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Athlon Magazine has asked me to assist them again with their Orioles preview. The deadline is tomorrow, Dec. 28. Hence, my problem. I can turn in my copy on time, but imagine what it's going to look like. I have to give them a projected lineup, rotation, bullpen and bench. And I don't want to make the Orioles look like the '62 Mets.

At least I have until early January to make any changes before the magazine goes to press, but I'm thinking this preview should be rated PG-13 to protect impressionable young children. If the season started today, I guess Jeff Conine would be the left fielder, Walter Young the first baseman and Javy Lopez the designated hitter. Or maybe Young is the DH and Lopez plays first. Or maybe they should have brought back B.J. Surhoff. Heck, Eric Byrnes would look pretty good right now.

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What about the bench? Athlon wants at least four players listed, but I'm drawing a blank after Chris Gomez, David Newhan and Geronimo Gil. Anyone have Eli Marrero's cell number?

The rotation? I have Rodrigo Lopez, Daniel Cabrera, Erik Bedard and Bruce Chen in the first four slots. It's a toss-up whether John Maine or Hayden Penn is No. 5.

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The bullpen has two left-handers with B.J. Ryan and Steve Kline gone: Tim Byrdak and Eric DuBose. Remember that Byrdak hadn't been in the majors since 2000 before the Orioles purchased his contract on July 2. Remember that DuBose isn't that far removed from surgery and a DUI. And don't forget that John Parrish had ligament-reconstructive surgery on his left elbow July 15, so he won't be ready Opening Day.

Am I leaving anyone out in any of these categories? Am I having a brain cramp that requires a few hours soaking my head in the whirlpool and some ultrasound treatments from trainer Richie Bancells?

Should I be so bold as to put Nick Markakis in center field and Luis Matos on the bench? Even bolder, how about Jeromy Burnitz in left field?

OK, I'll wait on that one.

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