- The Felix Pie experiment hasn't officially ended, but his grip on the starting left-field job has loosened significantly. Pie was held out of Saturday's starting lineup for the fourth time in the past five games, and Orioles manager Dave Trembley acknowledged that he wants to take a longer look at Lou Montanez.
"I don't think you grade Pie after 54 or 55 at-bats or whatever he's had, but competition is a healthy thing," said Trembley, the first time this season he has acknowledged that the left-field job isn't set in stone. "Right now, I'm just trying to find the right combination to see if we can get on track and win some games. Pie will get his opportunities. I just don't know what I'm going to do about that as far as a long-term plan. I'm going to try to find somebody that gets hot and takes [the job]."
Pie, whom the Orioles acquired this offseason from the Chicago Cubs, is hitting .157 with one homer and seven RBIs in 20 games. He has also struggled defensively, and in Wednesday's series finale against the Los Angeles Angels, his failure to charge Torii Hunter's first-inning single allowed Bobby Abreu to get to third base.
The plan was originally for Pie, a left-handed hitter, to be in the lineup against right-handed pitchers and get days off against tough left-handers. However, the Orioles have faced back-to-back right-handers - Roy Halladay and Robert Ray - and Pie hasn't been in the lineup either time. Montanez made his fifth start in left field Saturday.
It's 54 at-bats, and it's now .167 in 22 games.
That's pretty awful, of course. But really, it's much worse because this isn't Pie's first shot. Add in his two seasons with the Cubs, and Pie's history in the majors now includes 348 plate appearances and a startling .213/.278/.315 line. He's no longer some fresh-faced rookie; not with all that playing time and a 24th birthday a few months ago. After 348 plate appearances, you want to see something from a guy who's been profiled as an every-day player and, just maybe, a future star.
The "problem" is that Pie, in three Triple-A stints, posted a .300/.353/.478 line, and most of the time he was one of the younger players in the league. You can't give up on a guy like that. Not after 54 at-bats, nor after 348 plate appearances.
How many more chances do you give him? I don't know, exactly. What I do know is that in Brady Anderson's first three seasons, his line was .216/.305/.301 in nearly a thousand plate appearances. He was awful in his fourth season, too. And he was significantly older than Pie, without the Triple-A credentials.
I don't mean to suggest that Pie is going to someday hit 50 homers in one season, or play in the majors until he's 38. But the Orioles didn't give up on Brady Anderson when he was 27, and they shouldn't give up on Felix Pie when he's 24. Especially not in a vain pursuit of fourth place.