Strong springs, tough odds

The Baltimore Sun

JUPITER, Fla. -Orioles manager Dave Trembley could not have come up with a better compliment for minor league shortstop Blake Davis, who had just delivered another solid performance in a roster competition he has no chance to win.

"If Davis didn't have 82 on his back, you'd think he's a major league player," Trembley said after yesterday's 3-2, 10-inning exhibition loss to the Florida Marlins, "and he is a major league player as far as I'm concerned. I think all these guys deserve a lot of credit."

The guys he was talking about are all the players facing long odds who are trying to make his job harder when it comes time to whittle down the spring training roster. Davis is batting .444 and playing good defense, but he has virtually no chance to make the major league club this year. Left-hander Wilfrido Perez is a long shot to win a place in the bullpen, even though he has started his Grapefruit League audition with four straight hitless appearances. Infielder Scott Moore is a legitimate candidate for a utility role and is batting .438 through eight exhibition games, but the numbers are not on his side.

"I told them on the very first day that they want to feel like they are competing for a job," Trembley said. "They have to have the mind-set that they are going to be with the club when we break camp. You have to make people notice you, and they can notice you in a good way or a bad way. The inventory here is better ... much better. There is some depth."

The infield situation is a great example. Davis is auditioning for the club's long-term future, and Moore is trying again to break through at the major league level after making the club out of spring training last year and sticking for only a handful of games. He faces a much tougher roster situation this year with the addition of third baseman Ty Wigginton and utility player Ryan Freel.

"You've got a starting third baseman in Melvin Mora, and you've got a guy in Wigginton who can play around the infield," Trembley said. "[Moore] is in the same boat as a lot of other guys as far as that his role may be determined by [the decision to go with either] 12 or 13 pitchers. I think he figures in our plans, but if it doesn't happen at the start of the season, it doesn't mean out of sight and out of mind."

Moore had two doubles yesterday and scored the first run of the game for the Orioles. He leads the team in total bases and is tied with top prospect Matt Wieters for the club lead in hits and extra-base hits, but he knows no matter how well he plays, the roster situation is out of his hands. He found that out the hard way when he was waived last month to make room on the 40-man roster for Wigginton.

"You don't change the way you play the game," Moore said. "You have to come in and compete in every at-bat and expect every ball to be hit to you. The best way to approach it is like a regular-season game, and you have to play it to win. If you go into spring training trying to figure out spots on the roster, you're going to bury yourself."

Davis knows there is no major league job on the line, but he has taken Trembley's advice to heart and is acting like he's playing for keeps.

"You've got to tell yourself that, or why are you here?" he said. "... You just have to go into it as if you have a chance to win a job."

If they do that, the big winner is the team, which clearly has a much broader array of talent than it did when Trembley was sorting through his spring training roster a year ago at this time.

There is so much depth in the outfield that last year's Eastern League Triple Crown winner, Lou Montanez, is facing as difficult a numbers game as the guys on the bubble in the infield.

"No question about it," Trembley said. "There are some good players here in camp. I'm not talking about stars or impact players, but baseball players. Guys who know how to play baseball. They'll get their opportunities."

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