Ryan Flaherty staking claim for Orioles roster spot

There aren't a whole lot of roster questions revolving around the Orioles' 25-man roster, but one of the more intriguing ones is whether Ryan Flaherty will go north for the second consecutive year.

Flaherty, an infielder/outfielder who was selected from the Chicago Cubs' organization in the 2011 Rule 5 draft, had to stay in the majors all of last season to become Orioles property.

He did, and he also ended up homering in the playoffs against the New York Yankees.

Now Flaherty, 26, can be sent to the minors this year, but he is doing everything he can to stay in the big leagues. On Sunday, he hit a two-run homer against the Pittsburgh Pirates' top prospect, Gerrit Cole, in a 5-2 Grapefruit League loss. It was his second home run in four days.

"I feel pretty good at the plate right now," said Flaherty, who is 6-for-21 (.286 average) in 11 games. "Obviously, there's a lot of good players here in camp, a lot of competition, which is good for the team. All these games mean something, so that's definitely good."

Flaherty's inclusion on the roster has as much to do with the health of other players as it does Flaherty's performance. If Brian Roberts is healthy, he would be the starting second baseman and Alexi Casilla would likely be the utility infielder.

That would mean the club would have to be confident Flaherty can play outfield for him to fit on the roster. And there is plenty of outfield competition in this camp. If outfielder/designated hitter Nolan Reimold isn't healthy for Opening Day, that would create another roster spot, but it might go to someone who is a more seasoned outfielder. A middle infielder for much of his life, Flaherty played 24 of his 77 big league games in the outfield last season.

"To be honest with you, it really doesn't matter where I play," Flaherty said. "I feel pretty comfortable anywhere. Maybe it just takes an extra day to take a couple extra fly balls, but it's good."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter has said repeatedly that he thinks the former supplemental first-round pick out of Vanderbilt can be an everyday major leaguer. It's just uncertain whether that will happen in 2013.

"He's doing the things to put himself in the position to make [the roster], just got to continue," Showalter said of Flaherty. "You guys can tell he's got a little different sureness to his step. He knows the level and what's expected and he's playing like a very confident player right now, I think defensively and [with] everything he's doing."

Gonzalez struggles with command in loss

Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, making Sunday's start because Chris Tillman was scratched with abdomen soreness, said he felt good in the bullpen warming up, but that didn't translate into results against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

He allowed four hits, two walks and four runs (one earned) in two innings in what was his second Grapefruit League game.

"I felt great in the 'pen. Just one of those days," said Gonzalez, who made 15 starts for the Orioles in 2012 and is expected to start this season in the rotation. "Things weren't working when I went on the field. Off-speed wasn't there, my fastball was up."

Gonzalez's outing turned ugly in the second after left fielder Nate McLouth failed to catch a wind-aided flyball that was ruled an error. Gonzalez then allowed hits to four of the next five batters and escaped the inning only when Jose Tabata was thrown out trying to advance to second base after a single.

Showalter, though, said he felt Gonzalez's line was affected by several balls that could have been outs if not for the swirling winds at Ed Smith Stadium.

"He was off from what he spoiled us with [in 2012]. But I'm OK with him," Showalter said. "Arm feels good, you can tell. I think the ball is coming out of his hand pretty good."

The Orioles managed only three hits in the game, including just two in four innings against Cole. They fell to 10-3-1 this spring.

Markakis waiting on MRI

Right fielder Nick Markakis, who will have a MRI on his ailing neck Monday, said he has spoken with team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens and doesn't believe the nagging injury is a major concern.