President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has several favorite catchphrases. One that he uses continually is "building inventory."
The Orioles farm system was severely lacking talent when MacPhail arrived in 2007 – and it is at least better now. One thing MacPhail attempted to do was build competition in the minors. That's occurred, and now that inventory is slipping out of the cupboard at Triple-A Norfolk.
In the past week, the Orioles have optioned both infielder Robert Andino and first baseman Michael Aubrey – both of whom contributed to the Orioles last season – to Norfolk. And there's not an obvious spot for either.
Aubrey joins a corner infield logjam that includes top prospects Josh Bell at third base and Brandon Snyder at first. First baseman Rhyne Hughes, who MacPhail acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays last year for Gregg Zaun, likely will play mostly left field for the Tides while Aubrey will get his at-bats between designated hitter and first base.
"We have an interesting situation," MacPhail said. "Hughes is going to play left field at Norfolk, but he'll occasionally get some work in at first, but they are going to have to move guys around to accommodate them all. It's a nice problem to have."
The biggest crowd is now in the middle infield, with Andino taking over as the starting shortstop, which was supposed to be to Scott Moore, who was being converted from third base.
MacPhail said he has talked to farm director John Stockstill about the logjam.
"John showed it to me on the board before I left and he is going to rotate a variety of people around to try to accommodate everybody," MacPhail said. "It is going to be an issue at times, but he is pretty confident he is going to be able to get Scottie in at least a couple times a week at short. (Andino) will get the lion's share at short, something we didn't anticipate at the time (when Moore was switched). But Scottie will get there, John felt, at least two times a week."
There are two other shortstops listed on the team's roster, former fourth-rounder Blake Davis and journeyman Andy Gonzalez, who was signed to a minor-league deal.
Davis, who batted .211 in 55 games at Norfolk, could be sent back to Double-A Bowie if the organization feels it can't get him sufficient at-bats.
"John is sorting through whether he uses (Davis) at Norfolk or Bowie,"
The Tides currently have nine players who were with the Orioles in 2009, and that doesn't include several highly regarded pitchers such as Jake Arrieta, Brandon Erbe and Troy Patton.
--- Dan Connolly