The intriguing Baltimore Orioles lineup

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Or how bad can your team really be when your seven, eight and nine hitters all have a chance to reach 25 homers.

This is the Orioles lineup as I currently perceive it:

2B Brian Roberts
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
DH Wilson Betemit
1B Mark Reynolds
3B Chris Davis
LF Nolan Reimold

Of course, there are some big question marks there, starting at the very top. Roberts overcoming his concussion problems is the real key to Baltimore’s offense this season. If he’s not ready to go, then not only does that put Robert Andino in the lineup, but it also likely means Endy Chavez would start over Reimold against righties, since that’s the only way the team would have a “true leadoff hitter.”

But let’s say Roberts is healthy. Markakis too. That’s an awfully intriguing lineup, isn’t it? Eight players there have a legitimate shot of getting to 20 homers. Markakis is one of the least likely, yet he could finish with 15 and still be one of the team’s best players.

Here’s my current projection for each player in that lineup:

Roberts: .269/.343/.389, 7 HR, 43 RBI in 453 AB
Hardy: .260/.315/.450, 25 HR, 75 RBI in 542 AB
Markakis: .301/.373/.461, 18 HR, 83 RBI in 612 AB
Jones: .287/.335/.473, 24 HR, 91 RBI in 571 AB
Wieters: .286/.360/.495, 25 HR, 80 RBI in 497 AB
Betemit: .269/.335/.456, 19 HR, 67 RBI in 447 AB
Reynolds: .240/.333/.490, 35 HR, 88 RBI in 526 AB
Davis: .247/.302/.434, 22 HR, 65 RBI in 511 AB
Reimold: .251/.333/.428, 18 HR, 54 RBI in 446 AB

Nothing there is too unrealistic, is it? Wieters’ projection is on the optimistic side, but then, I’m optimistic. Davis will need to keep his OBP respectible in order to get 500 at-bats, but given the alternatives, the Orioles might as well let him play full-time to see what he can do. Besides, Reynolds belongs at first base.

Of course, the Orioles aren’t at all likely to end up with eight 20-homer guys. No team in major league history has ever had more than seven (the 2009 Yankees and 2010 Rangers are two of the five teams to sport that many). But if things break right, it could be a surprisingly potent group one through nine.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.