For the first time in his professional baseball career, Ryan Flaherty is an All-Star.

The Chicago Cubs prospect from Portland is having a breakout season for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies and will participate in the Southern League Home Run Derby and All-Star Game tonight and tomorrow.

He is among the league’s top sluggers, leading the Smokies with 13 home runs and 56 RBI. He’s hitting .306 and has a .568 slugging percentage.

If that’s any indication of his chances of a call-up to the Cubs later this year, Flaherty is playing it cool.

“I’m just trying to be consistent and see where it takes me,” said Flaherty. “I’m hoping to get a shot at some point. But I’ll take it day by day, control what I can control.”

Flaherty said his progress at the plate has come from learning how to be consistent, and not from any specific adjustments.

He started the 2010 season with the Smokies, bypassing advanced Class A, but hit just .183 in 71 at-bats before being optioned to the Class A Daytona Cubs.

This year, he returned to the Smokies out of spring training and has rebounded dramatically.

“It’s mental, really, rather than anything physical,” said Flaherty, the 41st overall pick in 2008. “I think I tried to do too much right away last year. This year I’m more concentrated on being consistent every day. Staying out of the high’s and low’s and staying in the middle.”

Flaherty has demonstrated versatility during his four seasons in the minors.

A shortstop at Deering High, Flaherty played multiple infield positions as a standout at Vanderbilt, and has since added the outfield to his list of positions.

On any given night with Tennessee, he might play anywhere in the infield, or even left field or right field.

Flaherty’s ability to move all over the diamond was on display two weeks ago when his father, Ed, the longtime coach at the University of Southern Maine, and his grandfather, Ed Sr., traveled to Knoxville, Tenn., to watch Ryan play.

“We were there for four games, and he played four different positions,” said Ed Flaherty.

“His versatility is something none of those kids have. The only place he hasn’t played is center field and catcher. I told him, there’s a reason for everything, you’ll get tougher from it.”

Ryan Flaherty said he doesn’t mind not having a regular position. He’ll do anything it takes to get to Wrigley Field.

“I think it will help me to get through when they need somebody at the major league level,” said Flaherty. “Being able to play all those positions, they don’t want me to focus on any one more than another.”

His father has seen slight changes to Flaherty’s approach at the plate, but still sees the same ability to work the count.

“He’s a mentally tough kid,” he said. “I’ll tell you that. As time wears on, he does adjust and he’s always been able to do that. He’ll find a way. Pitchers get better, the timing of the game is faster. You need to make adjustments to fight that. That’s what pro ball is all about. It’s what separates a big leaguer from a minor leaguer.”

For now, Flaherty’s father reminds him not to be distracted by things he can’t control.

“All I ever tell him is just play the game like you’re just playing in the backyard,” said Flaherty. “You can’t look at teammates, whether they’re moving, what’s going on. You’ve just got to do what you can do.”

“My goal is to make it to the big leagues,” said Flaherty. “Good or bad, you have to keep that in sight. It’s been my dream since I was a kid.

“If you keep that in mind, above all else, you can push through anything.”

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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