Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and manager Dave Trembley said Monday that they'll stick with struggling first baseman Garrett Atkins for the time being while they continue to evaluate internal and external options to find more production at first base.
"We're not getting enough out of" first base, MacPhail said. "That's one of the reasons we're trying to add to our options. We need to get more production out of that than we are. We'll go the way we are for the time being, and we'll see how things evolve."
With Ty Wigginton entrenched at second base until Brian Roberts' return, Atkins is the only true first baseman on the Orioles' roster. He entered Monday night's series opener with the Kansas City Royals hitting .243 with no homers and six RBIs in 103 at-bats this season.
Collectively, Orioles first basemen are hitting .226 with no homers, 11 RBIs and six runs in 38 games. They are the only team in the majors without a homer from a first baseman.
"He's not the only one I'm concerned about," Trembley said. "I'm expecting it will get better. I don't know what more I could say. Concerned? That's putting it lightly. Panic? I'm not panicking. But concerned, yeah. Expect more? Yes. I expect more. I'm sure he does as well.
"He's got to keep plugging away. He's what we have right now, so I think you keep running him out there until we go in another direction, and right now, there is no other direction for me. You put Luke [Scott] over there and you DH [Lou] Montanez? Or you put Wigginton over there and put [Julio] Lugo at second? There's limited options."
After three seasons in which he averaged 25 homers and 110 RBIs, Atkins, 30, hit just .226 with nine homers and 48 RBIs last season, numbers that prompted the Colorado Rockies to nontender him after the season. Atkins said he feels much better than he did last year, but he acknowledged that finding consistency has been elusive.
"I'm not too worried about," Atkins said. "It has been 100 at-bats. You get five or six more at-bats, [and] you're hitting .300. I'm just trying to come in here every day and try to work to get better and produce a little bit more on the field. I understand that we're losing ballgames here and I haven't produced as well as I would like to, but as far as being on the hot seat, I can't worry about that. Just go out there when my name is in the lineup and try to produce and help the team win. That's my focus."
Asked specifically about how long the club will stick with Atkins, MacPhail said: "It doesn't have to be that way forever. We're looking outside, but as you know, things really don't crank up [on the trade market] here yet. They will more and more, but [right now], you're pretty much looking internally."
Brandon Snyder was thought to be the Orioles' first baseman of the future, but he entered Monday night hitting just .200 with two homers and 12 RBIs for Triple-A Norfolk. Michael Aubrey, who played 31 games for the Orioles last year, is also at Norfolk, batting .256 with two homers and seven RBIs.
More time for Reimold at first
One first base option the Orioles are evaluating is outfielder Nolan Reimold, who hadn't played first as a professional until he started there for Norfolk on Sunday.
"I thought it was a good opportunity for him to get some experience there," MacPhail said. "We had him take some ground balls in spring training, and he'd occasionally do it during batting practice here, but I thought some game experience there would help increase his versatility, take some pressure off his [surgically repaired] Achilles and give us some potential options down the road."
In three games for the Tides since his demotion, Reimold has started at first base and in left field and served as the designated hitter.
He'll likely continue to move around, but both Trembley and MacPhail said he'll get plenty of time at first base.
"To be perfectly honest with you, I don't know if he's ever going to be able to move in the outfield like he did before the Achilles problem," Trembley said. "I don't know if that's ever going to come back, and watching him play in the outfield, I don't know, personally, if he's going to be able to handle that night after night after night out there. It still looks like he's a little bit behind physically, not because he hasn't worked at it, but because he had major surgery. If something else works and you can get him in your lineup, I'm going to try. But instead of trying it at the big league level, the minor leagues is called player development. So let him try it in the minor leagues and see what he does there. It can't hurt."
The difference a year makes
Through 38 games, the Orioles have given up 40 fewer runs than last year's team did at this point, but they've also scored 62 fewer.