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Baltimore Orioles' Search for Answers Should Lead to Minor Leagues

BOSTON - APRIL 25:  Rhyne Hughes #40 of the Baltimore Orioles knocks in a run in the 10th inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 25, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Michael WatersContributor IApril 26, 2010

Although it wasn’t the ideal win, the Orioles will take anything they can get.

On Sunday they left Fenway Park with a 7-6 victory in the 10th inning. Miguel Tejada and Rhyne Hughes were responsible for the extra-inning heroics that put the O’s ahead in the 10th and ultimately led them to just their third victory.

The Orioles received quality contributions from struggling marquee players Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and a returning Tejada, but once again Hughes made the most of his first major league call-up. Hughes went 2-for-4 on Sunday, including his tiebreaking single in the 10th.

Hughes has only played in two games thus far in his major league career, but his unbridled energy and effort since arriving in Baltimore has allowed him to serve as the catalyst that the Orioles need to energize a stagnant offense. Hughes is 4-for-9 with a total of two RBI.

Even though Hughes didn’t come onto the scene with quite the excitement generated by Boston’s Darnell McDonald’s two home runs, he has proven just as effective.

No one expects Hughes to lead the Orioles from the depths of futility. However, his performance this weekend should serve as notice that the Orioles need to bring more youthful energy into the lineup.

The Orioles' top hitting prospects, Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder, are off to equally bad starts at Triple-A Norfolk, but with a record of 3-16 the Orioles are in a position where they should give everyone a chance to play. The only criteria for earning at-bats should be performance, not reputation or past success.

While Bell’s early-season difficulties will likely keep him in Norfolk for the time being, I still believe he could serve a purpose on the O’s roster. Despite his current .224 average, Bell has an average of .320 with runners on and .385 with runners in scoring position. This is the statistical category where the Orioles are most drastically underperforming.

Another player the Orioles may want to consider elevating is Double-A Baysox first baseman Brandon Waring. Waring is only hitting for an average of .261 in Double-A but has already notched five home runs and 11 RBI through a total of 17 games. This production has led some to believe that Waring may be the best power prospect in the Orioles' farm system.

In 2009 Waring won the Brooks Robinson Award for the Orioles' best minor league player in that year and led the O’s Advanced-A class Frederick Keys in homers and RBI. Waring is highly susceptible to strikeouts, but in a limited DH role he could inject a much-needed power bat into the O’s lineup.

Left fielder Jeff Salazar may not be considered one of the O’s top prospects, but he currently has an average of .314, which is comparable to Hughes, Lou Montanez, and Justin Turner—all players who have spent time on the major league club in 2010.

In addition, Salazar is another player thriving with runners in scoring position. Salazar has an average of .400 in with runners in scoring position, and two of his four home runs have come in the same situation.

However the O’s decide to address the lack of offense, it is likely that some of their minor league standouts will get their chance as Dave Trembley attempts to make something happen for the floundering Orioles before his time runs out.

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