Baltimore Orioles: Jake Fox Makes His Case with His Bat, Deserves Roster Spot

Alex SnyderContributor IIMarch 18, 2011

Jake Fox has earned a spot on the Opening Day roster with his exceptional performance at the plate this spring.
Jake Fox has earned a spot on the Opening Day roster with his exceptional performance at the plate this spring.Harry How/Getty Images

Jake Fox has been battling many others for a backup job with the Baltimore Orioles this spring.

His primary competition is incumbent backup catcher Craig Tatum, who was very solid for the Birds last year, both at the plate and behind it.

This spring, however, Fox is blowing Tatum (and the rest of the team) away with a .356 batting average and a spring training-leading seven home runs in 45 at-bats. Two of the seven were hit in yesterday's contest against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Fox has hit four homers in his past three games. I think it's pretty safe to say the guy is on fire.

This begs the question: Can a guy that hot at the plate not make the big league club out of spring training?

Answering that very query, Orioles manager Buck Showalter simply replied: "Yes."

While competing primarily to be the backup catcher on the team, Fox can also play both of the corner infield and outfield positions, making him extremely versatile. While his defense at any of those positions won't win him a Gold Glove, he can get the job done in a temporary backup or replacement role, should someone get injured.

That's a player that any team would love to have—one who can play multiple positions and hold his own with the bat. Showalter, an old-school-type manager who preaches great defense, is considering Fox's defense more than his offense when deciding his bench.

Sure, a contender's offense is a contributing factor, but Showalter would rather have a solid defensive player than one who can hit, but hardly catch a baseball.

Of course, there's always the scenario that both Fox and Tatum make the club, with Tatum being the backup catcher and Fox being a corner's backup and third catcher. It's certainly not a long shot to happen.

The O's have so many options for their bench this spring, and competition is always a good thing. A team can never have an overflow of reliable players.

Showalter hasn't commented much on what he thinks of Fox behind the plate, but he did mention yesterday that he "looked better" than he had before, which can only help his cause.

Whether he makes the club as the primary backup catcher or a backup corner infielder, Fox has earned a spot on the major league club with his bat. Having a bat with that much pop off of the bench is always a good asset, especially to pinch-hit late in games when a light-hitting backup (such as Cesar Izturis) plays.

I understand that a great spring performance won't necessarily translate to the regular season, but when you're building your team off of spring performances, it counts for the time being.

Furthermore, Fox has always had that kind of power ability. He's just never had the defensive ability to be a starter for an extended period of time, or lacked the opportunity when other players were already cemented into his positions.

Fox, keep hitting the way you are—and I'm sure that Showalter will find you a spot on the roster.