If there is any upside to the departure of long-time right fielder Nick Markakis, it is that the opening in the outfield has turned manager Buck Showalter loose on another versatility quest this spring. On any given day, just about anybody might show up at either of the two corner outfield positions.

Thursday night's exhibition game at Ed Smith Stadium featured presumed designated hitter Delmon Young in right field, and he used the opportunity to show off his plus arm on a couple of plays. Friday in Dunedin, Fla., Alejandro De Aza started in right, even though he has played only one regular season game there since 2011, and Travis Snider was in left, even though he has made 81 percent of his outfield starts over the past three seasons in right.


Showalter seldom misses an opportunity to examine an interesting possibility and the open space on each side of center fielder Adam Jones has become his new frontier.

If you had to guess at this very early point in spring training, you'd figure Snider will get the most playing time in right field this season and De Aza will usually start in left. But Showalter values roster and lineup flexibility so much that he would love to be able to play just about any of his outfielders in any field at any time.

"In a perfect world, yeah,'' he said. "It's a small sampling of De Aza in right field, but we have a pretty good sampling left and right and I think they both feel they can present themselves in both places, if needed. I've got a pretty good idea of where I'm probably going to play them, but it's as much mental as it is physical, so you don't wait until Game 20 to do it, so they've got a feel for it."

No one is particularly surprised by this. De Aza has said from the start that he'll play anywhere and hit anywhere in the lineup. Snider has come to the organization looking for regular playing time and will take it where he can get it.

They are not alone, of course. Speedy David Lough and power-threat Nolan Reimold are still very much in the conversation, and baseball everyman Steve Pearce could show up at almost any position on the infield or in the outfield. Every one of them knows that — in the baseball world according to Buck — versatility is no curse.

"It's a good thing,'' Lough said. "When you can have a team that can move players around and still be comfortable wherever they go, it helps our team and helps Buck manage the team better and put us in position to win more games.

"We kind of embrace it because it gives us depth. It gives us versatility. If a situation calls for matchups late in the game and we need to make a switch, he can move his outfielders any way he wants and not in the back of his mind have any doubt in any of the decisions that he makes."

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who acquired De Aza from the Chicago White Sox late last season and picked up Snider from the Pittsburgh Pirates in January, chooses to look at the complexities of the outfield situation from a more traditional perspective.

"I think what Buck's trying to do is identify which positions that the players are best at," Duquette said, "so he wants to take a look at them at all the positions in the outfield so that he knows what his strongest combination is when he starts the season.

"It helps because during the season you have needs and you have stresses on your roster based on injuries, so if you have a good idea of what the players' capabilities are — what they're best at, what their strongest defensive position is — it'll help you formulate your best roster. A lot of times we do that day by day, 'What's your strongest team for tonight?' … so taking a look at them at multiple positions makes sense."

From the player perspective, that's a distinction without a difference. Either way, the object is to prove you can do whatever is necessary to get on the field. As they used to say in those AT&T commercials, it's not complicated.

"Yeah, I think the more positions you're comfortable at," Reimold said, "the more value you can add to the team."


Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here."

Recommended on Baltimore Sun