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Utility candidates trying out at multiple positions

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Presented with a number of players competing for a utility spot on the Orioles' Opening Day roster, manager Buck Showalter won't hesitate to move them all over the field this spring to get a sense of how well they can acquit themselves at several different positions.

Showalter proved that Sunday by starting Danny Valencia at first base, where he last played as a Minor Leaguer in 2008, and putting Russ Canzler in right field and third base while also giving time to Steve Pearce (left and right field) and Travis Ishikawa (first base).

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All of those players, plus infielder Ryan Flaherty (who looked excellent Sunday at shortstop) and Conor Jackson (Sunday's designated hitter) and a few others, are gunning for one spot that will require a great deal of defensive versatility.

"We're going to keep moving guys around. We've got plenty of games. It's not making decisions on Feb. 24," Showalter said before Sunday's game. "It's one of the benefits of the WBC, is playing more games, getting some more looks. We're going to move some guys around today as the game progresses. It's important what goes on after we make some changes, too. ... We're going to get a lot of good looks at guys at first base."

It's always worth noting this time of year that these position battles are won over the long haul, and a few Grapefruit League games don't represent how a player will hold up over the course of a long Major League season. But Flaherty is off to a hot start, and Showalter was obviously pleased with him again Sunday, commenting on how the former Rule 5 Draft pick looks like he belongs in the big leagues.

It's been Flaherty's defense that has particularly caught Showalter's eye. Flaherty made another impressive play Sunday, backhanding a ball deep in the hole and flinging it to first base as he was moving toward third base to record the out.

"He's a guy who looks like he played in the big leagues last year," Showalter said. "Last year, he would've let that ball go as soon as it hit his glove. It was a chopper that he stayed back on. ... He's had some good at-bats. You can tell he feels like he can do this and belongs. Nothing like starting a couple playoff games -- helps that a little, too."

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