For the Orioles first two games of the season, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has had two different leadoff hitters: outfielders Nick Markakis on Tuesday and Nate McLouth on Wednesday.
McLouth, a left-handed hitter, didn’t play against Tampa Bay’s tough lefty David Price while Markakis, also a lefty hitter, started both games – against Price and right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.
With Hellickson on the mound, McLouth led off and Markakis moved to his more conventional third spot – where he had batted for most of his career before he was forced into hitting leadoff last July. Second baseman Brian Roberts, the club’s leadoff hitter for much of the last decade when healthy, is hitting ninth as he plays his way back from injury. Nolan Reimold, who began 2012 as the Orioles’ leadoff hitter, was in the eighth spot Wednesday.
“We kind of created those options last year by need, but between Nate and Brian and Nicky we’ve got multiple guys. We have to see where Nolan is going to fall,” Showalter said. “But we’ve got to take advantage of everybody’s skills. I want to try to get as many guys’ feet wet early in the season as I can. We’ll see what tomorrow’s lineup brings.”
McLouth said he was unaware that he’d be hitting leadoff when he came into the clubhouse Wednesday, and he’s not going to worry whether it’s a temporary thing or his primary role in 2013. In 24 games, 23 starts, McLouth batted .254 with a .340 on-base percentage and six stolen bases in six attempts as the Orioles leadoff hitter.
“Maybe it's for a day, maybe it's not. Maybe it's for a while,” said McLouth, who has started 303 games at leadoff in his career. “But I'm comfortable leading off, I'm comfortable hitting second, eighth, wherever.”