SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles manager Buck Showalter took the windy conditions into account today while critiquing starter Miguel Gonzalez.
"We counted five outs he got that the conditions changed," Showalter said following a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. "Five outs - you know, a couple foul balls that would have been caught that were blown out."
Gonzalez was victimized by Nate McLouth's error in the second on a fly ball that shifted a few times before falling inside the left field line.
"I don't think anybody that was here today would have caught the ball that Nate tried to catch," Showalter said.
"(Gonzalez) was off from what he spoiled us with, but I'm OK with him. Arm feels good. You can tell. I think the ball is coming out of his hand pretty good.
"I think he's throwing the ball good. I'm really happy with Miguel. Can tell he's had a good off-season. Looks stronger. Looks pretty fresh. Ball is coming out of his hand good. Crisp. Feel good about him."
Ryan Flaherty started in right field and went 1-for-2 with his second home run of the spring, as he continues to push for a spot on the 25-man roster. He's 6-for-21 with two doubles and five RBIs.
"I feel pretty good at the plate right now," he said.
So how does Flaherty go about making the right impression on Showalter?
"Play hard, play the game the right way. Keep hitting," he replied.
"Obviously, there's a lot of good players here in camp, a lot of competition, which is good for the team. All these games mean something, so that's definitely good."
Flaherty looks a lot more comfortable this spring, like he belongs here. He benefited from getting starts late in the season, including the playoffs, and playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
"To be able to play and experience the postseason, it was a great experience, and I'm trying to take that into this year," he said. "That definitely helps.
"The time you're kind of down there, you don't realize it, but coming to camp, you feel a little more comfortable at the plate. It's definitely helped."
Flaherty has been moving around, playing different positions in the infield and moving to right field today. Showalter is convinced that Flaherty can be an everyday player in the majors, but his best chance to make the club out of spring training this year is in a utility role.
"To be honest with you, it really doesn't matter where I play," Flaherty said. "I feel pretty comfortable anywhere. Maybe it just takes an extra day to take a couple extra fly balls, but it's good."
It's never easy playing the outfield down here.
"I'm not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous out there in the first inning," he said. "The first ball of the game, the guy hit it to me and it blew into the bullpen. And you saw what happened to McLouth's ball. It's tough - the wind, the sun, the high sky. Like Buck says, if you can catch fly balls here, you can catch them anywhere."
Showalter has mentioned many times in camp that Flaherty looks like a more confident player and has a chance to make the club.
"He's had some good at-bats this spring. Been impressive. He kind of picked up where he left off in October last year," Showalter said.
"He's doing the things to put himself in the position to make it. Just got to continue. You guys can tell he's got a little different sureness to his step. He knows the level and what's expected and he's playing like a very confident player right now - I think defensively and everything he's doing.
"He's not a Rule 5 guy that we didn't know that walked into camp. He did well last year. Whether he was a Rule 5 draft pick or not last year, he would have made our club, so we'll see where it takes us. Proud of the way he came in, I think winter ball, it was good for him.
"Ryan can be an everyday player at some point. I'm not going to use his versatility against him. It's an asset - an asset for us as a team, but also he's a guy that can man down a position for us or somebody for a long time."