SARASOTA, Fla. - Once the Orioles cut ties with former first-round pick Brandon Snyder over the winter, a path was cleared for Joe Mahoney at Triple-A Norfolk. Nobody is standing in his way. All he has to do is stay on the field.
That's no small feat for the 6-foot-6 Mahoney, considering that he dealt with a variety of injuries in 2011 and seemed to be his own worst enemy.
Mahoney fouled a ball off his knee during an intrasquad game. He pulled a hamstring. He strained an oblique while taking batting practice in the Arizona Fall League.
"The nagging injuries have got to stop," said Mahoney, 25, who batted .289/.344/.502 with 24 doubles, five triples, 11 home runs and 67 RBIs in 85 games at Double-A Bowie.
"Hopefully, I got them all out of the way last year. I changed some things up this offseason and just got into running a lot more, and just staying healthy, not trying to overdo it in the weight room and overdoing it with certain stuff. And it's worked great so far. I feel great.
"It's all those little things adding up. You can't expect much when you can only play 90 games in a year. That's unacceptable. That's been my main goal this offseason, to get healthy and make sure I stay healthy and work on my swing."
Snyder is in the Texas Rangers' camp. His removal from the 40-man roster opened up first base for Mahoney at Norfolk, with Tyler Townsend expected to move up to Bowie.
"It was a good thing for me, and Brandon's got a good opportunity in Texas," Mahoney said. "Obviously, I look at that like, 'All right, I'll be in Norfolk,' and if anything happens in the big leagues or they need me up there, hopefully I can go up there and put up the numbers that I've been putting up in the minors."
Chris Davis and Nick Johnson are competing for the first base job with the Orioles, but Mahoney isn't conceding anything at this point, even though he's pretty much ticketed for the Tides.
"It's different from last spring training because Derrek (Lee) isn't here," he said. "I'm still going out there and trying to make the team. I have a better chance this year than I had last year."
Assuming that Mahoney is assigned to Norfolk, he'll face the same frustrations as Snyder at Harbor Park, which tends to favor the pitchers.
"I've heard ghost stories and all that stuff, but I'll see when I get there if that's where I'm going and gauge it appropriately in BP and stuff," he said. "I'm not too worried. I played in Delmarva and they say it's a lot like Delmarva - big in the gaps, big in center. But if I get a ball, I'll get a ball, like a lot of guys in here."
Mahoney offers intriguing power, and he can turn doubles into triples. (Felix Pie did the same thing, but he was playing left field. I kid!) He just needs to be more durable.
He's worth keeping an eye on in 2012. You can bet that the Orioles will be watching him closely.