Orioles hoping returning players will stick — and produce

June 30, 2013 | Luke Jones

If not Flaherty, Valencia might be the one to be demoted as the projected return of Reimold would lessen the Orioles’ need for his right-handed bat. However, the Chicago White Sox are scheduled to send three left-handers to the mound in this week’s series, meaning Showalter might prefer to have Reimold and Valencia on the roster if the former is activated for the start of the road trip as currently planned.

In addition to that short-term advantage, having Reimold and Valencia would allow Showalter to sit left fielder Nate McLouth against left-handed starters like he did earlier in the season when Steve Pearce was on the roster. However, McLouth has held his own against lefties, evident by the game-winning homer he hit off Yankees ace CC Sabathia on Friday.

Beyond the roster logistics and assuming Roberts and Reimold stay healthy — an incredible leap of faith in many observers’ minds — the pair will need to produce. There are just too many other options available and that’s not even counting the potential contributions of Wilson Betemit and Norfolk outfielder Henry Urrutia — the 26-year-old Cuban outfielder who’s turning heads in his first season with the organization — later in the second half.

Roberts hasn’t played more than 59 games in a season since 2009, making it difficult to project what exactly he can offer as a 35-year-old middle infielder. Even if he somehow remains healthy, it’s possible that Roberts is no longer a better option than Flaherty despite his accomplished major league career. How will his defensive range hold up over extended action and is he even 80 percent of the offensive player he once was?

Nobody really knows.

Reimold deserves the benefit of the doubt for trying to play through a right hamstring injury earlier this season, but his .188 average and 67-percent contact rate — down from his 77-percent career mark — in 101 at-bats make you wonder if it’s automatic that his bat is as potent as it was prior to last year’s spinal fusion surgery. His .190 average in 42 rehab at-bats with Bowie certainly doesn’t bring any further confidence.

The designated hitter spot could certainly use a boost as the Orioles have hit only .201 with a .672 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) from that position this year, so the opportunity is there if Reimold is able to take advantage. The days of wondering whether he’d push Nate McLouth out of left field appear to be over, so he’ll need to adjust to life as a DH primarily.

The Orioles are optimistic over what Roberts and Reimold can potentially add to a talented roster, but staying healthy is only part of it. The pair will need to produce or the club will have no choice but to reevaluate their standing in the organization and look at their other options.

Seeing Chen, Roberts, and Reimold return creates encouraging possibilities. In the case of Roberts, it would be quite a story of redemption after what he’s endured over the last four years.

But the Orioles need results with a division title in their sights in the second half.

“We’ll see. It’d be nice to get three people we haven’t had much,” Showalter said. “It’s been quite a road now for all three of them, especially Brian.”