Flaherty remains flexible over role with Orioles

Utility man can play first, second, shortstop, third, outfield

March 18, 2012|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — — Ryan Flaherty rattles off the different gloves he has in his locker at Ed Smith Stadium.

"There's outfielder, a second baseman's one, one for third and short, one for first," he said.

No catcher's mitt?

"Not yet," said Flaherty, who was taken from the Chicago Cubs in December's Rule 5 draft. "I guess if they asked me, I'm sure I could go back there and make it work, but I don't have much experience behind the plate. Little League I caught a little bit, but not since then."

In Sunday's night game against the New York Yankees, the 25-year-old Flaherty made his first start for the Orioles in right field. The day before he started in left — in front of the replica Green Monster wall at the Boston Red Sox spring facility, JetBlue Park.

He's a shortstop by trade but has played all over the diamond in four minor league seasons: 175 games at second, 111 at short, 102 at third, 28 in left, 13 in right and four at first base.

"Last year, when I was with [the Cubs organization], I really moved around," he said. "Left, right, second, third, short, first. So I feel comfortable pretty much every position they put me in."

Flaherty is fighting for the Orioles' open utility spot this spring with Matt Antonelli and Steve Tolleson, among others, so that flexibility is key. If he doesn't make the club, the Orioles will have to offer him back to the Cubs at half the original $50,000 purchasing fee.

"It gives everyone flexibility with everything. And it is a challenge," Flaherty said. "It's a challenge every day you come in. It's kind of fun, you get to see where you are going to play and kind of go from there. I am excited for it."

Flaherty hasn't yet played first base for the Orioles, but manager Buck Showalter said that's also in the plans before the exhibition season ends. Heading into Sunday night, Flaherty has played in 11 games this spring, hitting .231 with one homer and five RBIs in 26 at-bats.

A former first-round supplemental pick (41st overall in 2008) out of Vanderbilt, many scouts and baseball observers believe his bat will work in the majors. So it is matter of moving him around until he settles into a position where a club has a need.

Right now, for the Orioles, that's a utility spot. And that's fine with him if it means making his big league debut in April.

Hammel continues commanding zone

Right-hander Jason Hammel wanted to go five full innings against the Braves at ESPN Wide World of Sports on Sunday afternoon, but was pulled after reaching his pitch count (70 pitches) after 4 2/3 innings in the Orioles' 2-2, 10-inning tie with Atlanta.

Hammel started strong, attacking the strike zone with his mid-90s fastball. Take away Chipper Jones' opposite field double in the second and Jordan Parraz's opposite-field RBI single two batters later, and Hammel held a Braves lineup — that included six starters — in check.

Hammel scattered four hits and struck out five with just one walk. Ronny Paulino also threw out two base runners trying to steal second

"I feel pretty good," Hammel said. "Execution's been good. I'm very pleased with where the slider's at, the curveball will come. The fastball command is pretty good right now. You pitch off your fastball. I'm pleased with where it's at. It can get a little bit better."

Orioles and Braves tie at 2

Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, the organization's top position player prospect, paced an Orioles two-run eighth with a one-out, run-scoring single to right-center one batter after L.J. Hoes' leadoff ground-rule double. After moving to second on a ground out, Machado scored on Parraz's fielding error in right.

Designated hitter Nick Johnson, a non-roster player making a serious push for a spot on the team, was 2-for-2 with a double and walk. Reliever Oscar Villarreal threw two scoreless innings in relief.

Former Oriole Philley dies

The Orioles announced Sunday that Dave Philley, who had been the organization's oldest Oriole, died Thursday in his hometown of Paris, Texas. He was 91.

Philley, primarily an outfielder, played for the Orioles in 1955 and 1956 and again in 1960 and 1961 as part of an 18-year big-league career. In 1961, he set an American League record with 24 pinch hits, a mark that still stands.

Now, the oldest living Oriole is Philley's good friend from Paris, Texas, Eddie Robinson, who is 91. The first baseman played seven games for the Orioles in 1957.

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