Davis leading off on Opening Day as Orioles finalize 25-man roster

March 29, 2018 | Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After much speculation about the Opening Day lineup in recent days, first baseman Chris Davis will indeed begin the season as the Orioles leadoff hitter.

Prior to Wednesday’s workout, the veteran slugger welcomed the possibility of hitting in the top spot in the order before manager Buck Showalter officially penciled in his name there against Minnesota. Davis served in the leadoff spot a number of times toward the end of the Grapefruit League schedule, but that also served the purpose of giving him extra at-bats after he missed action with an elbow issue.

It’s certainly an unconventional move as Davis tries to rebound from a 2017 season in which he batted only .215 with a .309 on-base percentage. Prior to Thursday, the leadoff spot was the only position in the batting order in which he’d never hit in his major league career, but Davis does own a respectable .328 career on-base percentage and the Orioles lack ideal options for the job.

“It’s something that everybody felt like was a good way to start,” said Showalter, who isn’t committing to Davis as the long-term leadoff hitter. “Chris is a very important part of our club, potentially, and I hope this kind of helps us. Sometimes you’ve got to give a new toy, something that signifies a new start. We’ll see.”

Showalter went out of his way to mention left fielder Trey Mancini as another candidate he’d considered this spring, perhaps a hint that he was the manager’s initial preference for the role. Mancini finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting last season and was in the No. 5 spot in the order on Opening Day after hitting in the top spot a few times in spring games.

Third baseman Tim Beckham saw extensive time as Baltimore’s leadoff hitter last year after being acquired from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline, but he was slotted into the sixth spot on Thursday and owns a career .310 on-base percentage.

“I didn’t like Trey there. I tried [that],” Showalter said. “You could tell Trey was a little uncomfortable with it. Anytime a player kind of embraces things [like] it’s as much his idea as somebody else, those usually get a good return.”

The Orioles finalized their 25-man roster Thursday morning by selecting the contracts of outfielder Colby Rasmus and Craig Gentry and infielders Danny Valencia and Pedro Alvarez. To make room for those four on the 40-man roster, pitchers Alex Asher, Stefan Crichton, Michael Kelly, and Jesus Liranzo were designated for assignment.

As expected, outfielder Mark Trumbo (right quadriceps strain) and right-handed pitcher Gabriel Ynoa (right shin stress reaction) were placed on the 10-day disabled list. Both moves are retroactive to March 26, and Showalter indicated Trumbo is “not too far away” from returning to action.

Closer Zach Britton remains on the 60-day DL as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon.

Below are the Opening Day lineups:

MINNESOTA
2B Brian Dozier
1B Joe Mauer
3B Miguel Sano
LF Eddie Rosario
DH Logan Morrison
SS Eduardo Escobar
RF Max Kepler
CF Byron Buxton
C Jason Castro

SP Jake Odorizzi

BALTIMORE
1B Chris Davis
SS Manny Machado
2B Jonathan Schoop
CF Adam Jones
LF Trey Mancini
3B Tim Beckham
DH Pedro Alvarez
RF Craig Gentry
C Caleb Joseph

SP Dylan Bundy