Add a high on-base percentage table-setter to the Orioles' wish list of major needs this month.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said Wednesday that bolstering the club's starting pitching remains a priority, whether it comes internally or through a trade, but he also is actively searching for a "set-up hitter" with a history of getting on-base.
"We have to address the on-base percentage at the top of our lineup," Duquette said. "We had a really good on-base man inNolan [Reimold] out there and he did a good job, but we aren't going to have him."
Reimold began the season hitting leadoff and had a .328 on-base percentage in 15 games (14 starts) at leadoff, but he is likely lost for the year after undergoing neck surgery. Reimold's modest mark was by far the best among any Orioles' leadoff man, with the group compiling a .246 OBP. That's the worst on-base percentage for any spot in the Orioles' lineup this season.
With Brian Roberts also likely out for the season with a hip injury, the team has no real leadoff alternatives that consistently get on base. Endy Chavez, who is expected back Friday from the disabled list, has started the most games for the Orioles at leadoff, but his on-base percentage this season is .169 and is .308 for his career.
Duquette said the club's overall .302 on-base percentage – which ranks 26th in the majors and 12th of 14 in the AL – should naturally improve with Friday's return of right fielder Nick Markakis, who has a .363 lifetime mark, and the June 30 trade for designated hitter Jim Thome, who owns a .402 OBP.
"We need to do better with that as a team and we need to look at adding hitters with a more disciplined approach," Duquette said. "That's what it takes, depth in your lineup and a more disciplined approached to beat a really good pitcher, the ones that you see in the postseason."
Markakis' return still doesn't really fill the leadoff void. He has never hit at the top spot in his career, but has thrived batting second, where he has gotten on base at a .384 clip in his career.
"Nick is coming back and that will be one solution for us to improve getting on base," Duquette said.
The best option on the market could be Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino, who has a career .341 on-base percentage and could hit first or second and play left field in Baltimore. But the pending free agent wouldn't be cheap to acquire and would be highly coveted if made available.
So Duquette is more apt to be creative with whomever he acquires for the first or second spot.
"It's hard to find a bona fide leadoff hitter," he said. "I'm just looking for guys to get on base."
Options at Triple-A Norfolk would include veteran outfielders Lew Ford (.404 OBP for the Tides; .344 as a big leaguer) and Nate McLouth (.317 OB at Norfolk; .335 in the majors) but neither is on the 40-man roster.