But now, as Brian Roberts is on the verge of being activated from the disabled list on Sunday to take over starting second-base duties, Flaherty has found his comfort zone.
In the Orioles’ 11-3 win over the Yankees Saturday night at Camden Yards, Flaherty went 2-for-3, including a three-run homer in the third inning that gave the Orioles a 9-0 lead.
Flaherty extended his hitting streak to a career-high eight games, and he has six multi-hit games. Over that span, Flaherty is batting .480 (14-for-29) with four homers and nine RBIs. Prior to the streak, Flaherty had just seven multi-hit games in 123 career big-league games.
Struggling at the plate has been something new for Flaherty. Coming up through the minors, he was more so known for his bat. The question was more where he’d land defensively. But the Orioles are starting to see the promise they saw when they made Flaherty where Rule 5 pick before last season, and grew in the final months of the 2012 season.
“He'll be the first to tell you I'm hitting .2-whatever,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “But you know the type of things he did for us in September last year. We know it's there. He provides a lot of versatility for our club that we need.”
He dug himself into a hole early by starting the season 0-for-17 and while he took advantage of the opportunity to play second base on a regular basis defensively, he was hitting just .133 on May 18, prompting a 10-day demotion to Triple-A Norfolk to retool his swing.
Flaherty said he’s finally getting comfortable, learning to lay off pitches in the dirt and working his way into better hitter’s counts.
“I’ve been positioning myself to have some more success,” Flaherty said. “I’ve been laying off some pitches that I might have been swinging at before. It’s just trying to slow the game down. Once you do that, the recipe for success is more in your favor.
“I’m aggressive,” he added. “That’s kind of the hitter I’ve been my whole life. I’ve been aggressive up there and looking for a pitch to hit, but at the same time, I’m kind of trying of lay off some of the pitches in the dirt that I might have been swinging at before.”
Looking at his eight-game hitting streak, Flaherty has still been aggressive, but the difference has been a better approach behind in the count. Of his 14 hits during his the streak, eight of them have come on 0-1 counts or two-strike counts.
Of Flaherty’s four homers over his past eight games, two came on fastballs. Another came on a 3-2 knuckleball from Toronto’s R.A. Dickey and Saturday’s came on an 0-1 curveball from Yankees starter Davis Phelps.
“Really, it’s just looking for a pitch that’s hittable and not swing at anything down in the dirt,” Flaherty said. “That’s been my main approach since coming back is putting myself in better hitting counts and that’s been a recipe for success.”
“He's hit a couple breaking balls,” Showalter said. “The home run was a breaking ball. People like Ryan, they're not going to give in.”