SARASOTA, Fla. – Dan Duquette thinks that Travis Ishikawa is a most underrated addition to the Orioles.
The executive vice president of baseball operations likes Ishikawa’s defense, and now it’s up to him in spring training to prove that he can make the club.
The 29-year-old first baseman has won a World Series, in 2010 with San Francisco, but last year he was let go by Milwaukee after batting .257 in 97 games. Ishikawa was signed to a minor league deal in December.
“You take what you can get. This was the best offer I received,” Ishikawa said.
Ishikawa is from Seattle, has never played in the American League nor had spring training in Florida. He visited Oriole Park once as a teenager.
He convinced his parents to buy standing room tickets for a game. His mother was a big Mariners fan and had to be convinced of the virtues of outdoor baseball. Once she saw Camden Yards, she changed her mind.
Her son hopes to play in lots of ballparks he hasn’t seen.
“There are a lot of places I haven’t been yet. It really sounds exciting for me,” Ishikawa said.
“When I started my career, I never pictured myself here on the East Coast.”
Ishikawa’s reputation as a strong defensive first baseman with not much power has held him back.
“I definitely feel like I’m at a little bit of a disadvantage,” Ishikawa said.
“I view that defense is just as good as offense depending on the lineup you’re in.”
He gets excited talking up his virtues as a defensive first baseman.
“Infielder making a great play, has to rush his throw. Me making the pick and save two runs from scoring that inning. If I save two runs there and win by one, that’s just as big as a guy hitting a two or three-run home run that inning,” Ishikawa said.
The Orioles have lots of home run power with Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy. Perhaps they can afford a defensive first baseman. Ishikawa says, hold on, he can hit, too.
“I feel like I can be the power guy. Maybe not the 50 home run guy, but I can hold my own,” he said.