reports surfaced that Fowler, who had been linked to the O’s as a potential free-agent target, had signed with Baltimore. Even though he had been a center fielder his entire career, all indications were that he was going to be the Birds’ new right fielder. Until, you know, he wasn’t: Two days later, Fowler shocked the baseball world by showing up at Cubs camp and revealing that he had actually re-signed with his old team.
No big deal. The Orioles had options. Among those options were a handful of in-house candidates that included Nolan Reimold, Mark Trumbo and Paredes. But judging by what has transpired the past few days, the coal-colored cumulus has other plans.
First, Reimold develops shoulder soreness, and as a result serves as the designated hitter for the team’s Grapefruit League opener. Next, Trumbo, who gets the start in right field that day, has not one but two triples hit in his direction in the very first inning, including one in the very first at-bat of the game. Two days later, Paredes jams his glove into the ground trying to make a diving grab and has to leave the game early with a sprained wrist.
While it remains to be seen when Reimold’s shoulder will stop barking or how Trumbo will fare if given an extended look out there or how long Paredes’ wrist will sideline him, the reality is that none of those three guys screams everyday right fielder. Reimold looks the part, but the 32-year-old has had trouble staying on the field throughout his career. Trumbo has 119 career starts in right, including 70 last season, but advanced metrics suggest that the 6-foot-4, 235-pound slugger is better suited to first base, his natural position. Then there’s Paredes, who’s known more for lumber than leather and who spent the offseason honing his right-field skills while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
And it’s not like there aren’t other options. Utility man Ryan Flaherty, strong-armed Dariel Alvarez and speedy Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard are all possibilities. Not to mention, it wouldn’t come as a total surprise if Orioles general manager Dan Duquette were to sign or trade for another outfielder.
Regardless of who ends up in right field on Opening Day at Camden Yards, the Orioles better hope that the forecast doesn’t call for black clouds.