Roberts mentoring Andino, Jones in art of stealing bases

One of the added benefits of Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts being with the team while he continues to recover from multiple concussions is his ability to impart wisdom onto his younger teammates.

Roberts has begun to take outfielder Adam Jones and infielder Robert Andino under his wing in teaching them his mentality of stealing bases.

"They both seem very interested in that aspect and it's something I feel like I have quite a bit of experience at," said Roberts, who is second on the Orioles' career stolen-base list with 274 and had four seasons of 30-or-more steals. "I think that if I'm here, I need to use it for a reason. I saw Jones working on some base-stealing stuff during spring training, and that's when I went to him and said, 'Hey, if you ever want to talk about it let me know.' So we started doing some work before games, and tried to find ways for each of them to add another dimension to their game and help our team in another dimension."

Jones, who entered Sunday's game leading the American League with three stolen bases, said Roberts has helped him gain a base-stealer's mentality.

"It's all a mental thing," Jones said. "I've got the tools to steal bases. You've got to have the mindset to steal bases — that throw-me-out mindset. The first couple games, [Roberts], me and [Andino] have been talking about it, just getting on base and rolling out, making something interesting happen. The last couple years we just get on base and stay on base — shuffle, shuffle. Let's get it rolling and let's make some plays. It opens up so many things when you do that."

Jones said Roberts has been a good mentor since he speaks from experience.

"If [Roberts] comes up to me and tells me something, you've got to take it seriously," Jones added. "He's going to tell you something important, something worth it. I listen to people who have been successful in what they've done, and when it comes to stealing bases, the guy has been unbelievably successful so when he comes and talks to me, I've got to listen."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter applauds Roberts' efforts to mentor Jones and Andino.

"He's like having another coach," Showalter said. "We've had some examples of good base running before. We've had a couple situations where I thought we should have pushed the envelope a little bit, but I think guys understand that's what we want them to do. We are going to run into some outs here and there. But we are going to get that mentality. And believe me, Robby talks about mechanics just as much as mentality. But he's right — it's both. "

Markakis feeling back to normal

When Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis made a sliding catch of Yunel Escobar's liner in the seventh inning of Saturday's 6-4 win over the Blue Jays, Showalter couldn't help but look away.

For Markakis, who had offseason surgery to repair multiple tears in his abdomen, it was his first true defensive test of the regular season.

"He dove and caught it and I kinda looked away and then I looked back over to right field and he was moving well," Showalter said. "That was good to see. I hope so. I was talking to [head trainier] Richie [Bancells] in the dugout after the play and said, 'Does he come in for any treatment?' Nothing. He's moved on, knock on wood."

Markakis said this spring the biggest obstacle in his recovery was becoming reactive on defense and not thinking before making plays in the field.

"I'm not thinking about it anymore. I think that's the biggest thing," Markakis said. "Just going out there and playing the game. Obviously I had to get comfortable. Now, I'm going to go out there and do my job and try to help the team win. It's all past me now.

"It's just my natural reactions taking over now. And I'm just going with it."

Markakis said he felt fine Sunday and added that he's not receiving in that area, but he continues to work on getting his legs back.

Flaherty makes first big league start

Rookie utility man Ryan Flaherty made his first big league start Sunday, playing second base.

Showalter said he had previously planned on giving Flaherty, a Rule 5 pick from the Cubs this past offseason, his first start during this series. Flaherty's start at second slid Andino over to short, allowing starting shortstop J.J. Hardy a day off.

"He knew it," Showalter said of Flaherty. "We had been talking about it. I told him when we came in here he would start either [Sunday] or [Saturday]. He figured it out when he didn't start [Saturday]. We want to get him on the field. It's something I wanted to do these first three games here. I want to get J.J. off this turf. I know we've got a couple guys who are barking a little bit because it's firm."

Flaherty struggled at the plate Sunday, going 0-for-3 and striking out three times against Blue Jays starter Kyle Drabek. The rookie has played in 453 professional games, and this was just his 10th with three or more strikeouts.

"A guy's first start in the big leagues, regardless of how he does, I think about his dad (the baseball coach at Southern Maine) and I think about all the things that have gone into him having this opportunity," Showalter said before the game. "I'm looking forward to just kind of living the game through his emotions today regardless of what happens."

Around the horn

Several players received days off Sunday, including catcher Matt Wieters, who had played in every game. Ronny Paulino started in Wieters' place and went 1-for-4. … Left fielder Nolan Reimold, who was nearly removed from Saturday's game before hitting the game-winning homer with a leg cramp, also had the afternoon off. … Right-hander Jake Arrieta will start Monday's series opener in Chicago against the White Sox, giving No. 5 starter Wei-Yin Chen two extra days off. … Right-hander Tommy Hunter's side session Sunday was successful. He had been dealing with some side discomfort. ... Jones wore custom-made light blue shoes for Jackie Robinson Day, complete with Robinson’s No. 42 on the sides. ... At Triple-A Norfolk, right-hander Jason Berken threw five shutout innings Sunday against Charlotte, allowing just three hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

eencina@baltsun.com

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