LAS VEGAS - Former Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez knew he would eventually be replaced by prospect Matt Wieters. He just didn't expect it to happen this soon.
"I know they like that kid Wieters, and I know they want to make a role for him, but I was surprised because it was that quick," said Hernandez, whom the Orioles traded to the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday for outfielder-utility man Ryan Freel and two prospects. "But it's good to make that move now rather than in the middle of the season. It's part of the game. I really had a good time in Baltimore. I played my hardest. I gave it my best when I was there. I guess that's just the way baseball is. You're here one day, and the next day you are in another place."
Hernandez thanked the Orioles organization and said he had no regrets about his three seasons in Baltimore. He did, however, acknowledge that it's nice to get a fresh start with a new team. Hernandez's defense, effort and conditioning had been sharply criticized during his final two seasons with the Orioles.
"If it's the blame I'm getting, I got to take it," Hernandez said, maintaining he felt no bitterness. "If the blame is on me, I can take the blame. But I was trying my hardest. If it didn't work out, at least I was going to try my hardest."
While the Orioles are still in the running for free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, they have dropped out of their pursuit of free-agent pitcher A.J. Burnett. The Orioles were reluctant to offer Burnett more than three guaranteed years, while the Monkton resident and potential former Toronto Blue Jay reportedly has a couple of five-year offers on the table.
Also on the pitching front, the Orioles had more meetings yesterday with the agents of Japanese pitchers Kenshin Kawakami and Koji Uehara. The Orioles have also met with the representatives for free-agent pitchers Paul Byrd and Braden Looper, though president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail acknowledged it's extremely unlikely that the club will add a pitcher before today's end of the winter meetings.
"The first one [who] moves to us, we'll move to them," MacPhail said.
Aubrey Huff was named the winner of the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award yesterday, becoming just the second Oriole to capture the award in its 35-year history. Tommy Davis garnered the honor in 1974.
Huff, who batted .303 with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs in 98 games as a designated hitter, beat out Jim Thome and Milton Bradley for the award, which was renamed for the Seattle Mariners' longtime DH in 2004.
Huff also won his first Silver Slugger award this offseason.
Around the horn
Free-agent shortstop Cesar Izturis, who agreed to a two-year, $6 million deal with the Orioles, will take his physical next week, which will finalize the deal. ... With no catcher on their 40-man roster, the Orioles have had trade discussions with the Florida Marlins about Matt Treanor and also have interest in free agents Gregg Zaun and Henry Blanco. MacPhail said the club could add two more catchers. ... MacPhail met yesterday with agent Mark Pieper to discuss a potential contract extension for second baseman Brian Roberts. ... The Orioles still haven't decided whether they'll make a selection in this morning's Rule 5 draft, though it's probably unlikely.