Versatility could be key for Flaherty
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Ryan Flaherty has what manager Buck Showalter likes to call "a different look this spring," as the former Rule 5 Draft pick presents an interesting option in camp given his versatility.
The Orioles have a roster spot open behind first baseman Chris Davis, with at least five others -- Russ Canzler, Steve Pearce, Travis Ishikawa, Connor Jackson and Danny Valencia -- expected to see time at first this spring. Flaherty, who will play corner outfield this spring along with the group just mentioned, could also see time at first base, and has gotten reps at shortstop, second and third.
"Flaherty is going to make it [tough]," Showalter said. "You can tell [he has] a little different look to him this spring. After getting through last year, he's not feeling his way around anymore. He's a real confident guy. He thinks he can do this and help us. I think he might be right."
Flaherty has options remaining that can be used now that he's no longer in his Rule 5 year. While some of his fate is tied to the health of second baseman Brian Roberts, Showalter has acknowledged that there is a scenario where Roberts, Alexi Casilla and Flaherty are all on the Opening Day roster. That's a testament to Flaherty's defensive flexibility and also how well he played for the team late last season.
"I feel like, for me, it's always going to be that way," said Flaherty, who hit .216/.258/.359 in 77 games last year, of fighting for a spot. "That's always the mentality I am going to have ... you have to win a job, and just control what you can control and the rest is out of your hands.
"I think playing down the stretch last year was a great experience -- individually, as a team, everything. So you can always take that and build off it. It's a great confidence builder, as far as it can be -- and then after that, it's a new year, it's a new everything."
With Nate McLouth and Nolan Reimold both projected to make the roster, the Orioles have a crowded outfield picture in camp, with 16 players capable -- to varying degrees -- of playing the outfield. The real separator figures to be who is the best fit to slot in behind Davis at first for one of the team's bench spots.
Ishikawa is considered a premium defender at first base, with Valencia scheduled to get in Sunday's game at first. Jackson, who has been slowed by a sore back, will go through a full day's workout on Saturday. If all goes well, he will also travel to Dunedin on Sunday.
Flaherty, who played winter ball this offseason to get more at-bats, hit .273 (3-for-11) in four postseason games. He said his approach this season is simple: to get better at learning from past mistakes.
"Nobody looks at him as a Rule 5 anymore," Showalter said. "There was a lot of [unknowns] about him going into the spring. Taking him was a total leap of faith, especially in the American League East, taking that Rule 5 guy. … A Rule 5 guy started in the American League Division [Series] playoff [for us]."