L. Hernandez waits for his turn in lineup

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

May 28, 2008|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun reporter

Once the starting shortstop for the Orioles, Luis Hernandez now sits on the bench and waits his turn, wondering when it will come again, hoping it eventually does.

Hernandez started 26 games at short and one at second, but he hasn't been in the lineup since May 11 - he played that day in place of an injured Brian Roberts - and has received only nine at-bats since Freddie Bynum was activated from the disabled list three days earlier. Bynum has taken over the shortstop job, and Alex Cintron's arrival from Triple-A Norfolk further cuts into Hernandez's opportunities.

"It's tough for me because I feel fine," he said. "I've always started in my career. Sometimes I get down a little bit because I don't get a chance, but I'm still on the team and I can do something when I get to play. I've been working hard every day, and I know I'm ready. I feel like I'm a major league baseball player and I can play every day again."

Said manager Dave Trembley: "His job now is to stay ready when he's called upon. You're not going to play with 24 players, you play with 25. I'm sure he'll get opportunities, [but] he may not be starting as much as he was before.

"Quite honestly, Luis had his opportunities. Now I'm going to give it to someone else and see what he can do. That's honest. That's not disrespectful to Luis Hernandez. That's just the way the game is. Sometimes, it becomes someone else's turn."

Hernandez has evolved into the 25th man on the roster, but Trembley believes he still fills a role.

"There's a need to have utility players and extra players," Trembley said. "He can play second and short, he's a switch-hitter, he can pinch run. When I need somebody to bunt, I can put him up there. But as long as Roberts is healthy and doesn't need a day off, I won't give it to him. Cintron is a guy that has a lot more experience in the big leagues, and I need to give him opportunities to play out there."

Hernandez almost lost the shortstop job in spring training after becoming unsteady defensively, and when plays weren't being made during the season's first month - not always reflected in the box score - Trembley made a change.

"I'll just wait for my chance," said Hernandez, who is batting .241 with three RBIs in 79 at-bats. "I feel like I can play every day wherever I go. When I have a chance here, I put in 100 percent."

Steal signs

Catchers Ramon Hernandez and Guillermo Quiroz were on the field before batting practice yesterday, going through some drills designed to improve the Orioles' success rate against runners trying to steal. Opponents were 9-for-10 in the past six games before last night, including five games that Hernandez started.

"Ramon's accuracy has not been as good as we wanted it to be," Trembley said. "One throw he made in Tampa was very good, and he got the guy [Carl Crawford]. He's just a little long with his release, and when you're long, you're high, and that's what his throws have been."

The catchers don't shoulder all the blame. Trembley implemented a drill for pitchers in spring training designed for them to improve holding runners, but the results have been mixed.

Around the horn

Roberts is fourth in All-Star voting for American League second baseman with 113,774 votes. Boston's Dustin Pedroia is first with 384,648. Roberts is the only Oriole to rank in the top five at any position. ... Double-A Bowie outfielder Luis Montanez was named the Eastern League's Player of the Week after batting .565 with three doubles, one triple, three homers, eight RBIs, seven walks and 11 runs scored.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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