Vavra's start in left field the latest defensive challenge, plus updates on Mateo and McCann

BOSTON – Terrin Vavra is playing left field today for the 11th time in the majors. He knows the position and embraces his utility-type role if it keeps him on the Orioles’ roster.

“This is something that, really hope to be playing it in the postseason,” he said this morning. “This is the same type of environment, same type of climate, so I think just try to take it all in and make the most of it.”

Everything is the same except for the left field wall.

Today is Vavra’s introduction to it.

Anthony Santander started in left on Opening Day and Ryan McKenna played it last night. They won’t take away fond memories of the experience, though McKenna made a sensational diving catch earlier in the game before the dropped fly ball in the ninth preceded Adam Duvall’s walk-off home run.

“I think it’s a challenge, no doubt, but you’ve got to take each moment and try to learn from it the best you can,” Vavra said. “No ball hit at you is the same as the last one. Every time that you’re in the outfield, there’s a new challenge, and the wall limits some things and changes your philosophy about how you attack certain things. But other than that, we have great coaches that have seen a lot of games here that give us good game plans, good methods going into it. How to react to certain things. So, we try to make the most of that.”

The weather forced the cancellation of batting practice the first two days and prevented Vavra from getting pregame work in the outfield.

“That definitely takes away from some of the reps,” he said. “Like I said, every time the ball’s hit it’s different than the last time, so you’ve got to react and learn from it.”

Manager Brandon Hyde kept moving around Vavra in spring training, putting him in the outfield and using him at third, second and first base. His value increases with each spot that he can occupy and gain the staff’s trust.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s something I’m up for, it’s something that the coaches have a lot of confidence in me, so that gives me a lot of confidence, as well,” Vavra said. “I’m just trying to go out and put the best foot forward and get on base and get good defense and help our team win.”

The corner outfield provides its own challenges compared to center, where Vavra made 30 starts in the minors.

“The ball comes off the bat a little differently, there’s different angles you have to take, but ultimately, if you’ve got to be an athlete, you’ve got to be an athlete and you’ve got to react and get to the ball in the right spot,” he said. “Ultimately, that’s the same regardless of what position you’re at.”

Advice on playing left in Boston can come from Vavra’s father, Joe, a former major league coach.

“A lot of similar stuff to what our coaches say,” Vavra said. “There’s a lot of nooks and crannies out there, there’s a lot of things that change the bounce of the ball and change how you have to go after things. But you’ve been around the game a lot, especially in this division, you’ve seen this wall a lot, you kind of learn how to attack it.

“There’s hard parts of the wall, there’s ladders hanging off it, there’s a lot of nooks and crannies that the balls can kick off of. There’s dents in the wall that affect everything. You guys have seen the sun and the wind play a factor, too, in how you go after it. Definitely a challenge, but something I’m up for and something we’ll attack head on.”

Hyde wanted to get Vavra in the lineup and intends to do the same with outfielder Kyle Stowers, who’s waiting for his first opportunity. Hyde said Stowers is healthy.

“The way we swung the bat the first couple games, a lot of guys you want to keep in the lineup, but Kyle and Vavra are both going to get at-bats,” Hyde said. “They’re both going to play. Just hasn’t worked out up to the first two games. But we’re swinging the bat pretty well and we’re scoring runs. I expect those guys to mix in when they get in there.”

Jorge Mateo played catch today to test his right hand. He has bandages covering the two cuts on his index finger.

Hyde said Mateo had a scheduled day off and his absence from the lineup isn’t due to the hand.

James McCann is doing baseball activities, including hitting in the cage and catching bullpen sessions, as he recovers from his strained left oblique. Hyde said he’s encouraged by the progress.

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