The injury to Andy LaRoche could have a major impact on how the Opening Day roster shakes out, reaching far beyond just third base. Obviously, the third base competition has been quickly and bizarrely short-circuited, which is unfortunate because both Nomar and LaRoche had been having good springs at the dish. Barring a trade, Nomar is now going to be the Opening Day 3B, which means he won’t be serving in the “supersub” role that so many of us had thought he could excel in.
Prior to this, the only two spots that were guaranteed on the bench were going to Gary Bennett and Juandre Piethier. That’s still true, but now we might be seeing a different configuration to join them, especially if the team opens the season with 12 pitchers, as clubs often like to do earlier in the year. Nomar being the starting 3B means that he’s not going to be the primary backup on the corners, be the main veteran bat off the bench, and possibly be the backup SS. Particularly since he’s no longer available to backup at 1B (when he gets a day off of 3B, he needs it to actually be a day off), it looks like things just became a lot easier for Mark Sweeney to drive down the “Olmedo Saenz Memorial Veteran Pinch Hitter and Backup First Baseman Off-Ramp”.
Despite his dreadful spring at the plate (11 Ks in 21 at-bats, though he did homer today) Delwyn Young is also likely to make the team; partially because he’s shown some defensive skill at second base, but mostly because he’s out of options. Teams with four everyday outfielders don’t really need a lot of backups out there, and since Young and Sweeney can each hold down the corners, it seems as though there’s nothing Jason Repko can do to avoid another summer in Las Vegas. This isn’t a bad thing, of course; having missed all of last season and much of 2006, he’s only been able to get 435 at-bats over the last three seasons.
That makes Bennett, Piethier, Sweeney, and Young. Carrying 12 pitchers means only 5 bench players, so we’ve got one spot left, and a dire need for an infielder who can play SS and 3B. Which means the last spot is a fight between Tony Abreu and Chin-Lung Hu. Abreu’s saw a lot more time up in the bigs than did Hu in 2007, and personally I’d rather see Hu back in Vegas playing every day to start the season. However, Abreu just hasn’t been able to stay healthy and continuing abdominal issues have allowed him to only get into one game this spring.
Bennett, Piethier, Sweeney, Young, and Hu? As benches go, that’s not bad.
Of course, they could muck it all up and come down with Brandon Inge – but let’s not imagine such horrors until they occur.