With crowded situation at first base, club's No. 13 prospect excited to learn new position
By Andrew Simon
SARASOTA, Fla. -- At the beginning of the offseason, it appeared a path might be opening up for Orioles first baseman Christian Walker, but then the club re-signed Chris Davis to a seven-year contract, traded for Mark Trumbo and signed Pedro Alvarez. Meanwhile, the organization's reigning Player of the Year and current No. 6 prospect, Trey Mancini, also calls first base home.
Given that crowded picture, the Orioles had tossed around the idea this spring of seeing what Walker can do in the outfield. And so it was that a player with no professional experience beyond first base found himself starting in left field on Tuesday afternoon in Dunedin, Fla., where the Orioles and Blue Jays played to a 6-6 tie.
"It's just been a conversation," Walker said on Wednesday. "A couple days of early work, and I'm happy that they got me some game action, if you will. I feel that's a good way to learn, and if there is a time of the year to learn, it's now."
Walker, who will turn 25 on March 28, has enjoyed a strong spring with the bat. The Orioles' No. 13 prospect entered Wednesday's 9-3 win over the Pirates at first base and hit a three-run homer -- and now leads the club with three doubles, three home runs, seven extra-base hits and 11 RBIs.
But he has more to prove in the outfield, where he has not set foot in 415 regular-season games as a professional, including 13 in the Majors over the past two seasons. Walker did play there sparingly during his collegiate career at South Carolina, and lately he has been putting in work with coach Wayne Kirby -- who also is tutoring Trumbo -- and shagging fly balls.
"It's still very early in this process," Walker said. "I still have a lot to learn. Basically just going off of instincts and a little bit of what I've learned the last couple of days. But yeah, I feel comfortable. I feel good. I feel like I can do the job and just keep learning."
Although Walker didn't have the chance to catch any fly balls during his six innings on Tuesday, several hits did come in his direction, including from four of the first five Jays hitters. When Chris Colabello smacked a first-inning single to left-center, Walker got to the ball and cut down Troy Tulowitzki, who was running first to third.
With one game now under his belt, Walker will "continue to get his work in" as an outfielder, according to manager Buck Showalter.
"He looked good. It was pretty impressive," Showalter said. "The throw he made to third base was textbook."
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.