Even though the Orioles would like to slide third baseman Manny Machado down in the batting order, he enjoyed his most productive offensive season a year ago hitting in the leadoff spot. But, more importantly, there's no clear replacement for him atop the order as the Orioles begin the Grapefruit League schedule.
In the Orioles' spring training home opener Wednesday, manager Buck Showalter gave a glimpse of how he's projecting the lineup will look — and Machado is still on top.
With most of his projected starters in the lineup for Wednesday's game, Showalter hit Machado leadoff and batted South Korean left fielder Hyun Soo Kim second, feeding into a middle of the order of center fielder Adam Jones, first baseman Chris Davis, right fielder Mark Trumbo and catcher Matt Wieters.
"It depends on who we have to choose from," Showalter said. "You can make the case for him being the best leadoff hitter in baseball last year, comparing who was better. The guy walked 70-80 times and hit .300 and [hit for] power."
Machado hit .300/.364/.512 with 23 of his 35 homers and 12 of his 20 steals coming from the leadoff position, but Showalter said Machado has the ability to thrive in other lineup spots.
"Manny can hit anywhere in the first five places," Showalter said. "I think a lot of it depends on how it complements the rest of our guys. It's hard to find a guy who fits in four or five different spots in the order with the criteria you look for."
Machado went 0-for-3 on Wednesday.
Trumbo struggles in right field: Before Wednesday's game, Showalter said that given all the challenges of picking up the ball off the bat in spring training — factors that include strong afternoon breezes and high skies created by the smaller stadiums — it's a perfect training ground for playing the outfield.
"If you can play the outfield in spring training, you can play it anytime," Showalter said. "It's the most challenging position in spring training. … You can really get fooled by outfielders' defensive abilities in spring training on the negative side with all the background."
During the game, Trumbo misplayed a fly ball off the bat of Mallex Smith, initially breaking toward the foul line, then retreating before it bounced off the warning track for a triple. Trumbo, who will receive his share of time this spring in right field, also misplayed a fly ball in an intrasquad game last weekend.
"It's a challenge for everybody," Showalter said. "It's just hard to catch a ball smoothly because you're constantly moving. But I think that's yet to be seen. It's early. The wind was blowing out to left. He was playing pretty shallow. … That's a ball that he probably catches during the regular season, I hope."
Tillman getting better: Showalter said right-hander Chris Tillman received a cortisone shot Tuesday to help accelerate his recovery from hip flexor tightness as scheduled.
"That injection, sometimes you have to take a day or two after. ... You're looking on a monitor and they have a itty-bitty hot spot and you're able to put it right on it. The only thing is he's a little sore from the point of entry, but he's doing everything today. He's ready to go. Hopefully, that will finish it off."
Showalter said Tillman is scheduled to make his first spring start either Wednesday or next Thursday, with right-hander Yovani Gallardo likely making his spring debut on whichever day Tillman doesn't pitch. But Showalter said both pitchers will likely need a few bullpens and a live batting practice session under their belts before pitching in games.
"I'd be surprised that [pitching coach Dave Wallace] commits to that before he sees that," Showalter said.
Around the horn: Right-hander Mychal Givens made his Grapefruit League debut Wednesday and retired three of the four batters he faced in a scoreless eighth inning, striking out one and walking one. … Kim is scheduled to play his third straight game today and might get a day off Friday. ... Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez will start today's game against the Rays in Port Charlotte and he is scheduled to be followed by Hunter Harvey, Dylan Bundy, Brad Brach, T.J. McFarland, Chaz Roe and Jason Garcia.