Where does Robert Andino fit in when Brian Roberts returns from the disabled list? How can Buck Showalter bench Andino when he has been a more-than-adequate replacement at second base?
These questions have been in the back of the minds of Oriole fans since spring training, but have now been brought to the forefront with the beginning of Roberts' rehab stint at Class AA Bowie.
One answer: Play Andino at third base.
Andino has proven to be the most flexible player on the Orioles' roster. He has played at second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, and designated hitter since Baltimore acquired him in 2009 for starting pitcher Hayden Penn.
Andino will be needed to give Roberts days off, but the most reasonable solution would be Andino playing at third about five times a week.
Andino has played there in 31 games in his career, committing just one error, with a fielding percentage of .986. In comparison, the Orioles' everyday third baseman in 2011, Mark Reynolds, has committed six errors at third in just 15 games there this season and had 26 at third in 114 games last season.
Wilson Betemit is no better at third than Reynolds. Betemit also has six errors at third base this season in 20 games and 51 in 403 career games there.
Although Andino has a smaller sample size, he has shown to be a good defender around the diamond with a .976 career fielding percentage, higher than both Reynolds' and Betemit's by more than 19 points.
Andino may lack the power of a traditional third baseman, but the Orioles already have more than enough power with a lineup that leads the majors in home runs.
The Orioles have had four players play at third this season - Reynolds, Betemit, Steve Tolleson, and Ryan Flaherty. They've hit 11 of the team's 70 home runs (through Friday).
Betemit, however, has accounted for seven of those home runs and his bat should still be in the lineup at DH the majority of the week. This would be just four home runs that the O's are losing from the position, but Andino has hit three himself so it balances out.
Andino had a .327 on-base percentage last season, ranking third on the team behind Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters, which the Orioles need from their nine-hole batter.
When Roberts and Reynolds do return, the most plausible corresponding roster moves would be to option Tolleson and Bill Hall. Reynolds would still get the chance to heat up with occasional starts at first and DH, and possibly at third once a week. Nick Johnson would still be getting time at first and DH as well.
And if, for some reason, none of this pans out for the Birds, there could always be a Miguel Tejada return to Baltimore at third base.