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Buck lauds 'secret weapon' in versatile Gentry

Special to MLB.com

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter likes to say that he has a secret weapon in Craig Gentry. The veteran outfielder, who for the second straight season signed a Minor League contract with the team, is cherished by the manager.

Showalter believes that other teams must adapt when he inserts the 34-year-old into the game. For years, the Orioles have depended on power and have had few players with Gentry's attributes. Showalter is convinced that Gentry makes opposing teams wary.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter likes to say that he has a secret weapon in Craig Gentry. The veteran outfielder, who for the second straight season signed a Minor League contract with the team, is cherished by the manager.

Showalter believes that other teams must adapt when he inserts the 34-year-old into the game. For years, the Orioles have depended on power and have had few players with Gentry's attributes. Showalter is convinced that Gentry makes opposing teams wary.

"They go, 'They've got Gentry, we're going to have to do this,'" Showalter said. "Not bring in certain pitchers, because they couldn't hold runners.

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"I've seen the weapons he gives us defensively. He can play all three [outfield positions] above average. He throws above average, and he can hold his own against [right-handers]. It's not just a pure platoon thing. He's well-rounded, with a lot of ways to impact your club."

Gentry did not play in the Orioles' 9-3 loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday. He's batting .333 (4-for-12) this spring.

In his Major League career, Gentry has a .261 lifetime average with a .334 on-base percentage in nine seasons with the Rangers, Athletics, Angels and Orioles. Last year, he hit .257 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in 77 games for the Orioles.

Video: KC@BAL: Gentry smacks a walk-off single to center

Gentry re-signed with Baltimore just before Spring Training began, in large part because he has a champion in Showalter.

"It's huge to have the skipper trust you, your abilities and support you and want you on the team," Gentry said. "I think that's a lot of the reason why I wanted to come back here. It's a huge reason for me, the fact that I have some history with Buck. I respect him. I know him really well, and I enjoy playing for him."

Gentry's place on the Orioles' 25-man roster isn't assured. Joey Rickard, a much younger player, is also a right-handed-hitting outfielder who can play all three outfield positions, and is a plus runner as well.

But Showalter has always raved about Gentry. "[He can] serve multiple needs, whether it's defense, whether it's throwing, whether it's running the bases, whether it's hitting," he said.

"He can give you a jolt on the day that he plays, a day game after a 14-inning game. He's always ready to play. He's a pro. He's a baseball player."

The Orioles were seeking additional left-handed-hitting outfielders, but they signed Gentry ahead of Alex Presley and Colby Rasmus, two left-handed hitters who joined the team in the early days of Spring Training.

"I thought there would be a strong possibility," Gentry said of his return. "I've never really been put in this situation before. Just kind of didn't know what to expect. Happy I did, and hopefully can break with the team and help the team win."

Knowing that he's Showalter's special weapon is something he doesn't easily forget.

"That's part of my game," Gentry said. "I've got to use that stuff to my advantage. It makes teams adjust. You might not always be able to notice the big play here or there, but maybe behind-the-scenes-type things, I think that's something that I can bring every day, and that I can help the ballclub with."

Rich Dubroff is a contributor to MLB.com who covered the Orioles on Thursday.

Baltimore Orioles, Craig Gentry