PORT ST. LUCIE, FLA. — Orioles manager Buck Showalter, unprompted, said Friday that the more he's seen from utility infield candidate Engelb Vielma, the more impressed he's been.
"Vielma has gotten better and better," Showalter said. "I see some things in him defensively, and once he's settled in defensively — he's a good defender, man."
The sight of Vielma, 23, taking infield during batting practice made Showalter take stock of what he's seen from him so far. A visa issue kept him from reporting to camp on time from his native Venezuela, and he ultimately didn't make it to Sarasota for camp until Feb. 24 — 10 days after pitchers and catchers reported.
There was an adjustment period with his new organization — the Orioles were his fifth organization and his trade from the San Francisco Giants in late January was his sixth transaction since January. But he's shown an ability to play the infield that the Orioles need from their utility spot.
His question, as has been the case his whole career, is whether he can hit enough to stick. A career .256 minor league hitter who hit .206 in 2017 while spending most of the season at Triple-A Rochester, Vielma has two career minor league home runs and none since 2015. He struggles to generate power with his 5-foot-11, 155-pound frame, but can handle all the infield positions defensively. Vielma is batting .118 (2-for-25) with a pair of steals in spring training.
He's going head-to-head for a roster spot with Luis Sardiñas, who remains in camp after the team reassigned other candidates Rubén Tejada and Erick Salcedo to minor league camp this month. The Orioles could also keep a corner infielder like Danny Valencia or Pedro Álvarez as a nominal utility infielder.
Around the horn
Showalter said presumptive closer Brad Brach pitched two innings with a pair of walks and three strikeouts in minor league camp on Thursday, his first multi-inning stint of the season. Richard Bleier and Mychal Givens also pitched minor league games on Thursday. ... Showalter said Bleier may need a wisdom tooth pulled soon, but the club is unsure of when to do it.