SARASOTA, Fla - Ryan Flaherty could use the Toronto Blue Jays as a “career measuring stick” while he looks to crack the opening day lineup for the Baltimore Orioles this spring.
Though his first game against the blue birds didn’t swing in his favour, Flaherty’s career milestones against the Jays may be a sign that he is improving as a big-league player heading into the 2014 season.
The 27-year-old, Portland, Me native played his first career game against the Jays, a contest that didn’t go in the former first round pick’s favour.
“It was horrible,” said Flaherty as he dug into his omelette at Ed Smith Stadium earlier this month. “I struck out three times.”
However, on April 14 of 2012, the rookie ball player got some revenge against those same Blue Jays by scoring his first career run.
Then this past June, 14 months after going 0-for-3 in his first game, Flaherty stuck it to the Jays crushing two home runs in the same game for the first time in his career, likely changing the slugger’s mind about playing in Toronto.
“I like hitting up there in Toronto it’s a nice place to hit and I enjoy going there,” he said.
Heading into this season Flaherty is unsure of where exactly on the field he will start. The versatile infielder has a history of playing both second and third base and has also found himself doing both through the start of spring training.
“I come into camp playing where they want me to play,“ said Flaherty. “The good thing about playing a lot of positions is you get to move around.
“So whatever works best for the team it will all work out. I’ve played around the infield so much the last couple of years that really wherever they want me to go I would feel comfortable.”
The position at second base is up for grabs this season as veteran Brian Roberts signed in the off-season with the New York Yankees.
For Flaherty, who is heading into his third season with the Orioles, the opening should come as a bittersweet.
Although he does have the opportunity take over the hole left by Roberts, he also loses a teammate who has helped to show him the ropes as a young player.
“The first year he was hurt a bunch of the time, but he really helped me a lot,” said Flaherty. “He’s a veteran and he’s been around and before last year I hadn’t played much second-base and he really helped me with that.”
The former first round pick is coming off a season where he made 85 appearances, hitting 10 home runs and had an average of .224.
Though many players might focus on improving their stats for the upcoming season, for Flaherty his biggest goal is to see the entire team succeed.
“Win, when the team wins everyone wins,” he said. “It has a way of working out, when teams can have a good year then individual goals are met and I think that’s where my eyes are set for right now.”
The Orioles will kick off the 2014 season at home March 31 when they take on their division rival and World Series Champs the Boston Red Sox.