Perhaps most importantly, Tejada is durable. Last season he extended his consecutive games streak to 756. Just in case Tejada misses a game for the first time since 2000, Enrique Wilson and Chris Gomez can fill in. Don't expect to see too much of them, though.
Melvin Mora, 3B
_____ Baseball '05 _____
• It will be tough for the Orioles- Nationals matchup to join the ranks of great baseball rivalries. • A closer look at the Nationals' rivals in the NL East. • Thomas Boswell: The old rivalry between Washington and Baltimore should not take long to heat up. • The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is the best in sports and only figures to get more intense this season. • A timeline of the Red Sox and Yankees' shared history. • Many teams have laid claim to being the top rival of the Yankees. • Started in New York City and continued in California, the Giants- Dodgers rivalry is one for the ages. • Baseball Preview Section
Lost in Tejada's stellar year was Mora's emergence as an offensive star. He earned the American League Silver Slugger Award, given to the best offensive player at his position. Mora's .340 average and 27 home runs and 104 RBI were all career highs.
Mora's defense was questionable early on, but improved throughout the season.
The team decided not to pursue a free agent third baseman this season, meaning Mora will likely stay at third base for the foreseeable future.
Enrique Wilson and Chris Gomez back up this position.
Larry Bigbie, LF
A surge in the second half of the season earned Bigbie a starting job. The outfielder started slowly but hit .307 with eight home runs and 32 RBI after the all-star break. The Orioles expect better numbers this season from their first-round pick in 1999.
Bigbie, 27, is past the prospect stage and must produce. He is an adequate defensive outfielder with an average arm. The team had pondered playing him in center, but changed its mind.
B.J. Surhoff can be expected to see some playing time in left field. Surhoff, 40, had a surprising 2004, hitting .309 with eight home runs in a limited role.
Luis Matos, CF
After an impressive 2003 season, Matos regressed in 2004. Though the outfielder said he won't make excuses, the team believes a shin fracture affected Matos at the plate. Two seasons ago Matos hit .303 with 13 home runs and 45 RBI. Those numbers shrunk to .224 with six home runs and 28 RBI last year.
Matos has run without pain this spring, which is an encouraging sign for the Orioles, who have little depth in center.
Utility player David Newhan has seen extended playing time in center during the spring and may get significant time there if Matos falters. Newhan was a pleasant surprise last year, hitting .311 with eight home runs and 54 RBI after being signed as a free agent during the season.
Sammy Sosa, RF
Sosa will be expected to add more offense to an already potent lineup. Last season Sosa had what was considered a down year. His .253 average, 35 home runs and 80 RBI were his lowest totals since 1997. Yet it remains important to note that the 35 home runs would have led the Orioles last season.
Sosa appears reinvigorated this spring, perhaps happy to have escaped the clutches of Cubs Manager Dusty Baker, with whom the outfielder feuded last year. Sosa predicts a big season and it's not unreasonable to expect 35-40 home runs and 100 RBI.