In an outfield situation for the Orioles that doesn’t have much clarity beyond center fielder Adam Jones, Rule 5 draft pick Joey Rickard is making it so the team will have a hard time not keeping him around when camp breaks at the end of the month.
Rickard, 24, hit his first home run of an impressive spring campaign Wednesday, bringing his spring batting line to .314/.368/.457 in a team-high 35 at-bats. He has a pair of doubles, four RBIs and a stolen base, and by all accounts is riding high this spring.
“There’s definitely some moves and some decisions to be made, but as far as it affects me, I’m just out there when my name is called and I’m just out there having fun,” Rickard said.
Rickard has been a frequent subject of praise for manager Buck Showalter, who likes his defense at all three outfield positions and doesn’t mind the production either. His versatility, having had plenty of time at each position in his career, is something Rickard knows can help his cause.
“I always am told my defense is my plus side, my main factor to help ballclubs. I’m just continuing to work on that, and so far, so good,” he said.
Because he was selected in the Rule 5 draft from the Tampa Bay Rays, Rickard must spend the entire season on the Orioles’ 25-man roster or else be returned to the Rays. They’ve had no problems doing the same in recent years with infielder Ryan Flaherty, left-hander T.J. McFarland and pitcher Jason Garcia, and the team’s outfield picture makes it possible Rickard could stick, too.
Outside of Jones and presumptive right fielder Mark Trumbo, there seems to be a good chance for someone with a hot bat and solid glove to make the club in the outfield. Top left field candidates Hyun Soo Kim (.147/.211/.147) and Nolan Reimold (.148/.233/.185) have started slowly this spring. The team added left field to first baseman Christian Walker’s plate in order to give him versatility and possibly keep his bat around come April, too.
But Rickard knows his ability to play all three positions comfortably will be an asset, given the impression he’s making. Rickard started 46 games in left, 32 games in right and 21 games in center in the minors last season.
"The last couple years, I’ve been around the outfield very evenly, so I’m comfortable in all three spots,” he said.
Rickard enjoyed a breakout season across three levels of the Rays system in 2015, hitting a combined .321/.427/.447 with 38 extra-base hits and 23 steals in 29 tries over 117 games between High-A Charlotte, Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.