Shortstop's fielding tied to footwork

L. Hernandez's field woes not nerves, Trembley says

Notebook

April 20, 2008|By Roch Kubatko and Jeff Zrebiec | Roch Kubatko and Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporters

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he's certain that Luis Hernandez's latest fielding slump is caused more by the shortstop's poor footwork than a case of nerves, and the club continues to search for ways to improve it.

Hernandez originally was charged with his third error Friday night before a scoring change. He had trouble getting a ball out of his glove in the first inning and bounced a throw to first base, and later double-clutched while attempting to turn a double play, costing the Orioles a run.

Earlier in the day, Hernandez received tutelage from third base coach Juan Samuel, who works with the infielders.

"We're trying to work on some things and he's thinking about it too much," Samuel said. "That's what I was afraid of. Whatever we're working on in pre-game, I don't want him to try in the game just yet. And it seems that he's thinking about that, like his arm angle when he throws the ball, and I want him to charge the ball a little bit more. He's having trouble with balls in between hops. He's getting handcuffed a lot and it seems like he's thinking about it too much."

Hernandez's errors were a concern in spring training and almost cost him the starting job. He was much better the first few weeks of the season, but he's struggling again.

"I'm convinced that it's more physical than nerves and jitters," Trembley said. "I've watched him on tape. You saw last night on a ground ball, his feet were too close together, [he's] throwing the ball off the wrong foot. It hasn't been the same guy I saw. His feet are all cockeyed. That's why Juan got him out yesterday and we tried a different drill. We've got to get it right."

Hernandez said he has been feeling more comfortable and tries not to worry about anything once he takes the field -- a luxury he didn't have while attempting to make the team in spring training.

"Once I came here, I was confident," he said. "How I feel now is how I play. I'm expecting to do good. If I get nervous, I'm not going to play the game well."

Super sub

Though a reserve role isn't Jay Payton's preference, he's proving adept at handling it.

Payton came off the bench in the sixth inning Friday and delivered a two-run single to break open the game. He has collected pinch hits in three straight opportunities after the Orioles were 0-for-9 in those circumstances.

"Obviously, it's not an ideal situation, but it's the role I'm in," Payton said. "You have two choices: Either you don't accept it or you do. If you don't accept it, you're not going to be successful and you're going to be miserable every day. It's an adjustment, but I'm working my butt off to try to get used to that role.

"I don't need 600 at-bats, but, yeah, I'd like to be running out there a little more than I am. But right now, this is what I'm doing. I need to be good at it and accepting of it, and hopefully an opportunity will open up down the road for me to get more at-bats."

Trembley said he'd like to play Payton more often, "but I can only put nine guys out there. There's not room for 10. I just try to tell him to be patient, hang in there with me, the contributions that you can make are appreciated and have been very helpful to the club," Trembley said.

Pause that refreshes

Trying to keep his veterans fresh without much assistance from a short bench, Trembley had second baseman Brian Roberts back off his usual batting practice routine. Roberts hit earlier in the day and watched video with hitting coach Terry Crowley before returning to the clubhouse.

"My plan is to maybe pick my spots with some of those guys as far as the length of time I keep them on the field," Trembley said. "I don't think it's so much of a consideration now, but it would be, especially on the road and if you're playing consecutive games and day games after night games."

Trembley said he'll stay with 13 pitchers until his starters are stretched out and can routinely go deep into games.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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