This was the biggest question at the All-Star break. And it still hasn't been answered. But now, unlike back then, that might be a good thing. Because of his ability to reach base, Nolan Reimold seized the job to start last season. A neck injury, however, ended his year after 16 games. Long-time incumbent Brian Roberts finally made it back last June and was immediately put atop the order. He lasted 17 games before a season-ending hip injury. By mid-July, the Orioles turned over the table-setter role to Nick Markakis (above), who had never batted leadoff in his pro career. He flourished, hitting .335 with a .390 on-base percentage before he broke his thumb in September and was lost for the remainder of the season. Nate McLouth then took over, and put up a .342 on-base percentage in 23 starts. Now all four could be options in 2013. Frankly, Reimold, Roberts and McLouth would all be content just in being in the lineup for the majority of the season. And Markakis has shown he doesn't care where he hits. The popular view is if Roberts shows that he is the Roberts of old and not an old Roberts this spring, then he'll get first crack at the leadoff job. However, Markakis really seized the role last year -- he loved getting that extra at-bat and seeing plenty of pitches -- and my guess is he's the safe bet to leadoff on Opening Day.
RAY STUBBLEBINE, REUTERS
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