The Orioles made a swap of infielders March 24, acquiring Maryland native Steve Lombardozzi from the Detroit Tigers for non-roster veteran Alex Gonzalez.
Lombardozzi, 25, has a career batting line of .264/.297/.342/.639 with five home runs during 257 games with the Washington Nationals. The Nats traded him to the Tigers Dec. 2, 2013, as part of a deal for right-handed pitcher Doug Fister.
Lombardozzi has a strong chance of cracking the Orioles' Opening Day roster as a utility player. He has started at four different positions -- second base, shortstop, third base and left field -- during his big league career. His versatility gives him an advantage over other utility candidates, such as Jemile Weeks, who has started at only second base as a major leaguer.
Lombardozzi was born in Fulton, and attended Atholton High School in Columbia. His father, Steve Lombardozzi Sr., spent six years in the majors as an infielder for the Twins and Astros, from 1985-90.
Gonzalez, 37, is a 15-year veteran who was attempting to make the Orioles as a utility infielder. The O's signed him as a minor league free agent Jan. 31. Gonzalez was having a strong spring for the Birds -- going 12-for-28 with two home runs -- and was likely on his way to making the team as a utility infielder.
Still, the Orioles presumably decided they'd rather have Lombardozzi, who is 12 years younger and offers more defensive flexibility and a similar bat. The Tigers, meanwhile, were looking primarily for a shortstop after presumptive starter Jose Iglesias suffered a season-ending injury. That likely attracted them to Gonzalez, who has played more than 1,500 games at shortstop in the bigs for six different teams.
To make room on the 40-man roster for Lombardozzi, the Orioles designated catcher Johnny Monell for assignment. Monell, 27, lost out in his bid to become the Birds' backup catcher this spring, as the club optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk March 19. Monell displayed some offensive potential during Grapefruit League play, but struggled defensively behind the plate. If Monell clears waivers, the O's will likely outright him to Norfolk.