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With Nick Markakis gone, Orioles' Travis Snider says, 'I'm here now'

Orioles manager Buck Showalter can break down a position to its most esoteric aspects and then put it back together in terms anyone can understand, which is what he did Monday when the talk turned to filling the club's unexpected opening in right field.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter can break down a position to its most esoteric aspects and then put it back together in terms anyone can understand, which is what he did Monday when the talk turned to filling the club's unexpected opening in right field.

Obviously, he has been thinking about that since Nick Markakis became a free agent and signed with the Atlanta Braves, but it will be a lot easier if newly acquired outfielder Travis Snider grabs the everyday job this spring and doesn't let go.

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"Oh sure," Showalter said, "but we're equipped to have that be a two- or three-headed player. It also allows us to keep everybody in the flow and create a role for everybody to make contributions with their skill set, but [it'll be fine] if somebody steps out there and takes off with it."

Snider wants to be that guy, even if he knows better than to come right out and say so before taking part in his first full-squad workout with the team.

He was supposed to eventually be that guy when the Toronto Blue Jays made him the 14th overall pick in the 2006 draft, but has yet to establish himself as a full-time player. The Orioles hope his time has come, and they traded a couple of decent minor league pitching prospects to the Pittsburgh Pirates to find out.

Trying to replace someone like Markakis is a tricky business, of course. He was the longest-tenured Orioles player when the 2014 season ended and the respect he had garnered in Baltimore transcended his performance on the field.

We're not talking Doug DeCinces replacing Brooks Robinson, but Markakis engendered tremendous goodwill in the community with both his charitable endeavors and his blue-collar work ethic. Snider recognizes that it may take local fans awhile to look down into right field and not feel the absence of No. 21.

"I have all the respect in the world for Nick and what he was able to do here and guys who get a chance to play for an organization as long as he did," Snider said. "Having played against him in Toronto for a number of years, again, I respect everything he's done here, but he's not here anymore. I'm here now.

"I'm not here to replace Nick Markakis, but to be another man on this roster and to come out here every single day with the goal of getting better, and when Buck puts my name in the lineup, I'll be ready to go."

That's exactly the right approach for a guy who was placed in a complicated position this winter. The Orioles made him their most significant acquisition during an offseason of free-agent disappointment that featured the departure of not only Markakis, but also Most Valuable Oriole Nelson Cruz and top-flight reliever Andrew Miller.

Snider entered the picture at a time when a lot of fans and critics were wondering why the Orioles seemed reluctant to spend any real money to upgrade last year's American League East champion. In that context, he seemed like another inexpensive half-measure, but Showalter doesn't see it that way.

"He knows how much we wanted him and liked him, or we wouldn't have traded the good players we did for him," Showalter said. "I like what I'm hearing. Kirb [outfield coach Wayne Kirby] was talking about him defensively already. They've been doing a lot of work out there. I think he's going to fit us well there. That was one of the things that was real attractive about him. He was not being taken out for defense. He was being put in for defense, and they had a pretty good outfield there."

There are other candidates for right field, of course. Steve Pearce needs at-bats, and the Orioles have David Lough and Alejandro De Aza to battle for playing time in left field. The reason Snider has a chance to win the everyday job is because he's a left-handed hitter with some power who can hit left-handed pitching.

"Potentially, if you look at his numbers, the left-on-left stuff doesn't scream platoon at you, so that's encouraging," Showalter said. "If you look all the way through his numbers from minor leagues on up, he's not been a huge split guy when he's gotten at-bats. Obviously, left-handed pitchers are better at the major league level."

Snider turned 27 earlier this month, but Showalter views him as still in development. He had his most at-bats and best offensive numbers of his career last year, but still has not had a breakthrough season. Maybe last year's playoff run with the Pirates was a turning point.

"When you get around winning teams, you see that culture and you take that pressure off of yourself and you put it on the team, and the team is going to show up to play every single day and play for each other…,'' Snider said. "It's really the quality and the character that you build in the clubhouse and amongst your teammates.

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"I think, coming here, that's something that's already been established, so I'm excited just to be a part of that, to come here and help this team win any way I can."

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Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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