Friday, December 13, 2013
By Mike Lowe firstname.lastname@example.org
PORTLAND -- The temperature reached into the 90s and the pool water at his parents' home looked inviting, so Ryan Flaherty dove in. Minutes later, younger brother Regan joined him in a game of pool basketball.
GOOD TO BE HOME: Baltimore Orioles infielder Ryan Flaherty return to his parents’ home in Portland during the Major League Baseball All-Star break.
Portland Press Herald photo by John Patriquin
This is how Ryan Flaherty spent the All-Star break. The Baltimore Orioles' second-year second baseman returned home to Maine to relax.
"It's just nice. I thought about doing a couple of different things over the break," said Flaherty, a 2005 Deering High graduate and one of two Mainers currently playing in Major League Baseball. "But really I just wanted to come home and lay low and kind of just sit here for the whole day, get away from everything and just relax.
"The season's nice 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 started much of the first half of the season because of an injury to second baseman Brian Roberts. But 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, the son of USM baseball coach Ed Flaherty.
He watches the first five innings from the dugout, then goes into 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-foot-3, 210 pounds, has great value to the Orioles, who are in third place in the AL East, 4 1/2 games behind the Red Sox. He is 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. As 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 to do."
With Roberts injured to begin the season, Flaherty, who turns 27 on July 27, had his chance to start at second. But he was hitless in his first 17 at-bats and struggled at the plate -- something he had really never done in his life, whether in high school, college or in the minors.
He was hitting just .133 when the Orioles sent him to the minors May 18. He played for Triple-A Norfolk for 10 days, batted .265 with a couple 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's become more patient and isn't swinging at breaking balls in the dirt any more.
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