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Tampa Bay Rays' Reid Brignac wouldn't mind changing positions

PORT CHARLOTTE

The sight might have appeared symbolic, but Reid Brignac isn't reading too much into it. There was Brignac, the Rays' 2004 second-round pick and shortstop prospect, playing second base in a recent exhibition. His double play partner? None other than 2008 top pick and touted shortstop Tim Beckham, 19, who is in his first big-league camp after the club invested a $6.15 million signing bonus.

Brignac, 23, has played about as many spring innings at second than shortstop, his natural position, but says it's an adjustment he's willing to make if it helps him eventually stick in the majors.

Manager Joe Maddon said he doesn't want to preclude Brignac from the shortstop mix, saying he'll play a preponderance of his time there. The Rays believe Brignac can become an everyday shortstop. They just want to expose him to second in case they need help and say it could actually help him, too.

"He's just a really good defender," Maddon said. "Love his makeup. I just think it might help him in the future knowing that he is a shortstop but he can play second base, too. And he's one of those kids who is able to handle it. It's not going to freak him out. He's not going to get the wrong thoughts in his head. So it works."

Brignac (pronounced Brin-yac) said he's open to anything, especially after getting a taste of the majors last season in July, when he made his debut while Jason Bartlett was on the disabled list. Brignac, who went 0-for-10 and made two errors in four big-league games, said he learned a lot in that time.

Brignac knows there are strides he can make offensively. Though he is 1-for-16 this spring, Maddon has worked with him on his swing path, and Brignac hit a home run Tuesday.

"I want to stay at shortstop. I want to play shortstop. I want to be a shortstop for many years," Brignac said. "But I'm not opposed to playing second or third or first or outfield. As long as I'm staying here."

Brignac has worked with second baseman Adam Kennedy on learning the nuances of the position. Kennedy, who said he had to make a similar switch early in his career, said it's not easy because the ball comes at you differently.

"(Brignac) is a good athlete," Kennedy said. "So it shouldn't be too big of a problem."

Bartlett also remembers taking ground balls at second early in his career before eventually becoming the Rays MVP in last year's World Series run. Bartlett said Brignac needs to keep his feet moving defensively but added he has come a long way.

"If I skip a beat or something, he'll be right there to take my job," Bartlett said. "If it doesn't happen with the Rays, it'll definitely happen with some other team."

Brignac said he's a more confident player this spring and believes he belongs. And he's up for any challenge a new position — or a younger prospect — might bring.

"It's going to be like that every year," Brignac said. "Every year, there's a new draft. Every year, there's a new No. 1 pick. Every year, there's a new Tim Beckham or a new hot kid that's going to be good in the future.

"They've still got to come and take my job. As long as I can prevent that by playing my game and staying focused, I don't have any worries."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith @sptimes.com

Tampa Bay Rays' Reid Brignac wouldn't mind changing positions 03/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 6, 2009 9:08pm]
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