For Adams, hits come easily but defense needs work

Second baseman could be in line to take over for ailing Brian Roberts, but his fielding must improve

March 12, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — — Ryan Adams knows no matter what he does this spring, he's likely headed to either Double-A Bowie or Triple-A Norfolk. But the middle infielder also understands how valuable these opportunities are for him to make a positive impression.

Seemingly each game, Adams keeps upping his eye-popping stats. On Saturday, he had three hits including an RBI double that gave the Orioles their first run in a 6-4 victory over the Houston Astros.

Adams also made a nice play at second base in the third inning, ranging far to his left on a grounder. Not a bad day for a guy who was inserted into the lineup an hour before the game due to the illness of a teammate.

"I didn't come here and think I was going to make the team or anything like that, but I definitely wanted to make a good impression with the coaches and just give it everything I have so when it is my time, they want to call me up," said Adams, who hit .298 for Bowie last year and set a single-season club record with 43 doubles. "This is where I want to get to. It's nice to be around the guys and to watch what they do and how they handle themselves."

In limited opportunities this spring, Adams, a 23-year-old whom the Orioles drafted in 2006's second round, confirmed what team officials have been saying for the past few years: his bat is his best tool.

With his three hit, two-run performance Saturday, Adams is currently 7-for-14 (.500) this spring with two homers, two doubles and six RBIs, one behind team leader Vladimir Guerrero. On Wednesday, he was 2-for-2 with a solo homer that cleared the patio area in left field at Ed Smith Stadium. The next day he was 2-for-4 with four RBIs, including a mammoth opposite-field homer that his teammates were still talking about in the clubhouse Friday morning.

Adams, however, knows his defense needs to improve if he is to one day get a big-league call. Primarily a second baseman, he made 25 errors for Bowie last season. With Single-A Delmarva in 2008, he set a South Atlantic League record with 52 errors, breaking a decades-old mark held by former Orioles manager Juan Samuel.

"I've been working with [minor league infield coordinator] Bobby Dickerson and Mike Bordick daily, before and sometimes after the games," said Adams, who is listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds. "We're trying to get the defense to catch up with the bat. I've put a lot of hard work in over the years. I feel like I improved a lot. I think that's going to be the case this year, too."

Second base looked to be Brian Roberts' domain for the next several years, but with the 33-year-old dealing with back issues, Adams' development will be closely monitored by the Orioles' decision-makers.

"We had some things we wanted him to get adjusted with before he went on the field, and I can see why he has the potential offensively," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He has a lot of work to do defensively and base running. Grasp the game within the game. But he does some good things with the bat."

A day of scratches

The Orioles had two different lineups Saturday before finally settling on a third that scored six runs against Houston.

Matt Wieters was expected to be the club's designated hitter, but was scratched and didn't make the trip because of soreness in his right thumb. Showalter said Wieters could have played if it were the regular season.

First baseman Joe Mahoney also was initially on the trip but stayed back in Sarasota after tweaking a hamstring while running the bases Friday. His injury is also not considered serious.

The Orioles had to make another switch an hour before game time when third baseman Josh Bell suffered a stomach illness. Brendan Harris moved from second base to third and Adams took over at second base.

Snyder keeps hitting

Showalter made a point after Saturday's win to mention Brandon Snyder, who had a single, a double and a homer in five at-bats. He is now batting 9-for-25 (.360 average) with a .600 slugging percentage.

"Every time you get a chance to play you want to prove something," said Snyder, the club's first-round pick in 2005. "With the competition we have in camp it is tough to get those opportunities, and when you do have a day like this, it kind of helps you feed into your next one."

Snyder, 24, is likely ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk, but hopes to return to the majors after a September call-up last season. He was the club's designated hitter Saturday, but has been asked to take up catching again to add to his versatility. Like Adams, he knows it is his bat that will get him to the big leagues.

"I'm just trying to keep focused. As long as I hit, all the other stuff kind of falls in line," Snyder said. "I've always said I don't really care where I play in the field, just as long as I have a number and am playing up there. I will help the team wherever I can."

Around the horn

Roberts did not have a MRI on his ailing back Saturday. Showalter said the MRI is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Monday. … Lefty Brian Matusz starts Sunday's game in Sarasota against the Detroit Tigers. David Riske and Kevin Gregg are also expected to pitch for the Orioles. Lefty Adam Wilk gets the start for the Tigers. … Saturday's game was delayed for several minutes in the seventh when a female fan in the left-field stands was hit above the right eye by a foul ball off the bat of Jake Fox. She was knocked unconscious, but eventually became alert. She was taken off on a stretcher.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this report.

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