Infield logjam no concern to Wigginton
Veteran comfortable in ability to adapt, get at-bats with Orioles
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- For Ty Wigginton, having a second or third position is really second nature. Wigginton has grown accustomed to gradually gaining more playing time via versatility during his Major League career, a trend he hopes to continue with the Orioles in the first season of a two-year contract.
Wigginton, were he a pessimist, might look at Baltimore's lineup and see a daunting task in front of him. Second baseman Brian Roberts and third baseman Melvin Mora are productive veterans who thrive on playing every day, and the Orioles also have a complicated job-sharing arrangement at first base, designated hitter and left field.
But Wiggington doesn't see that as an insurmountable obstacle any more than he has at any other career stop. The former 17th-round Draft pick has made a habit of overcoming the odds and is almost eager to do it again.
"I'm not really worried about getting my at-bats," Wigginton said Saturday. "The way I look at it, that's under my control. If I go out there and swing the bat and do what I have to do, I'm going to be in the lineup. That stuff takes care of itself. The last three years, I've been so consistent [that] teams have to know what they're getting out of me."
Wigginton's right in that regard. The right-handed hitter has moved all over the diamond in the past three seasons, and he hasn't batted below .275 or posted an on-base percentage lower than .330 since 2005. Wigginton has hit at least 22 home runs in each of the past three years, but has played more than 125 games just once in that span.
The veteran's multi-positional odyssey started before he even reached the big leagues and has been accentuated recently. Wigginton began 2007 as the starting first baseman in Tampa Bay but wound up playing at second and third when the Rays moved B.J. Upton to center field. Last year, he started out playing third base in Houston and stayed there until around August, when the Astros moved him to left field for the remainder of the year.
And despite that carousel, Wigginton responded with two of the best offensive seasons of his career. He batted .267 with 22 homers in 2007 despite splitting the season between the Rays and the Astros. And last season, left alone for much of it, Wigginton batted .285 and set a career high in slugging percentage (.526).
"I feel comfortable moving all around the diamond," he said. "I came up and I always played multiple positions throughout the Minor Leagues. I think a lot of times people look at it and think it's difficult, but I look at it as being easier because you don't get into a lot of the finer details of each position. You just worry about making the routine play. That's really what we should do at every position, but we have a tendency to work on other stuff."
Wigginton's versatility came about by necessity. The San Diego native came through the Mets' farm system at a time when New York had a totally set infield, causing the organization to get creative in the Minors.
"When I was coming up in the Minor Leagues with the Mets," said Wigginton, "they had Mo Vaughn at first, Roberto Alomar at second, Edgardo Alfonzo at third and Rey Ordonez at shortstop. And so what they did was have three of us play two days at third, two days at second, two days at first and two days in left field.
"It just so happened that they didn't sign Alfonzo back and I got a chance to win an everyday job at third."
Wigginton won that job briefly, finishing eighth in the National League's Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2003. And then he got off to a hot start the next season, only to be traded to Pittsburgh in a deadline deal for Kris Benson. Wigginton wound up slumping his way out of the lineup and the organization with the Pirates before resurfacing with Tampa Bay.
After that, he reinvented himself as a handy reserve with a powerful bat. Wigginton seemed to have slugged himself into a possible starting role this winter, but he signed with the Orioles because Baltimore offered him a two-year deal and a chance to compete in the American League East, which he regards as the best division in baseball.
Now, he's hoping to poach time from Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott, not to mention Mora and Roberts. Wigginton may also play in place of left fielder Felix Pie, and he'll definitely get most of his reps against left-handed pitchers.
"I'll get him his at-bats somewhere," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "I feel confident that he'll get his at-bats. Obviously, I'm going to have to move him around. And I might've learned a little last year that it might be better to rest some of these guys early in the year so they're fresher later in the year."
Wigginton, who displayed a huge home/road split last year, said that he's not particularly worried about leaving Minute Maid Park. He even pointed to his last full season with Tampa Bay, where he posted a similar disparity.
"You can talk about the left-field porch in Houston, but for the most part, that really only helps left-handed hitters," he said. "They can poke that little fly ball into the Crawford Boxes, but most righties don't hit cheap home runs there. If you hit a ball down the line as a righty, it's going out in any yard. Most of the balls are hitting that back wall."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.