FORT MYERS, FLA. — The top of the Orioles starting lineup for the first game of Sunday’s split-squad doubleheader included four players who are competing for a big league job in the outfield ... or at least part of one.
Colby Rasmus, who singled home the first run in a 7-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox at jetBlue Park, looks like he’ll get lots of playing time in right field when the season starts. The futures of Alex Presley, Joey Rickard and Danny Valencia are much more uncertain.
Manager Buck Showalter has been lavish in his praise of the way Rasmus has worked to catch up after signing with the club a week into training camp.
“Rasmus is very professional,’’ Showalter said. “Each day, leaving him back, he works his butt off. He gets in the batter’s box in the sim games. Each game he’s played. Each workday has been like this. Yesterday in infield drills, it’s like ]wow]!
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Showalter also has been very impressed with Rule 5 holdover Anthony Santander, who has been swinging the bat very well this spring and — at the moment — has probably done enough to make the club even without the draft requirement that he stay on the roster for the first six weeks of the season or risk being lost on waivers.
His future might be intertwined with that of Austin Hays, who has not gotten much playing time because of a sore shoulder. Since Santander has to stay, it would make sense for the club to send Hays back to the minors for about the same period to preserve future service time.
“Right now, the way [Santander] is playing, he may not go down after 40 days,’’ Showalter said. “He’s pretty impressive. He’s done such a good job with his body and the things he’s worked on this spring. I’m so happy with him.”
Presley had two hits Sunday, including a tiebreaking two-run single in the fourth inning, but he’s facing a big numbers crunch and probably will have to start out at Triple-A Norfolk.
Rickard also is in a precarious situation. He came into the game with just three hits in his first 25 exhibition at-bats and had a bunt single in four at-bats Sunday afternoon. He’s batting just .138.
Valencia has been playing well since signing just 11 days ago and Showalter said again Sunday that he intends to move him around the field to get a sense for whether he could be more than a platoon outfielder who rakes against left-handed pitching.