Obstacle removed from O's young outfielders


Andy Van Slyke never got a chance to show the Orioles what he could do. And vice versa.

Less than three days ago, it was said that the veteran center fielder would play an important role for the Orioles before the season was over. Two days later, he was gone, traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for right-hander Gene Harris.

For whatever the reason might have been, the decision makes sense, even though it most likely will have little bearing on what happens the rest of the year. Somewhere along the line the Orioles obviously came to the conclusion that they'd thrown a blockade in front of their young outfielders.

In effect, Van Slyke first stymied Damon Buford, then Jeffrey Hammonds. The same might also be said of Kevin Bass, another veteran who was added to provide outfield depth, but has more at-bats than any outfielder other than Brady Anderson.

However, Bass is the one player performing above expectations, and the Orioles simply can't justify having two veterans deprive Hammonds of playing time. The prudent move, then, was to move Van Slyke and reduce the congestion in the outfield.

Not that it's going to make much difference. After 47 games, the Orioles have only four position players (Anderson, Cal Ripken, Rafael Palmeiro and Chris Hoiles) from their Opening Day lineup still playing on a regular basis. And Hoiles has hardly been a fixture.

There have been some mitigating circumstances involving Hammonds, but now that everyone seems convinced that he's healthy, he needs to be in the lineup on a daily basis. He is regarded as a potential impact player, and the Orioles' lineup is in definite need of that.

It's hard to explain what has happened to the Orioles this season, but to this point the failure of the young players to fulfill expectations has played a major role. The organization's two best young pitching prospects (Arthur Rhodes and Armando Benitez) have been returned to the minors. Another (Brad Pennington) was so ineffective in his brief appearances that he was traded.

Buford has been long gone, Hammonds hasn't been able to solidify himself in the lineup, and the transition to second base hasn't been a smooth ride for Manny Alexander. Curtis Goodwin got off to a torrid start after being promoted from Triple-A, but is finding out that playing in the big leagues isn't quite as easy as it appeared his first two weeks.

When the season started, Van Slyke figured to be a central cog on a team that was supposed to contend. But, at best, he was only the third best defensive center fielder the Orioles have used this season.

He also was one of three players hitting below the two-dollar mark (along with Hoiles and Matt Nokes). In retrospect, what the Orioles found out was what many suspected all along -- there wasn't enough room for Van Slyke and Bass.

And this is rapidly getting to be a retrospective kind of season.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad