Orioles pitchers and catchers report to the spring training complex in Sarasota on Feb. 13. Maine residents arrived in the middle of January.
Ryan Flaherty needed to escape the cold and proceed with his workouts before heading to Baltimore for FanFest. He’s going to show up as the favorite to start at second base.
Does his status change his offseason routine?
“Not really,” he replied last week on WBAL Radio. “I’ve taken a lot from what I’ve learned the last couple years and I’ve tried to apply them. I started hitting a little bit earlier than I usually would have. But from a mindset, I’m just ready to go to camp and help any way I can and try to help this team win and get back to where we were two years ago.
“There’s going to be a lot of competition in camp at a couple different positions. They brought in a lot of good guys and I’m excited to get going. I’m sure it’s going to be great competition and we’ll see how it all shakes out by the end of March.”
Flaherty appeared in 85 games in 2013, batting .224/.293/.390 with 11 doubles, 10 homers and 27 RBIs. He’s played the equivalent of a full season - 162 games - in two years since being selected in the Rule 5 draft, batting .221/.279/.378 with 13 doubles, a triple, 16 homers and 46 RBIs.
“I think I’ve learned a lot from struggling and having success at the major league level,” he said. “Every time you’re out there, you have a chance to learn stuff, even if you’re not in the lineup every day - by watching the game, watching the way certain guys go about their business. You can really take a lot from that.
“This offseason, I’ve tried to spend a lot of time picking certain guys’ brains and stuff. I’m just excited to get going here in February.”
Flaherty played on a regular basis in the minors. He’s had to make the adjustment to coming off the bench with the Orioles and enduring prolonged stretches between games.
“That’s one of the learning curves of getting to the major leagues,” he said. “Not everyone’s fortunate enough to be in the lineup every day right away, so you make the most of it. To play at that level is something you dream about as a kid, so it doesn’t really matter. I’m not going to sit here and complain about it. You just work to get better and reach your maximum potential. That’s all you can ask and that’s all you can try to do.
“I’m always trying to work on all aspects offensively and defensively. Offensively, evolving as a hitter, trying to learn from a lot of the veterans on the team, certain guys who are around in the clubhouse and pick their brains. Not only can you hit home runs, but you can hit for average and you can get on base and you can do a little of everything. That’s what’s going to be the most valuable to the team.”
Flaherty continues to benefit from having J.J. Hardy on his right.
“He’s the captain of the infield, for sure,” Flaherty said. “I remember my first year in camp, just watching him very day, I became a better infielder. The way he goes about his business, he’s as consistent as they come. He helps you out. He can move you in the right position. Bobby Dickerson helped out with that last year, and J.J. as well. You play next to him, you know you’re going to have success just being around him.”
Could Flaherty change positions in 2014?
Well, it’s possible that he could become a utility player if Jemile Weeks wins the second base job. Flaherty has appeared in 93 games at second base, 24 at third, 24 in the outfield, 10 at shortstop and seven at first base. However, manager Buck Showalter keeps insisting that Flaherty can be an everyday player in the majors.
Weeks has only played second base in the majors, with the exception of two games in center. He’s played 25 games in center and 23 at shortstop in the minors. The Orioles signed Alexi Casilla to a minor league contract with the idea that he could serve in a utility role if Flaherty is the starter at second.
What happens if Weeks is optioned to Triple-A Norfolk? Does he become the everyday second baseman? If so, what happens to Jonathan Schoop?
Schoop is more versatile, but if the Orioles envision him as their eventual second baseman, he needs to play the position every day in Norfolk. Weeks’ value would increase if he can move around.