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Orioles' third base platoon to remain in flux as position's production lags

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Since Tim Beckham went on the disabled list with a groin injury that required surgery late last month, third base has been a position the Orioles have tried to fill with a cast of bat-first players shoehorned there or defensive pieces who haven't added to the offensive mix.

Even if Sunday’s addition of waiver claim Renato Núñez is a temporary one, they already have a complicated mix with Danny Valencia, Pedro Álvarez and Jace Peterson.

"It's day-to-day, like all of us are," manager Buck Showalter said Sunday morning, before the Núñez addition was announced.

Valencia drew the assignment Sunday, his first start at third base since Wednesday and his 12th start there overall. Because the Orioles faced left-hander Blake Snell, Showalter said it "fit better." Peterson got the start in every game of this homestand otherwise, and held his own until an error cost the Orioles a run in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader.

"I don't want Danny to get too far away from it," Showalter said. "Jace has done a good job there. Yesterday he had a little hiccup and it really kind of hits you how well he's been playing."

Peterson is batting .163 with a .538 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and five stolen bases in as many chances since the Orioles claimed him from the New York Yankees on April 24, playing at second base while Jonathan Schoop was out and then shifting primarily to third base once Schoop returned. Peterson is the only traditional utility infielder on the roster, and his left-handed bat is valuable in that role. That's even more valuable if the Orioles spend much longer without Álvarez, who hasn't played since Thursday with a hamstring strain.

When combining Beckham's slow start with the performance of his replacements, the position leaves a lot to be desired for the Orioles. Defensively, they have the fourth-most errors in the league with eight at third base. According to Baseball Reference, they entered Sunday last in the league with minus-0.4 wins above replacement (WAR) at third base, while the position's .647 OPS was 29th in the game.

Valencia, who went a long way toward raising that Sunday with four hits, including a home run, sees an opportunity there for everyone, though he's unclear as to what goes into who plays when.

"I have no idea, honestly," he said. "When my name's in the lineup I go out there. That's pretty much it. Jace has done a great job, especially defensively over there. Pedro has done fine. I've held my own. Tim did a good job at the beginning — we just need to get production consistently from everybody. Whoever goes over there, we need to score runs and we need to play ‘D.’ Whoever gets their name called, they're going to go over there and play hard. That's how you look at it."

The potential benefit of the situation is that the Orioles have players who shouldn't have a problem adjusting to the limited roles that sharing one lineup spot (and the designated hitter spot on some days) will call for.

"The preparation still stays the same," Valencia said. "I think everybody does a good job in here of showing up as if they're playing, until they're told otherwise. There's no substitute for in-game, actually seeing pitches, stuff like that. But everybody does the best job they can to be prepared, regardless of whether they're in the lineup or not."

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