O's Hernandez, Wright tune up with Keys

Overall, catcher, pitcher pleased

April 25, 2007|By Alexander Pyles | Alexander Pyles,SUN REPORTER

Frederick -- A Single-A crowd was treated to a major league battery last night as the Orioles' Ramon Hernandez and Jaret Wright hooked up for the first time this season, playing for the Frederick Keys on rehabilitation assignments.

Hernandez, who has yet to play for the Orioles this season, went 1-for-2 in the game, including taking a fastball off his leg in the third inning against the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

Though stopping short of declaring himself ready to play when the Orioles travel to Cleveland Friday, Hernandez felt comfortable with his six innings of work.

"I feel pretty good," Hernandez said. "The test is going to be tomorrow. Since my last game, it's been almost a month."

Most importantly, Hernandez reported little or no pain in his left oblique at the plate, though he admitted he was nervous the first time he stepped up.

"You know, maybe [it hurt] a little bit, a tiny bit my first at-bat." But, he said, "I was a bit nervous. It was maybe in my head a little bit."

Hernandez, hitting third in the Keys' lineup, batted for the first time with two outs in the first inning and delivered a sharply hit grounder up the middle that was fielded with a dive by the shortstop.

The throw, however, sailed over the first baseman's head and Hernandez reached safely as the play was scored a hit.

Hernandez flew out to deep left-center field in the bottom of the fifth in his final at-bat.

Wright, meanwhile, got off to a shaky start on the mound, but was able to recover. After giving up a leadoff double on a 1-0 pitch in the first inning and allowing the run to score on a two-out single, Wright was able to bear down and induce a popout that Hernandez caught, ending the inning and limiting the damage to the single run.

"It's just been a while since I've been in a game," Wright said. "I think I was a little rusty at the start, but I felt better toward the end."

Wright limited Wilmington to one base on balls and no hits over his last 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander finished the day having pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing the one run on three hits and two walks and striking out six.

After the game, which Wilmington won, 6-2, he said he felt confident he would be able to rejoin the Orioles this weekend.

"I thought it was OK," Wright said. "It took a little bit longer than I expected to warm up, but other than that I thought it was good."

With the Orioles, Wright was pulled during the sixth inning in his second start of the season against Detroit after experiencing stiffness in his shoulder and was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 13.

The 31-year-old starter hasn't pitched more than 140 innings in the big leagues since 2004, when he went 15-8 with a 3.28 ERA in 186 1/3 innings for Atlanta.

Hernandez, meanwhile, has yet to play for the Orioles this season after straining his oblique just before Opening Day in Minnesota.

He was an offensive and defensive force for the Orioles during his first season in 2006, recording 23 home runs, 91 RBIs, and throwing out 43.3 percent of would-be base stealers.

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