Shifts on the diamond

Mike Schmitz

At one point, Arizona head coach Andy Lopez said junior infielder Bryce Ortega was the best defensive shortstop he’d ever coached. But it is looking more and more like Ortega will spend most of his time at second base this season.

Freshman Alex Mejia is expected to earn the spot at shortstop, although Lopez indicated that the positions and lineups will take some time to solidify.

“”We’re thinking about it,”” Lopez said of moving Ortega to second. “”It may be Mejia at short, it may be Ortega at short. … I’m going to be honest with you guys, you may see a different lineup for three weeks, honest to goodness.””

Ortega has been taking some reps at second base, a position that he had actually never played.

“”You know it’s not too much different from shortstop,”” Ortega said. “”There’s a few little things I had to work on, but I feel really comfortable over there so wherever coach wants to play me, I feel comfortable.””

Ortega, who hit .324 in 54 starts last season, will undoubtedly be “”taking one for the team”” with a move to second. Mejia is regarded as an impressive defensive shortstop, and a shift to a new position would be more difficult for a freshman than for a junior team leader. If Mejia does end up at shortstop, Ortega expects him to do well.

“”He’s really knowledgable about the game,”” Ortega said of Mejia. “”He’s been able to pick up on all the things we like to do at Arizona, so wherever they put him, if they put him at short, he’ll do fine.””

Bandy back at home

Sophomore Jett Bandy, who earned Collegiate Baseball All-American honors last season, will also be shifting spots on the diamond, as he will move back to his natural position of catcher after playing most of last year at third base.

“”I’ve always been a catcher,”” Bandy said. “”I played third base a lot in high school and I played third base last year, but it’s just good to be back home behind the plate.””

Bandy, who hit .299 with 21 doubles, four home runs and 39 RBIs in 47 games last season, will not be the consensus, everyday catcher, however. Lopez admitted the catching position is competitive right now with Bandy and Pima Community College product and redshirt junior Jake Meskin. “”Me and Jake, we work real hard, we know our pitching staff,”” Bandy said. “”It doesn’t really matter who’s back there, me or Jake, we’re going to help the team out tremendously.””