When veteran infielder Alcides Escobar was deciding whether to sign a minor league contract with the Orioles, it didn’t seem to bother him that they had shifted into a rebuilding mode and figure to look at a lot of young players this spring.
“I’m young, too,’’ he said after reporting to camp on Tuesday. “I’m 32.”
Escobar certainly isn’t young by the standards of his sport and he definitely has a lot of baseball miles on him, but there’s something to be said for a former All-Star with a Gold Glove and a World Series ring wanting to help a young team develop.
“I'm happy to be here,” he said. “This is a new opportunity. This is a young team. I'm coming here to compete for a spot. I can play every position on the infield.”
Though he picked the Orioles because he felt they presented the best opportunity for him to play regularly, he said he “can teach young players and help everybody.” He certainly can tell them what it’s like to play every day, since he has played 162 games in three of the past five seasons and averaged 154 games in his nine full major league seasons.
That doesn’t include his postseason experience. He is coming from a Kansas City Royals team that played in back-to-back World Series in 2014 and ’15 and — during those two Octobers — Escobar hit safely in 28 of 31 postseason games.
He played every inning of all four games in the 2014 ALCS against the Orioles and hit safely in each of them, though there isn’t a player in the O’s clubhouse who played against him in that series. Chris Davis was on the team, but was not available because he was serving a suspension.
Escobar hopes to get a chance to play regularly here, but recognizes that he’s on a minor league deal with a team that is building from the ground up.
"I don't know right now,” he said. “If they give me an opportunity to play a lot on this team, I'm ready to play 162 games."
Manager Brandon Hyde is happy to have him, but can’t say for sure where he’ll play or how much. He’s got a lot of players to look at, but intends to balance that with the desire to try and win as many games as possible. Right now, he views Escobar as a guy who will raise the level of competition in the middle of the infield this spring.
"I think it just keeps the competition going in camp,’’ he said. “I’m excited about the mix of middle infielders we have. He's a guy that's been there and has nine-plus years of playing defense in the middle of the field at the big-league level.”
Still that doesn’t mean that he comes with a promise of playing every day at shortstop. The Orioles have a lot of middle infielders in camp and Hyde is looking forward to sorting through them.
"I'm not promising anything to anybody at this point,’’ Hyde said. “To me, this is a competition. We've created a competitive feel here in camp and that's what it's going to be for the next six weeks or so. But I know a lot of people in Kansas City, some of the people that have been with him, and gotten rave reviews of the kind of person he is, the kind of player he is, so I'm excited about getting him in the building and getting him out here."
Hyde on Mountcastle
Hyde said Tuesday that prospect Ryan Mountcastle will play both first base and third base in spring training as the team tries to figure out the best position for him going forward. Left field may be an option down the line, but the team wants him on the infield, Hyde said, and doesn't want the possibility of him coming to the majors as the designated hitter to be an option.
"We're just trying to get our eyes on him," Hyde said. "I just haven't seen much of him play. Obviously, he's a big piece for us going forward, because he's just such a dynamic offensive player. We're trying to make it fit. I'm trying to get [third base coach José Flores] to just get with him as much as possible. We're going to work hard with him and figure out through this camp where we see him fit."
Around the horn
» Infielder Jack Reinheimer left Tuesday's workout early on a training cart with an unspecified issue.
» Hyde said the Orioles weren't sure who would pitch in Saturday's Grapefruit League opener against the Minnesota Twins.
» Right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis will be stretched out as a starter before the team determines his role, Hyde said.