The individual battles are interesting, but what's really intriguing is how Showalter is going to find at-bats and innings for all these guys. And then how he is going to make his final judgment? One of the long-uttered truisms in baseball is you can't judge a player by how he performs in September or March. Exhibit A last year was Jake Fox, who mashed 10 homers last spring to make the roster, then hit just two in 61 regular-season at-bats before eventually getting his release after the season. Showalter's dilemma, however, is that for many of these roster-bubble players, much of the determination will be derived from what he sees this spring. There's also another major factor in play here: whether the players have minor league options remaining. The Orioles' roster management has been less than impeccable in the past decade — from holding on to a player too long until his trade value diminishes to wasting minor league options to choosing the wrong players to waive. And now, in the quintessential preseason of "throwing it against the wall and seeing what sticks," the Orioles have a quarter of their 40-man roster without options, including true bubble guys such as Patton, Eveland, Simon, Strop and outfielder Jai Miller. Simon, for instance, is a real wild card. He has no real spot on this team yet has one of the best arms on staff. Personal problems and inconsistency have limited his effectiveness. But can a team like this afford to cut him loose? That's another pressing question that should be addressed in a spring that will have to be chock full of right answers for the Orioles to have any chance to compete in 2012.
Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron