SARASOTA, Fla. – The way Orioles manager Buck Showalter sees it, the addition of Nelson Cruz not only gives the club a middle-of-the-order power bat, but it will also give him the flexibility to keep other players healthy over the course of a 162-game season.
Though it appeared that Cruz would get most of his at-bats this season as the designated hitter when the Orioles signed him to a one-year, $8-million deal, Showalter said Monday that Cruz will play left field regularly against left-handed pitching.
Left fielder David Lough, acquired from the Kansas City Royals this offseason in exchange for Danny Valencia, is a premium defender and has even splits, but Showalter said at this point he doesn’t see Lough playing against left-handers.
“It is possible,” Showalter said. “Right now I don’t plan yet to use him against left-handed pitching, so we can use a DH spot for a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitching. He could evolve into a guy we trust against left-handed pitching. It’s also a way to keep everyone involved in the game.”
Cruz said last week that he wanted to play the outfield as much as possible, and Showalter said he expects to do that by utilizing him to give outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis some DH days.
"We know at the very least he’s going to play left field against left-handed pitching, but like today, Nicky, during the season might have a DH day," Showalter said. "Jonesy can have a DH day and David Lough can do to center field and Nelson can play [in left].”
Last season, Showalter had five starters – Jones, Markakis, Chris Davis, Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy – who played in at least 158 games. He said he can’t expect that this season.
“We want to be able to get some of these guys off the field,” he said. “I’m not going to continue to assume that they’re going to play 150, 160 games out there. You look at everyone else in baseball and that’s a break from the norm, so you’re stupid if you’re not preparing for life without them now and then. Now, they’re not going to like it. Having Nick and Jonesy in the dugout for nine innings is not a whole lot of fun, but I think it’s going to make them better. We need to use Nelson’s skills to make everyone better. He’ll get some time out there.”
Also of note:
Showalter said he sent outfielder Nolan Reimold home Monday because he had food poisoning from something he ate Sunday.
“He was throwing up sick during the night,” Showalter said. “He ate something [bad]…. He came by my office and tried to open his mouth and I said, ‘Go home.’ God almighty, he looked bad."