Orioles outfielder David Lough is still dealing with injuries and likely will not be ready to begin the season, providing some clarity to the club's final position player battles.
With a week remaining in spring training, Lough had been in the mix to be the team's reserve outfielder. But he hasn't played in a week and will continue to sit out for the near future with related hamstring and back issues, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after Sunday's 6-5 split-squad loss to the Minnesota Twins.
"Still don't like where his hamstring is," Showalter said. "He might be a little longer than we thought."
Lough, 29, has dealt with hamstring tightness since earlier this month, and then experienced back spasms last week that forced him to be scratched from Tuesday's game. Lough said Sunday morning he was improving, but was told by the athletic training staff he should take one more day off.
Showalter said the plan was for Lough to play in Monday's game at Port Charlotte, Fla., but after talking to Lough on Sunday the club believes he is still dealing with discomfort.
"It's beginning to look like [a DL situation], more than it did. I was hoping we'd get him out there playing (Sunday or Monday) and not have a problem," Showalter said. "He wants to get out there. Talking to him and getting him to be real frank with us, I think he's actually pushing it a little bit where he shouldn't. He knows some of the decisions going on."
Lough, who is out of minor league options and would have to clear waivers before he could be sent to Triple-A Norfolk, was hitting just .185 in 27 Grapefruit League at-bats. His chief competitor for one reserve spot, switch-hitting infielder-outfielder Jimmy Paredes — also out of minor-league options — was batting .383 in 47 at-bats.
With Lough likely headed to the DL, Paredes seemingly has made the club. That likely would leave one spot for a utility infielder, which is basically between Ryan Flaherty and Everth Cabrera — assuming Jonathan Schoop is the club's starting second baseman. Both Flaherty and Cabrera can be sent to Triple-A without having to clear waivers.
Showalter was asked whether the Lough situation also increases the possibility of nonroster invitee Nolan Reimold making the 25-man roster.
Reimold, an outfielder hitting .297 in his attempt to return from injuries, is still likely to start at Triple-A since he is on a minor-league deal and he would not have to pass through waivers to be assigned to Norfolk.
Cuban outfielder Dariel Alvarez had a great camp, but the Orioles want him to start every day at Triple-A Norfolk to get more experience. He was reassigned to minor league camp Sunday.
If Lough is put on the DL, the Orioles need another backup plan for center field in case Adam Jones is given a day off or is dealing with minor injuries. The primary candidates are Alejandro De Aza, who will be the club's main left fielder but will start in center in Monday's exhibition, and Cabrera, who has played some center field this spring.
Showalter also mentioned defensive-minded minor league outfielder Julio Borbon as a possibility to back-up Jones. That seems to be a long shot — Borbon has had just nine at-bats in big-league games this spring. Showalter ruled out Alvarez as a candidate to be the backup center fielder.
If Lough's potential DL stint is backdated, which it likely would be, he theoretically could rejoin the team for its fifth game of the season, April 11.
The Orioles also need to settle on a backup catcher in the next week, and that battle appears to be between nonroster invitee Ryan Lavarnway and Steve Clevenger, who was the Orioles' backup catcher on Opening Day last year. Lavarnway is considered the favorite.
J.P. Arencibia, another nonroster invitee, was vying for that spot, but Showalter said the catcher was scratched from Sunday's split-squad game in Dunedin, Fla., due to a lingering right forearm strain.
Showalter said he doesn't view Arencibia's injury as a minor league DL situation yet, but he would expect the catcher to rehab in minor league games.
"I think he'll heal better down there (in the minors)," Showalter said. "He'll get a chance to rehab it over there."
Showalter also has a unique roster situation for Opening Day on April 6. First baseman Chris Davis needs to serve the final game of his 2014 suspension for testing positive for amphetamines. Davis will be added for April 7, meaning there will be one player who will make the 25-man roster, but be in the majors for only a day.