Notes on Villar and Osich before today’s Orioles workout

SARASOTA, Fla. - Jonathan Villar said this morning that he expects to play second base for the Orioles this season. Not his preferred spot in the infield, but it keeps him in the lineup.

The signing of Alcides Escobar to a minor league deal and the presence of other shortstop candidates in camp make it more likely that Villar stays at second, where he made 36 starts for the Orioles after coming to them in the Jonathan Schoop trade with the Brewers. He started 18 games at short.

“For me, I think I’ll play second base because, I don’t know, we’re having spring training here right now and it’s cool that (Escobar) is coming,” Villar said. “He plays shortstop, but I don’t know. See if he stays on the team. Maybe in the middle of spring training they tell me if I’m playing second base or shortstop, but for now I’m playing second base.”

Villar could bounce between second and short. Versatility is coveted on this team.

“This year, I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll be ready for everything. I play every day, I don’t care what position I play. I’ll be ready for every position they want me to play.”

Villar-Tag-Play-Second-PW-Sidebar.jpgExecutive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said at the Winter Meetings that he viewed Villar as a shortstop, but the evaluation obviously was subject to change depending on future roster moves.

“I like more shortstop, you know?” Villar said. “When I signed, I signed as a shortstop. Second base is good because you don’t need to move too much, you don’t need to throw hard to first base, so that’s easy right there, too. But I feel comfortable at both.”

Escobar could fit into a utility role with his ability to move around the infield and also play the outfield.

“He played for other teams when I played for Houston,” Villar said. “He’s a good guy ... good teammate.”

Villar should be able to bond with manager Brandon Hyde, who preaches aggressiveness on the bases and maximum effort throughout a game.

“I think that I love the guy because he loves to play hard,” Villar said.

“That’s my game, that’s my game. You get a base hit, you steal second base, steal third, that’s a triple for me. That’s (good) for the team, too, because a ground ball (scores) a guy.”

Hyde also wants smart baserunning. Villar knows that he has to pick the right spots.

Pitcher Josh Osich reported to the Ed Smith Stadium complex this morning, giving the Orioles nine left-handers in camp. He was claimed off waivers from the Giants on Tuesday.

“The Giants had a lot this year, so I guess we’re pretty close,” he said. “This is actually probably the most. This is a lot. A lot of lefties. You don’t see this many.”

The Giants designated Osich for assignment on Feb. 12 after claiming pitcher Jose Lopez.

“It’s part of the game,” he said. “I’m actually pretty excited about this opportunity. It’s a fresh start someplace else, a different league. No one else has really seen me here. It should be pretty fun.”

The rebuild won’t dampen his enthusiasm.

“It’s part of the game and just one of those things where you’ve got to go out and compete every day anyway, so it doesn’t matter,” said Osich, who’s wearing No. 35. “Nobody in here is going to try to lose. We’re all trying to win. Same thing either way.”

Osich allowed 11 runs and 20 hits with seven walks last summer in 12 innings. He had a 6.15 ERA and 1.632 WHIP in 37 games with Triple-A Sacramento.

“I came out strong in spring training, did well, and then my hip started bugging me and I tried to pitch with it. Didn’t go very well,” he said. “I ended up going to the minor leagues and took a little while to get my feet under me and get my hip right, and then toward the end of the season, I started doing well.”

Osich has evolved into a left-handed specialist, which can keep him employed. Left-handers have batted .228 against him, with right-handers posting a .294 average.

“The funny thing is, my whole minor league career was like one inning or more, and then when I got to the big leagues I pretty much only faced lefties,” he said. “Every once in a while I’ll face righties, but yeah ...

“It wasn’t just like certain lefties. It was all the lefties. I had to be ready at all times.”

Osich is one of five left-handers on the 40-man roster, joining Richard Bleier, Tanner Scott, Paul Fry and Donnie Hart. Also in camp are Sean Gilmartin, Josh Rogers, John Means and Chris Lee.

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