BY DILLON ATKINSON, @DAtkinsonOU
Buck Showalter already has his hands full in the corner outfield spots as is, trying to find playing time for all three of Trey Mancini, Seth Smith, and Hyun Soo Kim. Now, Buck's hands are tied even more with the Orioles starting a three-game series in Cincinnati Tuesday night.
Just in case you forgot, Cincinnati is the home of the Reds, which is a National League club. Therefore, the Orioles will lose their designated hitter's spot in the lineup for the next three games.
Showalter will have to fill out two corner-outfield spots in the lineup Tuesday night, and he has four great choices for those two spots: Mancini, Smith, Kim, and Mark Trumbo.
So who would I start in the corners tonight? I'd roll with Mancini and Smith.
(It's worth noting I've been begging for more playing time for Kim, so even I surprised myself with this pick)
Through seven games this season, Mancini has slashed .364/.417/.955 with four long balls in 24 plate appearances. The fans have been begging for the rookie to get consistent playing time, and now may be the right time to do that. Smith, who has been on the strong-side of a platoon in right field, has batted .280/.357/.640 with two homers in 28 plate appearances this season. So, if you're going to roll with your hot hands, these two are your hottest hands.
It was tough to choose Smith over Kim, who is slashing .294/.294/.353 in just 17 plate appearances, due to Kim's on-base success last season. But with the Orioles playing in a National League park, Kim should be able to pinch-hit for a pitcher at some point in each of these three games.
Now, while Kim was a tough omission from the starting lineup, I'm shocking myself by saying Trumbo should be the easiest exclusion. Not too often would I feel it is easy to sit the player who led the league in home runs just a season ago. Trumbo has started every game so far this season, collecting 46 plate appearances, among the team leaders in that category. Yet, he only has a .205/.239/.318 slash-line to show for it, and his only long ball was his walk-off on Opening Day over two weeks ago.
I'm not saying Trumbo isn't a dangerous hitter at the plate, but if you're going to roll with your hot hands, he should stay on the bench in the National League park. But also, like Kim, Trumbo should still get some plate appearances in the series, as pinch-hitting opportunities will come with the pitchers hitting for themselves these next few days.
It's worth noting the Orioles are facing left-hander Amir Garrett on Wednesday, game two of the series. If the O's want to start Trumbo in favor over Smith, I'm fine with that. But for Tuesday and Thursday, against right-handers Bronson Arroyo and Scott Feldman, respectively, Trumbo and Kim should be on the bench, but be ready by the sixth inning for when their name is called to pinch hit.
It's tough sitting either one of these guys, but having good hitters from each side of the plate to use late in the game against the Reds is definitely beneficial. If the Reds attack with a southpaw out of the bullpen late in the game, Showalter can turn to Trumbo. If they bring in a right-hander, Showalter can have his choice of Trumbo or Kim, both who could be lethal weapons with the bat off the bench.