Ryan Flaherty continues to prove useful, perhaps to open the season as the starting third baseman.
Ryan Flaherty’s ability to play all the infield positions has helped the Baltimore Orioles make spring training run a little more efficiently.
The Portland native, in his third season with the team, has moved to the left side of the infield to play third base in place of the injured Manny Machado, who is recuperating from knee surgery last October.
It’s doubtful Machado – age 21 and one of the top young players in baseball – will be ready for opening day with a chance he might not be back until the middle of April. The Orioles want to make sure Machado is 100 percent before he plays.
Enter Flaherty, whose normal position is second base. He’s also played shortstop this spring, yet Machado’s absence could mean Flaherty could see action at third base when the Orioles open the regular season March 31 at home against the Boston Red Sox.
Flaherty, a former Deering High and Vanderbilt University standout, has become a dependable utility man for Baltimore.
“I feel good,” said Flaherty. “I’m healthy and ready to play wherever they need me.”
In two seasons he’s played 93 regular-season games at second base, 24 at third, 10 at shortstop and seven at first.
As a rookie in 2012, Flaherty played right field in 17 games and in left field for seven in addition to the infield.
He made a leaping catch at the left-field wall in Fenway Park that season, and homered in a playoff game in Yankee Stadium. In two seasons he’s been the designated hitter five times.
He was acquired by the Orioles from the Chicago Cubs as a Rule 5 player, which meant the Orioles needed to keep him on the roster for the entire season or return him to Chicago.
Flaherty, 27, is having a good spring, batting .290 with three doubles, a homer against A.J. Burnett of the Phillies and four RBI in 31 plate appearances.
The Orioles certainly have seen enough of Flaherty at second base to feel comfortable starting the season with him there.
This spring the team has given Jonathan Schoop, a top prospect, most of the playing time at second base. Jemile Weeks, acquired in a trade with Oakland, also plays second.
Schoop is batting .400 in spring training but Weeks, who has excellent speed, is hitting .148.
Also in the Orioles’ camp is Michael Almanzar, who played for the Portland Sea Dogs last season. Almanzar, a third baseman, is a Rule 5 player with the Orioles. The team must keep him for the entire season or return him to the Red Sox.
Flaherty is accustomed to seeing all kinds of players come and go. Infielders, obviously, could have the most impact on how much playing time he gets. Flaherty knows you can’t read too much into it.
“I’m concerned with what I have to do to make myself a better player,” said Flaherty. “I go about my business every day, and go out and play. I don’t know what’s going to happen as far as making the team. I’ll just have to wait and see.”
One thing Flaherty finds easier is the daily routine on and off the field. On the field he’s seeing many pitchers for the third year. He’s gotten accustomed to the infields in American League stadiums and has a well-established pregame preparation.
He’s also knows where the good restaurants are on the road.
He tries to keep up with the other Mainers in the majors. Pitcher Ryan Reid of the Mets was a teammate at Deering. Pitcher Charlie Furbush of South Portland is established with the Seattle Mariners and Mark Rogers, another pitcher who played at Mt. Ararat High, is trying to make it with the Mariners after getting a taste of the big leagues with Milwaukee.
“I check out their lines whenever I can,” said Flaherty.
Last season, in 85 games, Flaherty batted .224 with 10 home runs, 11 doubles and 27 RBI. He had a .993 fielding average at second.
In his first season with the Orioles in 77 games, Flaherty batted .216 with six homers, two doubles, a triple and 19 RBI. He had a .989 fielding average.
Flaherty, the starting quarterback as a junior on Deering’s 2003 Class A state title football team and a star on the Rams’ 2003 and 2004 state baseball championship teams, was drafted by the Cubs in the first round (41st pick) of the 2008 draft. He signed June 16, 2008. He was taken by the Orioles in December 2011 in the Rule 5 draft.
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at[email protected]