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Mailbag: Who is Tejada's successor?

Mailbag: Who is Tejada's successor?

With the recent trade of shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros, will the Orioles give Luis Hernandez a look as his in-house replacement?
-- Josh M., Martinsburg, W.V.

Hernandez may be the most appealing in-house option, but the Orioles will likely look for a solution from another organization. Despite a torrid beginning to his big-league career, Hernandez has never hit enough to merit consideration as a future regular. In fact, Hernandez has hit .250 with a .299 on-base percentage during his Minor League career.

Compare that to fellow shortstop Brandon Fahey, who has a similar pedigree as an all-glove infielder. Fahey has batted .260 with a .322 on-base mark during his Minor League career, and he looks like a future reserve infielder at best. Baltimore may prefer Hernandez to Fahey in the short-term because the latter player still has an option year remaining.

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In other words, barring any further personnel moves, Fahey could start the year at Triple-A Norfolk and cede the shortstop derby to Hernandez and Freddie Bynum. Bynum has considerably more hitting skill than either of his current competitors, but he hasn't played more than 20 games at shortstop since 2005 and the Orioles value his versatility.

So who stands in as the heir to Tejada's role? Your guess is as good as any. Baltimore is expected to explore further trade talks for many of its veteran players, and a replacement shortstop could easily be part of a late-winter deal. Otherwise, the Orioles will have to test their theory that they can survive with a defense-only shortstop in the American League East.

Is Luke Scott expected to start in left field in 2008, and are the pitchers involved in the trade expected to stay on the 25-man roster?
-- Nathan C., Lutherville, Md.

Scott is indeed penciled in as the starter in left field next year, but he's also been regarded as a potential sweetener should the Orioles need to add a player into any of their many rumored deals. Scott has hit right-handed pitchers very well in his brief big league audition, and last year he hit significantly better on the road than he did at Minute Maid Park.

In short, if Scott merely repeats what he did last year, he'd probably be one of Baltimore's most productive hitters. Jay Payton started for most of the year in left field, and the Orioles made do with Fahey and Jeff Conine in 2006. Scott appears to represent a clear upgrade over all three of those players, but he'll have to adjust to AL play.

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The rest of the haul represents a boom-or-bust scenario. Southpaw Troy Patton was the jewel of the deal, and he may be ready to step in immediately as a back-end rotation option. Baltimore will also look to evaluate Matt Albers as a potential swingman or power relief arm, and hard-throwing Dennis Sarfate will also compete for a bullpen job.

The lone name in the deal who isn't expected to contribute next season is third baseman Mike Costanzo, who will likely begin his Baltimore tenure playing for Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles shed close to $26 million by axing Tejada's contract, and those savings may yield more muscle for signing draft picks and investing in international talent.

I read the entire Mitchell Report and it says that former Orioles outfielder Larry Bigbie told investigators that Brian Roberts had told him he had injected himself with steroids once or twice. I don't know if you read this, but I would like Roberts to speak about Bigbie's accusations.
-- Jacob C., Richmond, Va.

Most reporters in this business haven't just read the Mitchell Report, they've lived in it for several days. Roberts has been called by nearly every local media outlet and has yet to speak publicly, and his agent hasn't returned phone calls to this reporter to discuss the topic. For now, Roberts and much of the baseball world are living in a cone of silence.

With that said, Jacob's characterization of the Mitchell Report's contents is entirely correct. The report documented the friendship between Bigbie and Roberts, who both lived at teammate David Segui's house as rookies. Bigbie told authorities that his steroid use began during that year, but he also said that Roberts did not participate.

The entire basis for Roberts' inclusion in the report seems to be encapsulated in two sentences regarding Bigbie's testimony. "According to Bigbie, however, in 2004 Roberts admitted to him that he had injected himself once or twice with steroids in 2003," it said. "Until this admission, Bigbie had never suspected Roberts of using steroids."

Roberts was invited to meet with former Sen. George Mitchell's investigative team to respond to those allegations, but he declined the opportunity. Now, his silence stands in stark contrast to his name being bandied about in news reports and radio programs. Roberts may eventually talk about the subject, but for now, he's elected to stay silent.

Why didn't the Orioles offer arbitration to Corey Patterson?
-- Ryan H., Havre de Grace, Md.

In short, they didn't offer it because they were afraid he'd accept it. Patterson, who has been all but lost in the mega-dollar market for center fielders, provided stellar defense and subpar offense for the Orioles the last two seasons. Baltimore is hoping to land a player with that skill-set for a bargain basement price, but nothing has materialized just yet.

As of now, the battle for center field appears to come down to Payton and Tike Redman. Payton has been unseated in left field by Scott and may fit in as a reserve who can fit between all three outfield positions. Redman, who began last year playing Independent League baseball, previously washed out as a starter with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Much like the answer provided for the shortstop competition, it's quite possible that next year's center fielder will be acquired in a trade later this winter. The in-house options are less than appealing, and outfield prospect Nolan Reimold is regarded as being a year away from the big leagues -- and better suited to a corner slot at that point.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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