BOSTON – Ryan Flaherty checked the starting lineup shortly after he walked into the Baltimore Orioles’ clubhouse Saturday. His name wasn’t listed for any of the three or four positions he can play.

That’s six straight games since he last started April 28. Six straight games of making himself ready but going nowhere.

“The opportunity will come,” said Flaherty. “It could happen any time.”

If there was frustration or discouragement in his voice, you didn’t hear it. Baltimore’s weekend series with the Red Sox was Flaherty’s homecoming. Family, friends and fans who simply recognized and respected his last name were at Fenway Park primed to cheer whatever he did.

So what if Flaherty wears another team’s uniform? He’s a Maine kid. Star infielder at Deering High and Vanderbilt. Touted prospect of the Chicago Cubs, who took him in the first round of the 2008 draft.

Baltimore grabbed him in last year’s Rule 5 draft that prevents teams from stockpiling minor league players. On the flip side, the Orioles have to keep him on their major league roster or offer him back to the Cubs.

After years of front-office bungling, misjudging talent and contracts, the Orioles seem ready to get it right. They are 18-9 after Saturday’s 8-2 victory over the Red Sox and behind only Tampa Bay in the American League East. The Red Sox occupy the bottom.

Orioles Manager Buck Showalter will find playing time for Flaherty, whose glove, work ethic and head for the game haven’t gone unnoticed. He’s batting .158, but better hitting comes with playing more regularly and Showalter knows that, too. Hey, Flaherty’s major league time is all of 27 games.

“My comfort level is better, I’m adjusting (to life as a major leaguer). You’re always adjusting.”

During games, Flaherty sits on the bench with reserve first baseman Nick Johnson, the 33-year-old, oft-injured veteran who broke in with the New York Yankees in 2001. Johnson sets up infield situations with certain hitters at the plate, asking Flaherty how he would play off the pitch.

On the road they take cabs together from their hotel to the ballpark. They have dinner together, talking more about the unique life that is baseball. They did it again on Thursday’s off day in Boston, with Flaherty’s younger brother, Regan, driving from Portland to join them.

Baseball is baseball, says Ryan Flaherty. The game is played the same way. Yes, the travel is better, along with the hotel rooms and meal money. Other things are bigger.

“You look up into the stands and there are many more fans. There’s more media.” He grins. For someone who hasn’t played yet in this three-game weekend series, he’s done an awful lot of interviews. Baseball’s literary guru, Peter Gammons, was at Flaherty’s locker when I walked into the clubhouse.

Flaherty has noticed the difference between playing in Fenway and somewhere else. There’s never an empty seat when a game starts at Fenway. There have been plenty of empty seats in April in other places.

On a wall in the Flaherty home in Portland is a framed photo of Ed Flaherty, with sons Ryan and Regan standing near third base at Fenway. All three were in University of Southern Maine baseball uniforms. Ed Flaherty, the longtime baseball coach at USM, was coaching a college all-star team. From the Orioles’ dugout, 90 minutes before Saturday’s game, Ryan Flaherty looked around again.

He’s known this place for so long, dreamed for so long playing on its grass. Maybe today.

He got his first major league hit and RBI on April 26. He got two hits that game.

“One of the (veterans) told me I had just done the easy part, getting to the big leagues and getting that first hit. The harder part is staying in the big leagues.”

Before he went to hit, Ryan Flaherty looked hopefully at the small slip of paper in his hands. He had just drawn Sabercat in the clubhouse pool for the Kentucky Derby.

“Is he any good?”

A long shot, I told him. Sabercat would pay off big for anyone who had bet him to win. Flaherty’s eyes widened. He was part of a pool, not a wager.

Don’t bet against Ryan Flaherty. Whatever his odds, he expects to beat them.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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Twitter: SteveSolloway/PPH