The Orioles have stated their desire for infielder Ryan Flaherty to play second base in the Dominican Winter League, as they prepare to sort through their candidates and decide on a starter for opening day.
Flaherty will join Leones del Escogido on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. He’s never played winter ball, though he did report to the Cubs’ Dominican academy after being chosen with the 41st overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
“This is all new to me,” Flaherty said during a phone conversation from Tennessee, where he’s currently working out and beginning baseball-related activities. “They mentioned it earlier in the year and I hadn’t heard much more about it until the end of the year. I’ll go down there and it’ll be good. I’ll get at-bats and play second base. I’ve never done it before and I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m sure it’s going to be fun.”
Flaherty’s agent spoke with executive vice president Dan Duquette about the club’s plans for the Rule 5 pick, who will be managed by former major league infielder Ken Oberkfell.
“He said they want me to go down there and concentrate on second base, but who knows?” Flaherty said. “When I get there, whatever they need me to play, I’ll play.”
Flaherty will try to win a starting job with the Orioles in spring training after batting .216/.258/.359 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 77 games. Brian Roberts is expected to be full-go in spring training, though there’s no way to be certain while he recovers from hip surgery. The Orioles claimed Alexi Casilla off waivers from the Twins last week. They must decide whether to tender Robert Andino a contract.
Flaherty knows that the Orioles are bringing Casilla to camp and he understands the reasoning behind it.
“They’re trying to make the team better any way possible,” Flaherty said. “I can’t control what they do. It’s like last year. There’s a lot of things I can’t control. I’ll just show up and play hard and try to help the team win. That’s all I can do. Everything else will work itself out.”
Flaherty, who picked up a bat late last week for the first time since the season ended, looks back at 2012 as “a good overall experience.” He remained on the major league roster, started at second base in the wild card game and homered in Game 3 of the Division Series
Flaherty delivered the Orioles’ first home run in the playoffs since Eric Davis connected off Cleveland Indians reliever Paul Assenmacher on Oct. 13 in Game 5 of the 1997 American League Championship Series. He was the first player born in Maine with a postseason homer.
“To come up my rookie year in that situation and be on a team that had success like we did, it was a fun summer,” he said. “It was the most fun I’ve had playing baseball, and something to build on in future years. I’m excited for spring training to start already.”
First, he’ll make a detour in the Dominican.
Meanwhile, the GM meetings begin today in Indian Wells, Calif., and run until Friday. Trades usually aren’t completed here, but the groundwork can be laid for deals next month at the Winter Meetings in Nashville.
Duquette had joined the Orioles a week before these meetings began last year.