While the rest of us wait to find out whether the Orioles re-sign Brian Roberts, bring in another second baseman or choose an in-house candidate, Ryan Flaherty has been working out at Camden Yards and receiving tips on hitting from a member of the organization’s Hall of Fame.
Flaherty left the frigid weather in Maine and headed to Baltimore. When we spoke over the phone yesterday, he was visiting a friend down in Fort Lauderdale.
This guy avoids snow like it’s a runner trying to break up a double play.
“When the season ends, everyone kind of goes their own way, but for me, being from Maine, it’s tough to work out up there,” he said. “Not having a permanent residence now, it’s nice. I like it (in Baltimore). It’s a perfect fit for me to stay there until the New Year, until I go back down to Florida.”
Flaherty has been hitting the weights with strength and conditioning coach Joe Hogarty and swinging the bat with former Oriole B.J. Surhoff, who’s scheduled sessions three times a week.
“It’s just basic stuff,” Flaherty said. “I pick his brain. Obviously, he’s an established hitter and he’s in the area. He works out with us and then I pick his brain about hitting. He’s shown me some stuff. It’s been good to learn from a guy like that. He’s given me some good pointers.”
“Some technique stuff, mental approach, a little bit of everything,” Flaherty said. “Stuff he picked up through his career. It’s good to have someone around to talk to. He’s definitely helped me.”
And in typical Surhoff fashion.
“He’s not sugarcoating anything,” Flaherty said with a laugh. “He obviously had a long career, and being able to pick up pointers from him helps a lot.”
The roll call of players working out at Camden Yards includes Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, but Flaherty has solo sessions with Surhoff.
“Nick and Adam do their own thing,” Flaherty said. “It’s just been me so far. We’ll see what happens once the New Year picks up and more guys start floating in.”
Flaherty had a miserable first half of the 2013 season, batting .217/.277/.350 in 59 games. He was 15-for-100 through May. But he hit .242/.333/.500 in 26 games in the second half.
He wasn’t a threat to challenge for the batting title, but he showed improvement.
“It was nice to finish up the way I did,” Flaherty said. “Obviously, from a team standpoint, it didn’t end the way that I wanted. I just try to take the things I learned while struggling and try to improve on it. The early part of the season didn’t go the way I wanted it to. It was a learning process and I’m trying to learn from those mistakes and get better.”
Whether he gets the starting job at second base remains to be seen. Executive vice president Dan Duquette left open the possibility at the Winter Meetings that the Orioles will bring back Roberts, but he immediately shifted away from that topic and began to talk about Flaherty.
The Orioles haven’t been linked to any free agent second basemen. They were expected to have interest in Mark Ellis, but it never materialized.
“I haven’t been following that closely,” Flaherty said. “You see stuff pop up in the news. I’m sure Dan and Buck (Showalter) are in control and know what’s going on, and we’ll see what happens when spring training comes around.
“Whatever they want me to do - utility, play a position - I’ll try to go out and do the best I can and learn from my past few years and try to get better. Whatever it is they want me to do, I’m willing to do.”
Before hanging up, I asked Flaherty for his reaction to the Jim Johnson trade and the removal of a popular teammate from the clubhouse.
“Jimmy was a great guy,” Flaherty said. “I remember my first year in the big leagues, he really helped me out and gave me a lot of guidance. But there’s a business side, too, and that’s the other side of baseball. It’s there. Things happen. But he was a special guy and I’ll always remember him for that.”