Quiroz secures role as backup catcher

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Trembley wants to pair him with Loewen

March 27, 2008|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun reporter

JUPITER, Fla. -- Guillermo Quiroz came into camp almost six weeks ago as the anticipated backup to Orioles starting catcher Ramon Hernandez. The news that Chris Heintz will be reassigned to minor league camp after Saturday night's exhibition game pretty much makes it official.

Manager Dave Trembley has informed Heintz that he'll accompany the team to Baltimore and participate in the workout and FanFest at Camden Yards, along with infielder Eider Torres and outfielder Chris Roberson. Heintz, a nonroster invitee to camp, will report to the Sarasota, Fla., complex after the Orioles play the Washington Nationals in D.C. Barring a late waiver claim, Quiroz will take over Paul Bako's role of last season.

"I like what he brings to our team," Trembley said.

Trembley said he wants to pair Quiroz with young left-hander Adam Loewen "because I like how he establishes the pace of the game and the way he calls a game."

Meanwhile, infielder Oscar Salazar will be reassigned after today's game against the Nationals in Viera, but he could reappear during the summer for interleague games at National League ballparks that require an extra bench player.

Salazar, who will play second base today, is hitting .290 with a home run, and he hasn't struck out in 31 at-bats. He's making solid contact, even when the ball is caught.

Salazar, 29, batted .289 with 22 homers and 96 RBIs last year at Double-A Bowie. He appeared in eight games with the Detroit Tigers in 2002.

"He's been a good player here," Trembley said. "I asked him today, `If you were to write the lineup out, where would you play?' And he said second base or third base. He said that's where he came up. In winter ball, he plays second base, third base and the outfield. I think he's a utility guy. We'll move him around and see what happens."

Shortstop still up in air

Trembley apparently will wait until after tomorrow's game in Fort Lauderdale to reveal his starting shortstop for Opening Day. The Orioles will board a plane for Baltimore after completing the South Florida portion of their exhibition schedule, which seems like an opportune time to enlighten Luis Hernandez and Brandon Fahey.

Hernandez entered camp as the favorite to replace Miguel Tejada, but he struggled in the field and batted .194 before yesterday.

Perhaps letting Hernandez know that he's got the job, if that's the case, will allow him to relax and stop pressing.

"I'm hoping it does. I'm sure he will," Trembley said. "I talked to [infield coach] Juan Samuel about that, I talked to Melvin [Mora] about that. I think that's one of the real good things that Melvin has done this spring with him. He's tried to calm his nerves somewhat, because I think it's been pretty obvious. It seems like every error he's made this spring has been on the first ball that's hit to him. After that, he settles down and plays pretty good.

"He's put a lot of undue pressure on himself."

Making the lineup on Monday doesn't necessarily guarantee a full-time position.

"Just because you start on Opening Day with 25 guys on your roster doesn't mean that's how it's going to be," Trembley said. "It's just a starting point for us. I'm assuming at certain points and times along the way, there will be adjustments."

Around the horn

Hernandez had a root canal Tuesday morning, but he returned to the lineup yesterday. ... Former general manager Hank Peters will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day, with former catcher Rick Dempsey on the receiving end, to honor the 1983 World Series championship team.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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