Spring training did not get off to the start the Baltimore Orioles were hoping , veteran second baseman Brian Roberts has been sidelined with back problems, with other key players plagued by lingering injuries.
Unfortunately for the O’s, the timetable on Roberts return is not certain and could leave an open spot on the Orioles roster. Robert’s most recently received an epidural on a herniated disk in his back.
The loss of Roberts would be a bit alarming as the Orioles would be without their long-time lead-off man and second baseman. An organization and fan favorite, Roberts has become one of the better lead-off men in the American League over the past couple of years. Last season for the Orioles, Roberts led the American League in doubles with 56, with 110 runs. He consistently bats around .285 and brings a solid glove in the infield.
Roberts’ health has declined with age like so many other ball players, and although Roberts’s has only missed a total of fifteen games in the past three years; the toll of a 162-game season has taken affect on his back.
Fortunately for the Orioles, there is a lot of depth at second base, and Cesar Izturis would be the ideal replacement to hit in the lead-off spot. Even though Izturis’ life time batting average is only .259, Izturis has developed one of the best hitters’ eye in all of baseball.
Baltimore will most likely fill the second base spot with either Ty Wigginton or Robert Andino, both of whom have served as utility players for the Orioles. Conversely, Baltimore could also look to, rising prospect, Justin Turner.
Turner (25), A graduate of Cal State Fullerton, had a career batting average of .327 for the Titans. Turner also helped lead the Titans to a College World Series Championship his sophomore year in 2004, and was the Big West Conference MVP in 2006.
A 7th-round draft pick in 2006 by the Reds, Turner was acquired from Cincinnati in a deal that sent Ramon Hernandez to the Reds in exchange for Ryan Freel and Brandon Waring last winter.
Since then, Freel is no longer with the club, leaving Turner and Waring as the only remaining members of that deal. Waring is still a couple of years away , but showed promise hitting 26 home runs for class-A affiliate Fredrick Keys before being called up to double-A Bowie.
Justin Turner has also benefited from similar success, hitting (.300) and striking out only 34 times in 384 at-bats for Orioles Triple-A affiliate Norfolk Tides.
Turner has also had one of the most impressive spring trainings for the Orioles this spring batting over .400 and filling in nicely at second for the absent Roberts.
With the emergance of Turner this spring training, hope is not lost and Turner could turn into a pleasant surprise for the Orioles; similar to Nolan Reimold’s success last year.