KANSAS CITY, MO. -- Orioles infielder-outfielder Freddie Bynum was recalled yesterday from his injury rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Bowie and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup for last night's game against the Kansas City Royals and beyond.
"Right now, Bynum is the starting shortstop on this team," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "What that means is he will be the regular guy that plays. Will he play 10 days in a row? No. But he'll be the regular shortstop until I decide that we've got somebody better or we make a change or I want to give somebody else a shot at it."
Bynum went 2-for-4 with a run scored last night in the Orioles' 4-1 win.
Anointing Bynum as shortstop means that the Opening Day starter, Luis Hernandez, who batted .243 with one extra-base hit in 70 at-bats while playing unsteady defense, is relegated to a utility role.
"To be honest with you, there's been a lot of plays I thought could have been made, should have been made and weren't made," Trembley said "So we've got to try something different."
Middle infielder Eider Torres, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on April 25 and had two hits in nine at-bats, was optioned back to Norfolk. Hernandez, 23, is out of options and would have been exposed to waivers before the team could demote him.
Bynum was competing with Hernandez and Brandon Fahey for the shortstop job this spring before he had arthroscopic surgery March 12 to repair a slight tear in the meniscus of his right knee. He had hoped to be back by mid-April.
"It's been a long journey, but I am finally back and everything is healthy," he said. "I'm feeling great, and I'll do whatever I can to help."
Bynum, who learned of the promotion Wednesday and was pulled in the first inning of a Baysox game, said the knee is back to normal.
"I can do anything and everything you want to do on a baseball field," Bynum said. "If you want me to run the catcher over, I can run him over. If you want me to drop-kick somebody, I'll drop-kick them. I am ready. I am ready to play ball."
Last year the versatile Bynum played 29 games in the outfield, 15 games at shortstop and four at second base. He had never played shortstop in the majors before last season. In 70 games with the Orioles, he hit .260 with two homers and 11 RBIs.
"I am just going to try and go out there and do my best and hopefully I can remain at shortstop, but if anything else happens it happens," Bynum said. "But I will go out there and perform to the best of my ability."
The last straw
Hernandez, considered a defensive specialist, has made only three errors in 130 fielding chances, but there have been several situations in which he should have made plays and was tentative.
Trembley said Hernandez's hesitation in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game against the Oakland Athletics was what prompted him to finally remove Hernandez as a starter.
With one out, the bases loaded and the Orioles clinging to a 5-4 lead, pinch hitter Frank Thomas hit a slow roller to the left side of the infield.
Hernandez, who had been playing deeper because he had been having trouble with in-between hops, didn't charge the ball. What should have been an inning-ending double play turned into a fielder's choice at second. The tying run scored on the play, and the Orioles lost in 10 innings.
"That was the coup [de grace] for me," Trembley said. "I didn't have to see anymore at this point in time."
Cintron has decision to make
Veteran infielder Alex Cintron, whom the Orioles signed as a potential starting shortstop, can decide on May 15 to opt out of his minor league contract if he is not recalled to the majors, according to club president Andy MacPhail.
The clause is commonplace now for veterans like Cintron, who could decide to become a free agent if he feels he has a better opportunity with another organization. It's unclear whether Trembley's decision about Bynum will change Cintron's mind.
Cintron also could agree to stay with Norfolk, where he is hitting .302 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 15 games, and push back the opt-out date to another time, MacPhail said.