The number of former Vanderbilt players on Major League Baseball rosters looks as if it will grow by at least one next month.
Ryan Flaherty, primarily a shortstop for the Commodores from 2006-08, apparently won a three-way battle for a utility spot with the Baltimore Orioles when two others were assigned to the minor leagues earlier this week.
“Because of the evaluation we needed with Flaherty, he's played a little bit more,” manager Buck Showalter said, according to the team’s website. “… All those guys are still an option. We want to get them down there because they are not on the roster, now they can play every day and get ready."
Through Wednesday, Flaherty had appeared in 21 spring training games, which was tied for the most of any Baltimore players. He had a .265 average with 13 hits, five of them for extra bases (two doubles, two triples and a home run), with 10 RBIs. No other Orioles player had even one triple.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder had played every position in the field except catcher and center field.
Baltimore selected Flaherty last December in MLB’s Rule 5 draft and if the Orioles cut him, he likely returns to his previous organization, the Chicago Cubs. That process allows teams to select certain minor leaguers who have been left off other clubs' 40-man rosters for $50,000. If a selected player is not on the 25-man roster for his new team, he must be offered back to the old one for $25,000.
Chicago drafted Flaherty 41st overall in 2008. He batted a combined .280 and hit 19 homers last season, when he split time between the Cubs’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates.
The Orioles open the regular season April 6 at home against Minnesota.
A look at how some other Vanderbilt products have fared this spring with their Major League organizations:
• David Price, P, Tampa Bay: A lock for a spot in the Rays’ starting rotation, he has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning (17 in 19) over five appearances. However, opponents were batting .260 and had hit three home runs against him.
• Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh: He made his MLB debut in 2010 and has hit 20 home runs in 169 career appearances. He has hit just .167 with 20 strikeouts and just one walk in 42 at-bats this spring. Of his seven hits, two were home runs, which made him one of six Pirates with more than one.
• Jensen Lewis, P, Arizona: Signed with Arizona last November after four seasons and 161 appearances with Cleveland (he was 4-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 37 appearances for the Indians in 2011), he has not allowed a run or a walk in eight innings this spring. He has two saves in as many opportunities.
• Mike Baxter, LF, New York Mets: His .341 batting average (41 at-bats) leads all Mets regulars. Of his 14 hits (tied for the team lead), 13 have been singles but he has helped himself with a team-high four stolen bases. Plus he has driven in six runs. With just 31 games of MLB experience, he is making a strong case for a regular spot.
• Mike Minor, P, Atlanta: He started six games and led the team with 24 innings pitched as he tried to land a full-time job after limited Major League appearances (24, 23 starts) over the last two years. He had some control issues (14 walks) but opponents were batting .175 against him and his 2.25 ERA was second-best among the starting pitchers.
• Antoan Richardson, CF, Baltimore: He signed a minor-league deal with the Orioles last winter after a brief major league debut with Atlanta. He had just one at-bat, without a hit, this spring.
• Sonny Gray, P, Oakland: A first-round draft pick (16th overall) last season who is in spring training for the first time, he allowed three hits but walked four with one strikeout in 3.1 innings over two appearances.
• Jason Esposito, 3B, Baltimore: Another first-time spring training participant, he had a double and a single in six at-bats over four games.