With Chris Davis suspended, Orioles again scramble for replacements for absent star
By By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun|
Sep 12, 2014 | 9:28 PM
The news that Chris Davis had been suspended 25 games for a violation of Major League Baseball's drug policy was still fresh Friday morning, as was the reality that the Orioles likely will be without one of their power bats for the rest of the year. But with the first game of the club's split doubleheader against the New York Yankees hours away, Orioles manager Buck Showalter had to quickly turn his focus to his lineup card.
A club closing in on its first division title since 1997 already has overcome several obstacles, including season-ending injuries to cornerstone players Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, but now the Orioles' postseason dreams will have to be realized without Davis, whose suspension would end, at the earliest, late in the American League Championship Series.
"We'll see," Showalter said. "We asked that same question when Matt was concerned, where Manny was concerned, where J.J. [Hardy] has been concerned, [where] some pitchers we've had go down. So I've got a lot of confidence in our guys. We're always looking at the what-ifs. Chris has had some physical issues that we've been able to plug [with] some people in who have done a nice job for us. We'll see."
While it will be difficult replacing Davis' offensive production — though he was batting just .196 and leads the American League with 173 strikeouts, he has 26 homers and 72 RBIs this season — the Orioles are confident in other players in the organization.
"We were shocked, but I don't think it will [be difficult to succeed], because we're professionals," center fielder Adam Jones said. "We've still got a game to play. Without Wieters, Machado, we've still been playing good baseball. So now is another blow to the team, but there's going to be somebody to pick it up. That's just how our team works."
The Orioles pride themselves in their organizational depth, and it will be tested again in Davis' absence. At third base, where Davis has made 16 of his past 24 starts, players who weren't on the club's 25-man Opening Day roster will be expected to step up.
"We have added to our club at the season progressed," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said.
Infielder Kelly Johnson, acquired two weeks ago in a trade with the Boston Red Sox, likely will share time with Jimmy Paredes, a switch hitter the club acquired from the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations in July who joined the big league club Aug. 28. Johnson started the first game of Friday's split doubleheader, and Paredes the second.
"I can't replace Chris Davis," Paredes said in Spanish after his pinch-hit, walk-off double in the Orioles' 2-1 win to start the doubleheader. "I can't say this team does not need Chris Davis; he is a tremendous player and a great teammate, and I am sorry this happened, and we will miss him. Any team would want to have a player like Chris Davis in their lineup"
Utility man Ryan Flaherty is another option to see time at third base. He made 23 starts at the position this season, most of them in the season's first month, when Machado was recovering from offseason left knee surgery. Although he's hitting just .219 this season, Flaherty was batting .370 over his past 11 games entering Friday.
It's likely Johnson, Paredes and Flaherty will split time at third throughout the regular season and, should they get there, in the postseason. Johnson and Paredes entered Friday having played a combined 14 games for the Orioles.
There are several moving parts in play. The addition of outfielder Alejandro De Aza and emergence of Steve Pearce as an everyday player at first base offers Showalter a number of options and the ability to game-plan for matchups in the club's lineup.
This month's expanded rosters offers some flexibility. Duquette also pointed to the 13-player taxi squad working out at the club's facility in Sarasota, Fla., where infielders Christian Walker and Buck Britton are training. Infielder Alexi Casilla is working out in Arizona, and more players could be considered for a call-up.
But ultimately, Davis' replacements likely will come from the existing big league roster, especially once the postseason arrives.
"We've got some options, a lot of things that me and Dan talked about last night," Showalter said. "We're going to let some things clear today and see if we want to make any adjustments in the roster from Sarasota or not. You know our roster down there and what our options are. Right now, I like our options from within."