Orioles newcomer Jemile Weeks eager to show his defensive flexibili

Going over the list of the nearly 60 players who will be in Sarasota, Fla., when major league spring training opens for the Orioles next week and trying to project the club's 25-man roster for Opening Day is a tough task.

However, there are roughly 13 "locks" for the Opening Day roster. After that, there are about six players who have a better chance to make the team than not.
That doesn’t leave much room for everyone else, and it'd be best for two newcomers who are competing for roster spots to show they can play multiple positions in order to have a chance to crack the Opening Day roster.

Second baseman Jemile Weeks, who came to the Orioles from the Oakland Athletics in the trade for closer Jim Johnson in December, and catcher Johnny Monell, acquired in a deal with the San Francisco Giants, both likely will have to show their flexibility.

Showalter loves players with versatility, and he will test players in different positions this spring while formulating his roster. Last season, Steve Pearce earned the final Opening Day roster spot by showing he could play both corner outfield spots and first base while also serving as a right-handed designated hitter.

Ryan Flaherty will enter the spring as the favorite to take over as the starting second baseman, but he might be forced to shift to third base if Manny Machado isn’t fully recovered from offseason left-knee surgery in time for Opening Day.

If Flaherty opens the season as the Opening Day second baseman, Weeks will compete with nonroster utility player Alexi Casilla, who can play second base, shortstop and third base and brings speed on the base paths. Top position player prospect Jonathan Schoop could also compete for that spot, but it'd be best for him to continue developing with everyday at-bats at Triple-A Norfolk.

While Weeks has made each of his 209 major league starts at second base, he played center field twice at the big league level and saw action in 25 games there at Triple-A Sacramento last year. He also played 23 games at shortstop last season in Triple-A.

“I see myself as a second baseman first, but I have experience at shortstop, I have experience in the outfield,” Weeks said Saturday at Orioles FanFest. “I feel like I can play anywhere on the field. I do."

As for Monell, he will compete with Mount St. Joseph graduate Steve Clevenger for the backup catcher spot behind Matt Wieters.

The Orioles took a brief look at Clevenger, who was acquired along with Scott Feldman in the trade last July that sent Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs, and he impressed the organization.

Monell’s defensive ability behind the plate has been criticized in the past. Last season at Triple-A Fresno, he played nearly as many games at first base (47) as he did at catcher (48).

“I feel like I’ve got good arm strength, good footwork, I block well, I call a good game,” Monell said Saturday. “It’s just [having] an opportunity to play and come into my own and get that experience and the games under my belt and just play and not worry about anything.

"In the past, I was knocked as far as defensively and all that, I feel like I’ve grown into the position and I’m not a liability back there. I have confidence and I know I can play the position at the big league level. We’ll see what happens.

“Whatever Buck wants me to do, whatever can help the ball club win, I’m up for it,” Monell added.

Clevenger also played 11 games at first base last year in Triple-A and two at third base. Both are left-handed hitters, but Clevenger batted .380 against left-handers last year in the minors.

Regardless, the Orioles need to figure out their future at catcher with Wieters eligible for free agency following the 2015 season. So they need to find out whether Clevenger or Monell, who both have minor league options remaining, can eventually emerge as an everyday player at the position.

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