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And the second base competition begins

Last night, the two offensive heroes for the Orioles were Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop.

Hmmm.

Not a bad time for Flaherty to homer twice and drive in four runs. Not a bad time, either, for Jonathan Schoop to homer, single, walk and score three runs in his big league debut.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are two of your primary candidates to start at second base for the 2014 Baltimore Orioles.

There's one other primary candidate, though. You may have heard of him: Brian Roberts.

Roberts, who turns 36 on Oct. 9, has played in 73 games this season, including 56 in the second half. He’s hit .242 with seven homers and 38 RBIs. He’ll play somewhere next year and his first choice is Baltimore. It could happen, depending on what his contract demands are.

If it's not Roberts, it should be a spring training battle between Flaherty and Schoop. Know this: Flaherty will make next year's team unless the club upgrades significantly at utility infielder. Flaherty has a plus arm, turns a nice double play and won't hurt you at several infield positions.
 
He also can run into a fastball, evidenced by his 10 homers in 238 at-bats. But he hasn’t exhibited a consistent ability to hit at a major league level, and that could hurt his chances for everyday duty. He's hitting .218 in 81 games this season, and, for much of the first half, was under the .200 mark. He's also a clubhouse and Buck Showalter favorite.

Schoop is an interesting guy. He has tools, he seems like a great kid, but he is raw. And when you talk to scouts about him, they say two things: He's got legitimate power, and he has a long swing.

There is plenty of time for him to work on those things. But he may not be ready to start the season in the majors after hitting .256 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 70 games with Norfolk this year.

There's not a whole lot of quality on the free-agent market except for the biggest catch of all: Robinson Cano. You can start the pining now; he can be this year's Josh Hamilton/Prince Fielder/Mark Teixeira/insert name here.

But Cano won’t be an Oriole. I would be incredibly surprised if the Orioles are in sniffing distance of that contract ink.

So your 2014 starting second baseman, in my opinion, will be Roberts, Flaherty or Schoop.

By the way, I asked both Flaherty and Schoop if they thought Wednesday's game could help them get a leg up for next year. And they both answered the way that they should have – they can’t worry about next year now.

Said Flaherty: "You never know what’s going to happen, whether it was last year when I first got here or whenever. You've just got to go out and compete every time and what happens, happens."

Said Schoop: “I’m not worried about it. I’m worried about me getting better. A lot of baseball to be played.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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