As WNST.net’s Drew Forrester pointed out earlier Monday, time could be running out for left fielder David Lough, who is hitting .177 in 87 plate appearances and appeared to receive an extended audition in starting three of four games in the familiar surroundings of Kauffman Stadium over the weekend.
The Orioles were pleased to acquire Lough from the Royals in exchange for third baseman Danny Valencia over the winter and believed he would be a younger upgrade to veteran Nate McLouth (who is hitting an anemic .116 for Washington this year), but the 28-year-old has looked lost at the plate and has only shown value as a late-inning defensive replacement in left field and as a pinch runner. In his return to Kansas City, Lough was only 2-for-11 and laid down a sacrifice bunt with a runner on second and one out in the fourth inning on Sunday, a play that smelled of a hitter lacking confidence with a man already in scoring position.
Lough is out of options and cannot be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep him on the roster with other options at Triple-A Norfolk including the left-handed hitting Quintin Berry, who provides speed and the ability to back up Jones in center field, and even switch-hitting utility player Steve Lombardozzi, who has received some playing time in left field since being sent down to the Tides.
The truth is the Orioles would benefit greatly from a viable left-handed bat with speed and defensive skills in left field, but Lough hasn’t provided nearly enough at the plate to warrant regular playing time, leaving Showalter little choice but to play Cruz, Young, or Pearce in the outfield while sacrificing defense in the process.
Another look at second base
Schoop is hitting .171 in 84 plate appearances since April 19 as he continues to struggle against a steady diet of breaking stuff from major league pitchers.
At the start of the season, the Orioles took advantage of the injury to Machado to give Schoop an extended audition in Baltimore, but it’s important to remember the rookie only posted a .697 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 289 plate appearances at Norfolk last season. The 22-year-old has flashed his potential at the plate on more than one occasion and displays an above-average arm at second base, but it’s possible the Curacao native simply needs more seasoning at a lower level.
As previously pointed out in discussing the Orioles’ offensive woes, the current club lacks left-handed hitting and speed in the lineup and could look at Lombardozzi or Jemile Weeks — both switch-hitters — at second base. Weeks is hitting .288 with six steals for the Tides while Lombardozzi is batting .304 at Norfolk after hitting .292 in 72 at-bats for the Orioles before being demoted earlier this season.
Ryan Flaherty hasn’t done enough at the plate (a .195 average in 82 at-bats) to warrant anything more than his current utility role in being able to play good defense at multiple positions, but Weeks or Lombardozzi would bring a different element to second base if the Orioles determine it’s best for Schoop to be sent down.
If Schoop is to remain in Baltimore, he needs to play regularly, but demoting him now to shake things up shouldn’t harm the infielder in the long run if he’s to be as good as the organization hopes.
Happy birthday, Brooks
The legendary Brooks Robinson celebrated his 77th birthday on Sunday and will always be recognized as one of Baltimore’s greatest treasures.
Virtually every Orioles fan has a story about meeting him or knows someone who’s had an encounter with the Hall of Fame third baseman that brings a smile with the pleasant memory.
In my first season covering the Orioles in 2010, I experienced one of my great professional — and personal — thrills in having the opportunity to meet Robinson and share with him that he was my father’s hero. Upon listening to a general sentiment he’s undoubtedly heard thousands of times over the last few decades, “Mr. Oriole” patted me on the shoulder like we were old friends and sincerely thanked me for sharing that about my father, who passed away in 2004.
Robinson will always be the epitome of what it means to be a gentleman.