Machado starts, Reynolds sits
Orioles rookie Manny Machado — coming off a 2-for-4 debut –was back in Baltimore’s starting lineup Friday night, playing third base and moving up a spot to eighth with struggling infielder Mark Reynolds on the bench.
With the Royals starting right-hander Luke Hochevar, Wilson Betemit made his first at first base since July 3 with Reynolds –who is batting .188 with seven of nine homers against righties – the odd man out. Betemit is batting .306 with 11 home runs against right-handed pitching and Friday’s start marked his 12th start at first base, with the Orioles going 7-4 in the previous 11 games.
While manager Buck Showalter has stuck with Reynolds despite a prolonged power outage, the arrival of Machado at third base could change things. Chris Davis has taken over most of the team’s designated hitting duties with Jim Thome on the disabled list and –with the Orioles’ trying to shore up a defense that leads the Majors in errors – Reynolds’ playing could diminish, particularly against right-handed starters.
“We’ll take each day as it comes,” Showalter said when asked if Friday’s lineup was an indicator of things to come. “We’re going to serve our team’s needs first and then keep in mind where Manny is in his day-to-day development. So today it worked best this way. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Machado, a right-handed hitter, triple and scored a run in Thursday’s debut and both Duquette and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette made it clear that the top prospect’s promotion was because they feel he can help the Orioles win games. While Machado’s natural position is shortstop, he held his own at third base on Thursday –recording a pair of putouts and an assist – and he look to current shortstop J.J. Hardy for guidance in making the proper adjustments.
Reynolds started the season as the team’s third baseman before being moved to first base, shifting Davis –who has played all over the diamond – to third base, left field and some time at DH. The team’s leader in home runs (37) and RBIs (86) last season, Reynolds entered Friday with a .210/.327/.378 line, including nine homers and 34 RBIs in 87 games.
Friday marked just the second game Reynolds did not start since July 4 and –while it’s very early — it will be interesting to see how Machado’s arrival effects things. Wilson Betemit is hitting more consistently, with a better average and more home runs and –while Reynolds has held his own defensively at first base — is it enough to justify him playing over Betemit against right-handed starters? Probably not.
The Orioles have placed emphasis on trying to upgrade their defense, in fact, it was the thing manager Buck Showalter wanted to improve the most in the second half of the season. If Machado can hold his own at third base, and with the bat, you could certainly see him take an every day role with Betemit and Chris Davis rotating in and out of the 1B/DH spots. I don’t think this is necessarily the end of Reynolds’ playing time period, but he desperately needs to regain his power stroke.
For those of who you asked about Betemit and Reynolds’ contract status, Reynolds has a club option for $11 million next season with a 500,000 buyout. If the Orioles opt to not pick it up he would be arbitration-eligible and, if they offer him arbitration, they cannot cut his salary more more than 20 percent.
Betemit signed a two-year deal this winter with a 2014 option that vests if he hits 700 plate appearances combined in 2012 and ’13. He is due to make $1.75 million next season.