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The first round of the 2011 draft will take play a month from today with the Orioles picking fourth overall. I spoke to Director of Amateur Scouting Joe Jordan the other day and he said that he and his national cross checkers and supervisors are currently rotating around the country so everybody gets looks at the players the club is considering for its first pick.

Jordan said that he has a pretty good idea of the two or three players that the club will choose from, but it's still too early to narrow it down so there remains about 10 players under consideration. He of course didn't read me off that list, but you can assume it includes the following: Rice University third baseman Anthony Rendon; UCLA pitchers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer; fellow college pitchers Danny Hultzen (Virginia), Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt) and Jed Bradley (Georgia Tech); Oklahoma prep pitcher Dylan Bundy; and Kansas high school outfielder Bubba Starling (outfielder). What I know about the above-mentioned players is pretty much what I read from Keith Law of ESPN.com, Jim Callis of Baseball America and other draft and prospect pundits, so I'm not going to pretend this early that I have any inside information on who the Orioles are going to pick. If you were to ask me what my gut feeling is, I'd tell you one of the college pitchers. I still haven't seen a mock draft yet where Rendon falls out of the top three, and I think the Orioles would love to add a polished lefty, like Hultzen, who could move through the system reasonably quickly and join a rotation that includes southpaws Brian Matusz and Zach Britton. However, Bundy, who reportedly throws in the mid to upper 90's, will certainly garner some consideration because the Orioles know him so well. For one, the Orioles' Jordan lives in Oklahoma so he's been watching him pitch for several years. Two, Bundy's older brother, Bobby, was an 8th-round draft pick by the Orioles in 2008 and he's currently pitching very well for Single-A Frederick. Though picking a high school pitcher may not be well received by a fan base still smarting from the 2009 selection of Matt Hobgood, Bundy could be too promising to pass up.

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I've heard conflicting information about the severity of Manny Machado's left knee injury, so it's probably best to just wait until after the Single-A Delmarva shortstop is checked out by team doctors today before speculating too much. However, it goes without saying that an extended absence would be a major blow to the organization and to its top prospect, who would miss out on valuable developmental time. It also seems like an appropriate time to point out what an awful week it has been for the Orioles' minor league system. Consider the following: Single-A Frederick center fielder Trent Mummey sustained a concussion in a collision with the wall Wednesday and will miss at least two weeks. Double-A Bowie first baseman Joe Mahoney, the organization's minor league player of the year last year, is headed back to the disabled list with a quad strain and he's expected to miss three or four weeks. He'll be joined on the DL by fellow Baysox infielder Billy Rowell, who is dealing with ankle tendonitis. Right-hander Jesse Beal, who had a solid year at Delmarva last season, had labrum surgery on Tuesday, while fellow pitching prospects Matt Hobgood and Ryan Berry remain in throwing programs as they try to rebound from arm injuries. It seems those clouds that have hovered over Camden Yards for a long time are spreading out a little to the Orioles' affiliates.

Now onto a couple of things from the big league club, Monday's off day could allow the Orioles to skip struggling starter Chris Tillman if they see fit. Pitching coach Mark Connor acknowledged that option yesterday, but said that a decision hasn't been made yet. Britton, Jeremy Guthrie and Brad Bergesen will face the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend. After Monday's off day, Jake Arrieta will start the series opener against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday. Tillman is on schedule to pitch the following day, but the Orioles could just bring back Britton on regular rest, followed by Guthrie and Bergesen. That would mean that they wouldn't need a starter until next Saturday, May 14.

I've said this before – and I'm sure the Orioles are doing this as we speak – but it may be time to evaluate Jake Fox's role on the club. Fox could be a very valuable bench player, but as we've seen, he's miscast as the regular back-up catcher. Nobody was saying it yesterday because good teammates don't say such things, but as much as Tillman struggled, Fox also had a forgettable game behind the plate. It could totally be a coincidence, but both Guthrie and Arrieta's worst outings this season came with Fox behind the plate, and it couldn't have been more obvious yesterday that Tillman and Fox were not in sync. In an ideal world, Fox would move around some, occasionally getting starts at first and third base, designated hitter and left field, while serving as a pinch hitter on days that he's not playing. However, when J.J. Hardy comes back probably by next Tuesday, I'm not sure there is a single Oriole regular who manager Buck Showalter would take out in favor of Fox late in the game. It certainly doesn't help that Fox is hitting .107 (3-for-28), and is 0-for-18 against left-handed pitching. I think Fox could flourish in a certain role, but it's not the one that he's being used in now. I think he would be the first one to agree with that.

Because I am contractually obligated to mention the name of Nick Markakis in every blog, he has multi-hit games in three of the Orioles' past four contests. It's a start, but his average is still .225 and he has just 11 RBIs.

Left-handed reliever Clay Rapada, who certainly is one of the candidates to be demoted if Hardy returns and the Orioles go to a 12-man pitching staff, has given up at least one earned run in five straight outings and his ERA stands at 15.75.

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