Third baseman Josh Bell got his opportunity to start on a regular basis last season when Miguel Tejada was traded to the San Diego Padres.
Bell finished the 2010 season with a .214 average, three homers, 12 RBIs and 53 strikeouts in 159 big league at-bats. A little more than one year later, Bell appears to be in line for another starting opportunity, this one under less preferable circumstances.
With Chris Davis still experiencing right shoulder pain and his status for the rest of the season in doubt, Mark Reynolds will likely move across the diamond and play first regularly. That would seemingly leave plenty of opportunities for Bell at third.
"I think playing every day is definitely the goal at this point, just because you're getting the at-bats, you're getting to face the pitchers," Bell said. "I feel like every at-bat is just a learning experience. Playing every day is definitely going to help my career, both defensively and offensively. I think that's just what I need for my career."
Bell, a 24-year-old switch hitter, started all three games in the Oakland series and finished 2-for-6 with four RBIs and two walks. He drove in two insurance runs in the Orioles' four-run seventh inning in Monday's series-opening win. He also drove in two of the Orioles' four runs Tuesday on a groundout and a single, giving him back-to-back multi-RBI games for the first time in his big league career. Bell went 1-for-4 on Wednesday with an RBI single in the Orioles' 6-5 loss to the Athletics.
"You can tell that Josh has a little sense of urgency about his opportunities," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I think he's grinding every at-bat, which is good to see. We were real close if we couldn't get him in there pretty regularly — get him four or five games a week — we wanted him to go down and finish up playing every day in Triple-A. I'm not happy about the way the opportunity was created, but I'm glad because we have him here that he's getting a chance to play. It's something that he hopefully will take advantage of."
Bell lost weight this past offseason and set himself up to have a solid spring. Team officials were hoping he would carry that over into the minor league season and force the club's hand by dominating Triple-A pitching. However, when Bell was recalled for the second time this season July 23, he was batting just .254 with 16 homers and 47 RBIs in 87 games for Norfolk.
"It's difficult to kind of get yourself going down there," Bell said. "Here, you have a lot more energy. You're feeding off other guys. You're in the big leagues, so it's definitely more exciting. It's easy to stay focused, stay in the game here. Down there, it feels like you have to generate everything yourself. You're just fighting to kind of stay motivated. As bad as it sounds, that's just kind of how it feels."
Guthrie has sore shoulder
Jeremy Guthrie, the only member of the Orioles' Opening Day starting five still in the rotation, will have his next start pushed back to Tuesday or Wednesday because of right shoulder stiffness.
"We may give him an extra day or two just to be on the safe side," Showalter said. "He's had it a little bit between starts, but it went away and he managed it without any problems. It was just sore after his last start. With the off day [Thursday] and the innings and everything, we'll keep that in mind with him. We're hoping that it's nothing a day or two of extra rest shouldn't solve."
Guthrie last pitched Saturday against the Detroit Tigers, and his next turn was originally scheduled for Friday's series opener in Anaheim, Calif. However, Jo-Jo Reyes will pitch that day instead and Tommy Hunter will get the ball Saturday on regular rest.
The Orioles have yet to settle on Sunday's starter. Their options include Brian Matusz and Zach Britton, who both would be on regular rest. Showalter said he was leaning toward activating Britton off the disabled list and starting him in next week's Minnesota series, but Guthrie's situation could accelerate that.
Another fan of Ripken
Third baseman Nicky Delmonico, the Orioles' sixth-round pick who agreed to terms on a $1.525 million deal late Monday, was only 9 years old when Cal Ripken Jr. played his final game in the big leagues. But Delmonico remembers plenty about the Hall of Famer's career.
"Growing up, I always loved watching Cal Ripken play. He was a guy who played through so many injuries and gave his all for a team," said Delmonico, 19. "Every since I was little, I tried to take on that role, play hard, make a family out of my teammates, and even if I'm hurt, try to grind through it and play through it. I've taken his way of playing baseball and tried to make it my own."
Delmonico, who was part of four state championship teams at Farragut High in Tennessee, had plenty of baseball role models growing up. His father, Rod, was the University of Tennessee's longtime baseball coach. His older brother, Tony, played on Florida State's College World Series team in 2008 before joining the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization. Another older brother, Joey, is heading into his senior season at Georgia, where Nicky Delmonico was planning to go before he decided to sign with the Orioles.
"I grew up in the dugout at Tennessee, and I saw so many players come through and what it took to be successful," he said. "I learned a lot of things that I was very blessed to see when I was young. I think that helped me later on. It takes a lot of hard work. I'm going to try and stay humble as much as I can. I feel like I'm a great leader, a positive leader, a great teammate. Every time I get on the field, I'm going to give everything I have that day and really try to take in the moment."
Around the horn
J.J. Hardy's first-inning single broke an 0-for-18 slump. He was lifted from the game from the ninth inning for a pinch runner, and Showalter described him as a little "dead-legged." However, Hardy said his ankle is fine, though he acknowledged he's excited for the day off. … Nick Markakis' sixth-inning homer was his 13th of the season, surpassing his total from last season. … Second baseman Brian Roberts saw concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins in Pittsburgh. Roberts said it was just a checkup, and neither he nor team officials expected any major developments.