SARASOTA, Florida—As the last of the position players reported to camp on Sunday, Hanser Alberto settled into his locker. He was one of the Orioles’ few feel-good stories last season.
A year ago, Alberto was here for the early days of camp, then put on the waiver wire and snapped up by the San Francisco Giants. He was claimed back by the Orioles a week later.
Alberto not only made the Orioles but hit .305 while playing second and third base.
“I came more relaxed, but hungry to prove that I can do it again,” Alberto said. “Go out there and play hard and get a good result. I feel more comfortable now, but I’m not going to stop working hard because of that.”
Jonathan Villar, who was traded to Miami, played shortstop and second last season. His departure might mean that Alberto will play more at second than third. In 2019, Alberto started 67 games at second and 58 at third.
“The great thing about Hanser is he can play multiple spots,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I think right now you’ll be seeing him mostly at second base, but you’ll be seeing him at third base also. I’m not going to limit him to one position.”
“I’m OK with switching positions,” Alberto said, “but second base is a little more comfortable. I don’t mind playing anywhere.”
Alberto was especially successful hitting against left-handers in 2019, batting .398. He hit.238 against right-handers.
“We try to do it again, but I have to make sure to try to swing at good pitches and see the ball good, and put a good swing on it, and see what happens,” he said.
Villar was an impact player last year, batting .274 with 24 home runs, 40 steals and 111 runs scored. Alberto thinks the Orioles’ offense will be OK.
“We’ve got a pretty good offense,” Alberto said. “We can all do the little things. When you know what you have to do, you know what you have to focus on. We’re going to miss him, but we’ve got to move forward.”
Alberto wasn’t surprised that Villar was moved in his arbitration year.
“They have to pay a lot of money, and I don’t know if this rebuilding team will pay that much money,” Alberto said. “That brings more opportunity for those young guys to develop and see what the future can bring for this organization.”
Renato Nunez seeks improvement on defense
It was a breakout year for Renato Nunez in 2019. He hit .244 with 31 home runs and 90 RBIs.
“The season before I didn’t play much,” Nunez said. “To get a chance to play with the Orioles, it was amazing.”
Nunez’s big numbers were overlooked on a team that lost 108 games, but the 25-year-old believes the Orioles will be better in 2020.
“That’s got to be the mindset for everybody,” Nunez said. “To get better, to win more games.”
Nunez knows he needs to improve. Last season, he struck out 143 times in 151 games.
“I’ve still got to learn more about hitting,” Nunez said. “Be a little more selective, not swing at everything, have a little more of a plan.”
Nunez had 21 starts at first base and eight at third, but 110 games at designated hitter.
“Of course, I’d like to play more defense,” Nunez said. “I’ll be ready to play whatever position they want me to play.”
It’s important for Hyde that Nunez be a better defender.
“We’re going to do everything we can to work with Nunie on a daily basis,” Hyde said.
“You saw him taking ground balls out here today. We’re really going to focus on Nunie’s defense. We really like the improvement he made last year throughout the season. Where he came from in spring training was a night-and-day difference. We love the bat. He’s an offensive force and hope he can play defense for us.”