SARASOTA, Fla. - Nate McLouth told me this morning that today’s plan calls for him to move back and forth from right field to a fifth-infielder position.
Yeah, he got me.
McLouth and Trayvon Robinson switched places in left and center field yesterday through the first six innings of the Orioles’ 8-7 win over the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers. Manager Buck Showalter came up with the idea as a way for both players to get more comfortable with the replica Green Monster.
McLouth learned of the plan as he walked toward the on-deck circle before his first at-bat.
“He just looked at me and said, ‘I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we switch you guys every inning so you can both get a chance to play the wall?’ And I liked it because that wall is different, it’s tough to play if you’re not used to it, so I was glad he did it,” McLouth said.
Last summer provided McLouth with his first chance to play left field at Fenway Park. He didn’t get to handle any caroms off the wall at JetBlue Park yesterday, but simply judging fly balls brings its own unique challenges.
“You don’t know if you want to go back and try to catch them or if you want to back off and try to play them off the wall,” he said. “If you commit and try to catch it and it hits too high off the wall, it can bounce halfway back to shortstop. There’s a lot of little things you’ve got to experience. That’s the only way you can really learn how to play it.”
Robinson, who got the only chance to play a ball off the Green Monster yesterday when he fielded Shane Victorino’s double, knew about the plan to change positions with McLouth, but didn’t understand the reasoning behind it until later.
“I thought it was fun, to be honest,” Robinson said. “Every inning, going out there and new responsibilities. Making sure where you’re at, where you’re supposed to be. That’s how I took it.”
Robinson has never played in Boston, so his introduction to the Green Monster came in spring training.
“I thought it was a little further than it was. I was actually right up on it,” he said. “I think it’s easy to play, though. It’s pretty self-explanatory. If it’s over your head, play it off the wall. No cutoff man, so you’ve got to throw it all the way in.
“The bottom half of the wall is padded, so it’s going to shoot off a little harder, but that upper half, it’s kind of going to die. You can’t just play it closely. If it’s over your head, you’ve got to stay put and play it off right there.
“We had a lot of practice. Every time we go down there, I try to make sure that I get at least 10 to 15 balls off the wall, keep working.”
Yesterday provided the latest example of how Showalter is always planning in advance for situations that could crop up later.
“Thinking ahead,” Robinson said. “I knew that about him before the first week, when I got here. Just our situations and stuff, going through practice and whatnot, I knew that he thinks ahead of the situation. You’ve got to be like that. Scenarios in baseball always happen. The impossible is always possible here, you know? You’ve just got to be ready for it.”
“He’s always preparing for everything,” McLouth said, “and that will come into play at some point this year.”
For the Blue Jays:
Anthony Gose CF
Emilio Bonifacio 2B
Melky Cabrera LF
J.P. Arencibia C
Adam Lind DH
Mark DeRosa 3B
Andy LaRoche 1B
Ryan Langerhans RF
Macier Izturis SS
Jeremy Jeffress RHP