Former Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick, now a MASN analyst who also works with infielders at the major and minor league levels, offered his opinions on Ryan Flaherty, Brian Roberts and Manny Machado during Saturday's "Hot Stove Baseball" show on WBAL Radio.
"I loved Ryan Flaherty," Bordick said. "I think he's so versatile and he played above-average at every position they put him in. Buck (Showalter) wasn't scared to start him in the outfield or start him at second base. He played in the postseason. He started games in the postseason. There's a lot of confidence there.
"He can play shortstop He's rangy. He's got length out there. He's got a strong enough arm. He can cover all those gaps in the infield, every spot. And you can stick him in the outfield. There's tremendous value there. He's going to be one of those guys who just gets better. He's around players like J.J. Hardy and other veteran players in the infield that he can watch and learn from. He's got that type of attitude where he's going to try to keep working and make himself better. He knows what's at stake this year going in.
"I look for a strong Ryan Flaherty coming into camp, somebody who's going to be fighting. You talk about competition. He's going to be out there working to win a spot."
Flaherty played one game at shortstop for the Orioles as a rookie. If he doesn't win the second base job in spring training - and it's not going to happen if Roberts is healthy - he'll need to be a utility guy to avoid a trip to the minors.
"I think he can be a really good shortstop, but he started moving around so much, and players who start moving over to the right side of the infield start to lose some of the arm strength," Bordick said. "In spring training, I think Buck saw there was just too much fade on his ball, not able to get the ball to first base from the hole consistently enough. But since it was pointed out, I'm sure he's been working on it.
"I think Ryan Flaherty will be the most consistent backup shortstop, but I think they hope J.J. Hardy will play as many games as he played last year."
Hardy appeared in 158 games, which seems excessive, in my opinion. There had been some concerns within the organization about him wearing down if not given enough rest, so why so many? To me, it makes more sense to freshen him up as he tries to improve on a .238/.282/.389 line.
Anyway, Bordick worked with Roberts last year as the second baseman attempted to return from a hip injury. Bordick is convinced that Roberts will be "ready to go" on opening day.
"I don't know that we're ever going to see the Brian Roberts of old, when he was an All-Star candidate every year, but I still think there's something in his tank," Bordick said. "I think the fire is there. He wants to prove to everybody that he's still an impact player in the game. I think he can still steal a lot of bases and hit doubles and play solid defense, but there are definite concerns. Is he going to be able to last for 162? Now Buck Showalter, there's no way he can write him in for 162, so he needs somebody who's dependable and reliable that he can put out there and spell Brian. He's not going to play him every day for a month straight. It's going to be one of those things where maybe it's four or five off a month or more to keep him on the field if he's still productive.
"I think the job is his going into spring training, but there's going to be a lot of competition there, just like last year. And competition, I think, is a beautiful thing for the Orioles. I love how Dan Duquette and Buck have established that, that nobody is safe. You go down there, there are a lot of guys fighting for spots, and they could win a spot. Look what Ryan Flaherty did last year. There's going to be a challenge there and everybody is going to have to lift their levels up a little bit and be pushed. But I expect Brian Roberts to be the starting second baseman."
Machado will be the starting third baseman after being a smash hit once the Orioles gave him the job in August.
"It was a great story for Manny Machado," Bordick said. "It was just a matter of time when he got his opportunity to show himself in the big leagues. Buck Showalter took notice of him that one spring training and said, 'Wow, this guy is a major leaguer and the sooner we get him up here, the better.' They worked on some things. With J.J. Hardy a Gold Glove shortstop, how do we get Manny Machado up here? So they got him some ground ball work over at third base."
Bobby Dickerson, the former minor league infield coordinator who will coach third base this season, spent considerable time with Machado, as Bordick noted on Saturday. And Machado proved to be a quick study.
"Manny has great instincts, so a lot of stuff, he was just a natural," Bordick said. "He does it on his own. He has great God-given talent. But he was just so unflappable to me when he got the opportunity to play. No nerves. It was like he belonged here. He was so comfortable.
"He knew the players. His teammates treated him great, which is a great characteristic of the success of this team, just how the chemistry was. Everybody who got called up there to help and everybody else were on the same page, and that's why they won. I think talking about team chemistry is important.
"Some of the things he did on the field, even the great veterans were shocked and in awe of what he did. Obviously, that play at third base comes to mind. And there's so much anticipation, at least for me, to see him play again this year. He's a player who's just going to get better and better. He's only 20 years old. He has postseason experience. He's been on a winning team. And he had success in the minor leagues, too.
"You think about his career. He played on the USA junior team. His first year of pro ball, he won a championship with (Single-A) Frederick. Then he goes and makes the postseason with the Baltimore Orioles. I mean, let's go. This is the guy you want. He knows how to work, he knows how to handle himself. He's a great teammate. He's a smart player. And he's so young. The ceiling on this guy, you can't even imagine how good he can possibly be."
The play at third base that Bordick referenced involved him faking the throw to first base, spinning and firing to Hardy. Veteran move by a rookie still learning a new position. And much credit goes to Hardy, who hustled over to third.
"The beauty of that is, when Manny Machado gets his chance to play shortstop one day in the major leagues, he knows that's where he's going to be," Bordick said. "So you're going to see another third baseman give Manny Machado the feed and he's going to make the play like J.J. Hardy."