July 19, 2013

Ups and downs for Mainer in majors

A strong work ethic guides Deering High grad Ryan Flaherty, who has gone from a starter to a reserve role for the Orioles.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – The temperature reached into the 90s and the pool at his parents' home looked inviting, so Ryan Flaherty dove in. Minutes later, his younger brother Regan joined him in a game of pool basketball.

Ryan Flaherty
click image to enlarge

Since returning to the Orioles from the minor leagues in late May, Deering High grad Ryan Flaherty has rebounded from a hitting slump and has a .300 average in his last 29 games.

2013 file photo/The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

Orioles infielder Ryan Flaherty spends time at his parents’ house in Portland during baseball’s All-Star break.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Flaherty, the Baltimore Orioles' second-year second baseman, was at home in Portland this week to relax during the All-Star break.

"The season's nice," said Flaherty, a 2005 Deering High School graduate and one of two Mainers now playing Major League Baseball, "but you're going a million miles an hour for so long, sometimes it's nice to just sit here and do nothing."

When the Orioles' season resumes Friday in Arlington, Texas, against the Rangers, Flaherty's season of adjustments will continue. He was a starter for much of the season's first half because of an injury to second baseman Brian Roberts. Now Roberts is back in the lineup, and Flaherty -- despite an eight-game hitting streak in which he hit four home runs just before the All-Star break -- is back in a reserve role.

"Yeah, it's different," he said. "You're trying to simulate game action as much as you can, so that you can stay in the game."

That means arriving at the park early to take extra batting practice. It means taking early infield practice, taking more ground balls. He does much of the work with Mike Bordick, the former University of Maine player from Winterport who's now a television analyst for the Orioles.

"He's been a great resource," said Flaherty, a son of University of Southern Maine baseball coach Ed Flaherty.

Ryan Flaherty watches the first five innings from the dugout, then goes to the indoor batting cage to stretch and hit, and study opposing relief pitchers to prepare for a possible pinch-hitting role.

Flaherty, now a solid 6 feet 3 inches and 210 pounds, has great value to the Orioles, who sit in third place in the American League East, 4½ games behind the Boston Red Sox. He's athletic and versatile, able to play all four infield positions, plus the outfield. And he's a left-handed hitter.

Early in the year, however, he struggled. And maybe that was to be expected. When he was a rookie last year, teams didn't have much information on him. This year?

"The second time around, teams have more film on you, they've faced you before, more scouting reports," he said. "So they make adjustments, kind of like you have to make adjustments offensively to what they're doing."

With Roberts injured to begin the season, Flaherty, who will turn 27 on July 27, had his chance to start at second base. He struggled at the plate -- something he had really never done, whether in high school, college or the minor leagues.

He went hitless in his first 17 at-bats and his average was just .133 when the Orioles sent him to the minors on May 18. He played for Triple-A Norfolk for 10 days, batted .265 with a couple of home runs, and was recalled by Baltimore. Since then, he's been a different hitter, with a .300 average in his last 29 games.

"When Roberts went down, I came out and had a chance to play every day this year, and I think you try to do too much, every at-bat you're going up there trying to win the game for the team," he said.

Going back to Triple-A, he said, was "actually the best thing that happened to me." He has become more patient and isn't swinging at breaking balls in the dirt any more.

Mike D'Andrea, Flaherty's high school coach at Deering, isn't surprised at how Flaherty responded.

(Continued on page 2)

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