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Showalter has to decide who will lead off for Orioles

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Showalter has to decide who will lead off for Orioles

The Orioles lineup is nearly set. Barring injuries, it’s pretty safe to project an Opening Day lineup of Chris Davis at first, Jonathan Schoop at second, J.J. Hardy at short, Manny Machado at third, Hyun Soo Kim in left, Adam Jones in center and Matt Wieters catching.

Mark Trumbo will be somewhere. He’ll probably be the DH.

It’s a safe bet the April 4th’s right fielder isn’t currently on the roster though Dariel Alvarez, L.J. Hoes, Nolan Reimold, Joey Rickard and Henry Urrutia will make a counterargument. Jimmy Paredes might, too.

Signing of another right fielder could change the composition of the batting order, but the eight players who should be in it against Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson or Phil Hughes are fairly set.

Who will lead off?

Manager Buck Showalter doesn’t care what you or I think. He’ll go with what seems to be the unconventional.

For years, Brian Roberts was not only the conventional, but the logical leadoff man, but when he wasn’t ready to start the 2012 season, Showalter went with Reimold, and he hit fairly well there until he was hurt.

After much experimenting, Showalter took Nick Markakis out of his comfort zone and surprisingly put him there after the All-Star break. Markakis had been hurt and when he returned, flourished as in the leadoff role.

Showalter explained to Markakis that he’d get more at-bats there.

Nate McLouth often hit first after Markakis was hurt in Sept. 2012, and that carried through in 2013. Markakis returned to the leadoff spot a year later, but when he left, Showalter had an uncomfortable choice last year.

RELATED: Davis deal shows Orioles willing to pay big bucks

In the season’s first month, Alejandro De Aza batted first, but when he struck out too often, Showalter went the unconventional route again, and inserted Machado there.

Machado flourished there, but in September, Showalter moved Reimold back to the top spot. Gerardo Parra got some time there, too.

In 111 games, Machado hit .300 with 23 home runs and a .364 on-base percentage. He’d never walked much in his first three years in the majors, but showed much improved plate discipline. In 21 games in the second spot, Machado hit just .218, but walked more often than he did batting first. He had a .344 OBP.

Machado’s power numbers were great. He hit 35 home runs, and led the team with the fewest stolen bases in the majors, with 20.

He could return to the top of the lineup, but Showalter would rather but him lower in the lineup.

It’s safe to bet that Davis, Hardy, Jones, Trumobo and Wieters will not be leading off.

Jones makes great contact, has speed, but doesn’t walk very often. Hardy doesn’t like leading off, and hasn’t done well there in the past. He’s another aggressive hitter. The Orioles didn’t re-sign Davis to be a leadoff man, and if the Orioles are to have a catching batting leadoff, it won’t be Wieters. Trumbo has never led off in his big league career, and he doesn’t have an impressive on-base percentage, either.

In the future, maybe Schoop could get a chance, but last year, walked only nine times in 86 games while striking out 79.

Well, what about Kim?

Kim has a lifetime OBP of .406 in South Korea. Last year, he walked 101 times in 141 games and struck out 63. He had a wonderful .438 OBP and hit .326 with 28 home runs and 121 at-bats.

One of spring training’s most interesting stories will be Kim’s adjustment to the majors. He comes to the Orioles with a reputation in Korea for being an aggressive player who isn’t afraid to argue with umpires. Showalter knows that has to be toned down.

He’ll not name him as the Opening Day leadoff hitter perhaps not even until near Opening Day, assuming Kim shows him enough in March to warrant the responsibility. It’s not Showalter’s way to declare an Opening Day starter in mid-February or a leadoff hitter when the games begin.

Kim had 11 stolen bases last year, but he won’t be batting leadoff to steal. It would be to get on base for the others to drive him in.

Of course, the Orioles could sign or trade for another player to start in right, or maybe Alvarez, Hoes, Reimold, Rickard, Urrutia or Paredes finds their way into the lineup.

Alvarez, Paredes and Urrutia aren’t terribly patient hitters. Hoes’ OBP is just .289 in a relatively short big league career. Rickard, the Rule 5 pick, has a great minor league OBP, but has never played in the majors, and he’ll probably be used as a fill-in outfielder or pinch runner if he makes the club.

Unless Showalter reverts to Machado or Reimold, who isn’t even a certainty to be on the roster, it’s probably Kim’s job to lose.

MORE ORIOLES: After Davis, what's next for the Orioles?

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

Live baseball is close to gracing our television screens again. The Orioles haven't had the most active offseason, to put it mildly. Fans are still wondering who will make up more than half the spots in this year's rotation, and Manny Machado's upcoming free agency is looming over every decision the organization makes.

Still, it's exciting to be able to follow the team again. Not every game is televised, so get ready to constantly refresh your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll be comforting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Jonathan Schoop is building on his breakout season, or if top-prospect Austin Hays is all he's cracked up to be (spoiler: he is).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing in the next few weeks. The O's haven't yet made a big splash this offseason, but with the sheer volume of capable players still on the market, you have to wonder if they'll try to sign some impact players at bargain values.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the lineup or rotation has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be taking place while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hecticfew weeks as teams prepare for thier seasons, so bookmark this page to check on on the Orioles spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Feb. 26 - Tigers at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Cardinals at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 1 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Tuesday, Mar. 6 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 9 - Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 (SS) - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Phillies at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 pm 
Tuesday, Mar. 13 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Yankees at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Orioles at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 - Orioles at Mets, 1:10 pm 
Saturday, Mar. 17 (SS) - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Mets at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Orioles at Tigers, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Rays at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Orioles at Yankees, 6:35 pm 
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Mar. 27 (in Norfolk, VA) - Orioles at Tides (AAA), 3:05 pm

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Baltimore Orioles add to their rotation, sign RHP Andrew Cashner

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USA Today Sports

Baltimore Orioles add to their rotation, sign RHP Andrew Cashner

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Baltimore Orioles signed right-hander Andrew Cashner to a two-year, $16 million contract on Thursday after searching for starting pitching all offseason.

The 31-year-old Cashner is 42-64 with a 3.80 ERA in eight major league seasons with the Chicago Cubs, San Diego, Miami and Texas, including 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA for the Rangers last year. The deal with the Orioles has an option for 2020.

He'll join right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman in the rotation.

"I do know that they need some starting pitching, and here it is, show up every day and whoever I can help out, help out and my job is to come here and pitch and win," Cashner said.

Cashner's deal could be worth $41 million over three seasons if he pitches 200 innings annually. He gets a $3 million signing bonus, payable in equal installments each Jan. 15 from 2020 through 2021.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Cashner has salaries of $5 million this season and $8 million in 2019, and there is a $10 million option for 2020 that would become guaranteed if he pitches 340 innings combined in the next two seasons. If he reaches 360 innings, it would become a player option.

He can make $5 million in performance bonuses each year.

There are $1,525,000 per season in bonuses based on starts: $250,000 each for 10 and 15, $625,000 for 20 and $400,000 for 30.

Cashner also can make $3,475,000 each year based on innings: $250,000 each for 110 and 120, $275,000 for 130, $350,000 for 140, $750,000 for 150 and $400,000 apiece for 170, 180, 190 and 200.

Cashner was at the Orioles' spring training facility, and was due to head to his Texas home for a few days before returning on Sunday when Baltimore's full squad is required to report. He'll likely work out with the team for the first time Monday.

He has little experience against the Orioles, but said he was excited to join the team.

"It's a lineup you can't really make a lot of mistakes against," Cashner said. "It's a lot of power in there, and I got to pitch (for) San Diego one year in Baltimore. Really cool stadium, really neat, a lot of history. It's one of my favorite places to pitch, so I'm looking forward to making that my home (stadium) every night."

RELATED: ORIOLES TO SHUFFLE UP INFIELD AHEAD OF MACHADO'S FINAL SEASON

Manager Buck Showalter said Cashner would be an ideal addition to the club.

"He's a veteran starter. That's a good deal for both us and him," Showalter said. "He's a guy who's pitched well in the American League. That's something that I think played in his favor."

Cashner said that he began negotiations with Orioles Vice President of Baseball Operations Brady Anderson last fall and in a challenging offseason for free agents, he said patience was vital.

"I don't think it's been difficult. It's been interesting. It's been different," Cashner said.

To make room for Cashner on the 40-man roster, Baltimore placed left-hander Zach Britton (Achilles) on the 60-day disabled list.