Slowly but surely the influx of talent is making it’s way from the minors to the Orioles roster, for some still too slowly, but progress is progress, I suppose. In some cases, the talent may be coming up too quickly too. Lou Montanez found his way here, but was wasting away on the bench before injuries forced him into regular playing time. And Nolan Reimold was beating down the door to get here, but should probably find a quick ticket back to Norfolk when a roster spot becomes needed.
In both cases, it would seem that the players in question would be better served at AAA where they can play everyday, as opposed to sporadic playing time on the big club. Look no further than Felix Pie to see what languishing away on the bench and waiting for opportunities to show and prove can do to a hot young prospect, who’s used to playing everyday. And for now at least, Pie seems to be coming around, and could should get another chance at everyday in left field once Adam Jones is able to return.
Pie may not be the answer in left, but the Orioles are one of the few teams in baseball with the luxury of being able to find out. The fact of the matter is, Montanez probably isn’t the answer either, and Reimold also may not be. The difference though is that in Reimold and Montanez they have options, in Pie they have a guy that has to be here, and should play everyday. Everyday that is, until you are sure that he won’t be the answer. Then and only then should you even consider inviting someone else into the picture.
Montanez should probably be sent down to work on playing first base. I’m guessing that Aubrey Huff is a long shot to be back next season, and since the knock on Montanez in left is his defense, a move to first would make perfect sense. Reimold should be sent back to AAA and be called upon only when injuries necessitate it, and only when he’ll be up to play everyday, like we saw last weekend. If and when the O’s decide to part ways with Pie, or decide that he’s simply a 4th outfielder at best, then it will be time to give Reimold a run.
They say that it takes a player 1500 at bats in the Majors before they really find themselves as hitters. With Markakis at just over 1800 at bats, and Adam Jones at less than 750, it’s easy to see how we as fans can forget that. It’s tough to say that O’s fans are spoiled in any regard, but at least in that one, they have been. Unfortunately, Pie hasn’t panned out so quickly, but fans will be wrong more often than they’re right when trying to assess a player after less than 500 big league at bats.
As much criticism as he’s taken, it’s tough to believe that Pie only has 79 at bats so far this season. Considering how long his name has been known to baseball fans, it’s even tougher to believe that he’s under 350 at bats for his career, or that more than half of those came 2 years ago in 2007, with the pressure of a pennant race on top of the pressure of being an all-world prospect. And what’s more, and truly sad, is that while he’s still very, very raw, he’s one of only a handful of O’s who’s ever had a meaningful at bat in the Majors. There, he’s already got a leg up on Roberts, Jones, Markakis and even Mora.
He shouldn’t get 1500 at bats here if he continues to struggle like he has. But at the same time, he shouldn’t have the rug pulled out from under him as long as he continues to show progress. For a guy who’s switching teams, switching leagues and switching positions, he could be worse, look no further than Greg Zaun for evidence of that.
For all of the good that MacPhail has done since arriving here, and all of the praise that he’s received, he turned over nearly a third of the active roster this off season, and outside of Koji, has nary a win to show for it. In Pie, he still has the chance to win big, and since there’s no chance of the club winning anytime soon, what do they really have to lose?