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Mountcastle tries 1B as O's preach versatility

February 19, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. -- When Ryan Mountcastle reported to the Orioles' clubhouse this week, surprises awaited on the schedule and in the locker just to his right. Upon arrival, infield coach Jose Flores approached Mountcastle with a directive: move across the diamond. Locker neighbor Chris Davis then lent him a hand.After

SARASOTA, Fla. -- When Ryan Mountcastle reported to the Orioles' clubhouse this week, surprises awaited on the schedule and in the locker just to his right. Upon arrival, infield coach Jose Flores approached Mountcastle with a directive: move across the diamond. Locker neighbor Chris Davis then lent him a hand.
After all, Mountcastle, a shortstop turned third baseman, hadn't come to Florida with a first baseman's mitt.
"My buddy Chris gave me one," Mountcastle said.
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And so it came to be that the Orioles' No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline spent his first official day in big league camp -- and 22nd birthday -- at a foreign position. Taking reps behind Davis at first, Mountcastle became the most high-profile participant yet in the club's grand spring experiment: to expose nearly every player in camp to multiple positions in an attempt to increase their versatility and depth.
Although Mountcastle was back at third base Tuesday, Rio Ruiz, a career third baseman, and Steve Wilkerson, who has played just three Minor League games there, worked out at first. Jace Peterson, predominately a second baseman, took reps with Mountcastle at third. Drew Jackson, an infielder by trade, practiced in the outfield.
"I think you're going to see a lot of movement," O's manager Brandon Hyde said. "Guys are going to be flipped all over the place as we go forward, for sure."
Mountcastle, for his part, is no stranger to moving around. Since he was drafted in 2015 as a shortstop, scouts noted his build and his bat -- and hinted they might suit him better in a corner role. The throwing issues he experienced early on expedited that transition. Mountcastle's cameos at third base began in Rookie ball; by last year, he'd shifted over full time.
"I feel like I did a lot better over there, getting my throws down and my footwork," Mountcastle said of third base. "I feel more confident for sure."

At third, the former first-round pick's throwing problems dissipated somewhat but not completely. The 12 errors he committed in 81 games at Double-A last year had the former O's front office pondering a move for Mountcastle to the outfield. For now, that possibility has been put on hold.
"We really want him to focus on his defense in the infield ... with new coaches and some new ideas, hopefully he gets comfortable," Hyde said. "He's still developing. I want whatever is best for him, whichever helps him gets to the big leagues and be a force offensively."
Long his calling card, Mountcastle's bat has remained consistent amid all the defensive changes. The .297/.341/.464 line he posted at Double-A last year means Mountcastle likely begins 2019 at Triple-A Norfolk. He could be in Baltimore as early as this summer, though opportunities at first figure to be limited with Davis, Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo all in the fold.
Roster move
The Orioles added a left-hander to their bullpen mix, claiming Josh Osich off waivers from the Giants. The club designated infielder Hanser Alberto for assignment in a corresponding move. Originally claimed from the Yankees in January, Alberto could remain with the organization should he clear waivers again.
Osich, 30, pitched to a 5.01 ERA across parts of the past four seasons with San Francisco. Most of his work came as a lefty specialist; lefties have hit just .228 with a .707 OPS against Osich. He becomes the fifth southpaw reliever on the 40-man roster, joining Richard Bleier, Tanner Scott, Paul Fry and Donnie Hart.

Escobar arrives
In camp on a Minor League deal, veteran infielder Alcides Escobar participated in his first workout since signing with the O's over the weekend. He also spoke for the heap of veteran free agents who waited out the winter when asked if he'd be willing to mentor the younger players in Orioles' camp.
"I can help everybody here," Escobar said. "I'm young too, man, I'm only 32."
Food news
The club announced that Orioles Hall of Famer Boog Powell will bring his Boog's BBQ to Ed Smith Stadium for the 2019 Grapefruit League season. This is the first time Boog's, an institution at Oriole Park for nearly three decades, will be made available at the club's Spring Training complex. Fans seeking out the famed menu will find Powell's son, J.W. Powell, operating the stand on the ballpark's left-field pavilion.
Giving back
Mancini, Mychal Givens and Mike Wright Jr. were among the Orioles who took part in the club's annual Health and Fitness Challenge, now in its fourth year. As part of the program, the Orioles hosted a group of students from nearby Booker Middle School at the Ed Smith complex, where they stressed the benefits of healthy eating, tobacco-free living and physical fitness.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.