BOSTON — With an 11 a.m. game coming up Monday, no baseball player at Fenway Park seemed thrilled about playing Sunday night.
Except for Ryan Flaherty.
“I’m going home,” Flaherty said Saturday before the Baltimore Orioles’ game at Fenway Park.
Because of Sunday’s 7 p.m. start, Flaherty could leave after Saturday’s game and head to Portland. He would return in plenty of time, but Sunday morning would be for family.
“I haven’t spent Easter at home since high school,” Flaherty said. “My mom will make breakfast. Home-cooked food will be nice.”
Flaherty, 27, rarely enjoys such comforts in the spring, this baseball career of his getting in the way.
Since graduating from Deering High in 2005, Flaherty has been away playing ball, first at Vanderbilt, then in the minor leagues and, for his third season, in the majors, as a jack-of-all-trades player for Baltimore.
“Glad we’ve got him,” Manager Buck Showalter said. “He can play anywhere.”
Mention Flaherty’s slow (0 for 17) start this season and Showalter shrugs.
“Ryan’s been fine,” he said. “He’s caught the ball, played multiple positions for us. He’s a contributor.”
So Flaherty’s spot on the roster, despite a .179 average, seems secure.
Besides, after that 0-for-17 start (including 10 strikeouts), Flaherty is 7 for 22 with only three strikeouts.
“Obviously you don’t want to start 0 for 17, but since then I’ve swung the bat pretty well,” Flaherty said. “Just trying to help the team defensively, offensively, whatever way I can.”
Flaherty continues to sound like the coach’s son he is, offspring of University of Southern Maine Coach Ed Flaherty. But while Ryan often credits his dad’s influence, he said another coach in Maine also helped.
“The coach always tells you in Little League: learn all the positions. But you laugh at him because all you want to do is play shortstop,” Flaherty said.
But Flaherty’s coach in Portland North Little League, Ron Farr, emphasized versatility.
“Here I am 27 years old and glad I did learn them all,” Flaherty said. “The more (positions) you can play, the more valuable you are. I’m glad I bounced around.”
A shortstop at Vanderbilt, Flaherty was drafted by the Cubs in 2008. By the next year he was again bouncing around, playing second and third base as well. In 2011 the Cubs had him playing all four infield spots, plus left and right field. The Cubs found Flaherty versatile but the organization, led by new general manager Theo Epstein, did not value him enough to place him on the 40-man roster.
That left Flaherty eligible to be drafted by another team, if that team kept him in the majors for at least one year. The Orioles grabbed Flaherty and, except for an 11-day stint in the minors last season, he’s been a big leaguer.
Flaherty’s position: utility player. He adapted to any position Showalter requested, including emergency backup catcher.
“A lot of people look at that as a reason to not be good at something. He looks at it as a way to be more valuable to us,” Showalter said.
This spring, with second baseman Brian Roberts signing with the Yankees, Flaherty competed for a regular position.
But the Orioles also traded for infielder Steve Lombardozzi and were taking a good look at rookie Jonathan Schoop.
The battle for infield spots got complicated when third baseman Manny Machado wasn’t ready to return from offseason knee surgery.
To begin the season, Flaherty started at third, while Lombardozzi and Schoop split time at second. When shortstop J.J. Hardy left the lineup with a sore back, Flaherty moved to short and Schoop to third.
Lombardozzi is batting .286, Schoop .280.
Machado is expected to rejoin the team within two weeks. If Flaherty was a one-position player, his job might be in jeopardy. But Flaherty also can play the outfield, so Baltimore may move one of its five other outfielders to make room for Machado.
Flaherty may not be a regular but he’s playing almost every game.
“Everyone wants to be in the lineup every day,” Flaherty said, “but someone has to play the utility role. If that’s how I’m going to help the team, then I’ll do it.”
His offense is coming around, but it’s Flaherty’s glove and ability to fill in where needed that keeps Showalter ready to pencil his name in.
Defense “is a way to stay in the lineup,” Showalter said. “Keeps the versatility in the club. We’ve been fortunate to have people embrace it.”
MICHAEL ALMANZAR remains another option for the Orioles’ infield, if Baltimore actually activates him. Almanzar, 23, was an underachieving corner infield prospect for the Red Sox, never reaching past Double-A, where he batted .268 for the Sea Dogs last year.
Left off Boston’s 40-man roster this past offseason, Almanzar was drafted by the Orioles. He has been on the disabled list with tendinitis in his knee. He’s expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment soon. It’s unclear if the Orioles will promote him to the majors, return him to the Red Sox or work out a trade.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: