As the 2013 Major League Baseball season approaches, the Baltimore Orioles still have a few unanswered questions. Of these questions, there aren't many surrounding the O's starting lineup. But there is at least one.
Who's the leadoff hitter?
In 2012, the Orioles used eight different leadoff hitters. At the start of the season, Nolan Reimold was given the duty. And despite being put there as an experiment, he played well in the role. Sadly, a herniated disc ended his season after 16 games.
After struggling to replace Reimold in the leadoff spot for about a month, the return of Brian Roberts seemed to solve the problem. However, not only did Roberts struggle at the plate, a groin injury limited his season to only 17 games.
Buck Showalter then decided to try something different and moved a returning Nick Markakis to leadoff. The moved worked, as Markakis, who struggled before a wrist injury forced him to the disabled list, prospered in his new role. He hit a cool .335 and at no point looked like he would be removed from the role.
Unfortunately for Markakis and the Orioles alike, a CC Sabathia fastball broke Markakis' thumb in early September, sending him to the DL for good.
The final solution for the troubling leadoff spot was newcomer Nate McLouth. Unlike Markakis and Reimold, McLouth was more of a prototypical leadoff hitter, bringing speed to the top of the lineup. The Orioles rolled into the playoffs with McLouth at leadoff, and in the ALDS against the Yankees, McLouth seemed to be the only Oriole that showed up, as he hit a solid .313 and hit one of the Orioles' three home runs.
So, the question is, which one of the four is Showalter going to bat first?
Is he going to keep it the way he ended the season and have McLouth reprise the role? Will he put his most successful leadoff hitter back in the spot and give Markakis another go?
Will Showalter throw a curveball and put the returning Nolan Reimold on top of the lineup? Or does Buck simply put Roberts back in the leadoff spot, as Roberts has hit in that role since 2003?
My guess is that Brian Roberts, if healthy, will be the leadoff hitter on Opening Day. Personally, I think McLouth or even Markakis would be better choice for the spot, but as long as he Roberts on the team and healthy, Showalter will probably have him lead off.