O’s today: Decision time on Freel (and he might lose it…)

May 07, 2009 | Drew Forrester

So Ryan Freel’s rehab assignment in Bowie is over and it’s time for the Birds to make a decision on the journeyman utility player.

Freel, you’ll remember, got bopped on the head by a thrown ball in Boston a couple of weekends ago and was diagnosed with a concussion and place on the 15-day disabled list back on April 21.

You might also recall that Freel wasn’t too thrilled about the way it was all handled, barking about the methods the club utilized in administering an “impact test” and sending him to Salisbury (Delmarva) to simply be told, “you’re not ready to play yet.”

Oh, I almost forgot.  Right before he took that ball to the head, Freel sat down with Dave Trembley for a “WTF?” meeting in which he asked the manager about his role and (lack of) playing time.  

It should also be noted that Freel has 2 hits in 15 at-bats this season in Baltimore.  And he makes $4 million for 2009.

Now…the story.

What’s going to happen today/tomorrow when the club makes a decision on Freel and, accordingly, its 25-man roster?

The way I see it, there are only four things the team can do and two of them aren’t favorable to Ryan Freel:

1. Place Felix Pie on waivers, give the left field job to a combination of Luke Scott and Lou Montanez — keep Freel and assign him the duties of a (hopefully useful) utility player.

2. Keep Freel and send Montanez back to Triple-A Norfolk.  Lou ain’t exactly tearin’ it up in Baltimore at .174.

3. Put Freel on waivers or grant him his unconditional release.

4. Trade Freel.  Then again, why would any smart team give up something for him?  Any club in the league doing their homework on the situation knows the O’s have to make some kind of roster move when Freel’s ready to play.  

If (3) or (4) happens, you’d better put ear muffs on the kids and grandma, ‘cuz Freel’s gonna go ape-you-know-what.

Keep in mind the team owes Ryan Freel the remainder of ’09 salary ($4 million) if they cut him…and given how miserly the O’s can be, that’s probably the least of their reasonable options.

If they put him on waivers, he’s going to get claimed, which gets the O’s off the salary-hook (a win for them…) and affords Freel the opportunity to start somewhere fresh without having to haggle over a new contract with someone.

Either way, though — traded, cut or waived — Freel will lash out to the media.  Bank on it.

He hasn’t been all that private with his thoughts about his injury and the aftermath that included a 3-hour trip over the Bay Bridge to be told by a guy in a doctor’s jacket, “you can’t play yet”.  

I’m betting he won’t be private about this, either.

My hunch is that the O’s will probably ship Montanez back to Norfolk given his lack of productivity throughout his 2-week-plus stint.  Then again, Montanez has been bothered by a sore thumb and hasn’t really had the opportunity to play much over the last 5 days or so.  And, don’t forget, the Birds are still smack-dab in the middle of the Felix Pie-Project, where the team tries to turn a decent Triple-A player into a bonafide major leaguer despite all evidence pointing to the contrary of such an event actually transpiring.  Also, keep in mind that Pie is a former member of the Chicago Cubs.  That means there’s a double-burden of proof on Pie’s emergence, as the O’s GM is doing the “double dip” — trying to show his worth to fans both in Baltimore AND the Windy City with the left fielder’s play. 

One thing for sure:

If Freel’s the odd guy out, he will leave town with smoke coming out of his ears and from his heels.  He won’t depart quietly, I guarantee that.

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