Brian Roberts’ health status remains in serious question because of last season’s concussion and manager Buck Showalter said yesterday that Robert Andino would likely be the everyday second baseman and might also be the leadoff hitter if Roberts can’t play.
Showalter told Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com that he’d ideally like Andino in a utility man role “moving all over the field” but called him “the leading candidate” and “the frontrunner” to replace Roberts if needed.
Roberts being in the Opening Day lineup hasn’t been ruled out, but much like Justin Morneau in Minnesota the Orioles simply have no idea how he’ll respond once the baseball activities begin to ramp up.
Andino played well in Roberts’ place last season, but is also a 28-year-old career .245 hitter with a .302 on-base percentage and .331 slugging percentage in 312 games. He’d be a plus defensively, but ideally Andino shouldn’t be playing regularly and definitely shouldn’t be batting atop the lineup.
Helluva smile, though.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.