Orioles' Andino off to hot start this season

Infielder displaying productive bat to go with increased maturity

April 20, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

Heading into Wednesday night, Orioles reserve infielder Robert Andino had strung together three consecutive multi-hit games and reached base nine times in his past 10 plate appearances.

He went 0-for-3 Wednesday, but it's still a huge switch in fortune from last April, when Andino was stuck at Triple-A Norfolk, bitter that he was still part of the Orioles organization yet not in the majors.

"I'll let you guys say that," Andino said with a broad smile.

Andino, who will be 27 on Monday, has at times drifted through his baseball career, intermittently acting frustrated and indifferent, angering the decision-makers around him.

But Orioles manager Buck Showalter has been a fan of Andino's ability and athleticism since September, and kept him as a second utility infielder this April instead of risking losing him on waivers. The move has paid off so far, with Andino filling in admirably for injured starter J.J. Hardy.

"With Robert, no one has ever questioned his ability," Showalter said. "At 27 years old, hopefully, he has started to understand who he is and what he has to do. He's been impressive."

Andino, who is platooning with veteran Cesar Izturis, has seven hits, all singles, in his first 22 at-bats (.318 average) and a .400 on-base percentage through his first eight games. Both marks are tops on the team. He's trying to take his hot spell in stride, especially considering he started the season 0-for-11.

"I've been getting on base. Been getting lucky for a couple days," Andino said. "In baseball, you know you've got your ups and downs, and it seems like right now I am seeing the ball good at the plate, I guess. I've been trying to pick a fat pitch out and put a good swing on it, nothing big."

Showalter said he has seen an increase in maturity within Andino and hopes it continues.

"It is coming. It is coming. Little by little," Showalter said. "I have watched him a lot in the spring, and he's had one little spell in the spring where he didn't seem to be there for a couple days, but since then, he has brought what needs to be brought."

Andino is most concerned about making the most of his playing time.

"It's good to try and get the confidence of the whole team and the coaching staff; that would be a good thing," Andino said. "If someone is trusting you and what you can do, that's good."

Showalter praises Jones

Showalter was asked Wednesday about the way center fielder Adam Jones ignited a rally Tuesday night with his hustle in beating out a single in the second inning.

"I don't think anybody has played harder since Day One of spring training than Adam Jones," Showalter said.

Showalter made a point of singling out Jones' effort with two outs in the fifth Tuesday. Jones was on first base when Matt Wieters hit a full-count double to right field that smashed against the out-of-town scoreboard. Jones took off on the pitch, didn't slow down and scored from first.

"You'll see a lot of people, because they are running on the pitch, just casually start running to second base," Showalter said. "He took off like he was trying to steal second base. And he scored standing up. I cannot tell you how many people in the major leagues that do not score from first base on that ball as quick as it got off the wall. And he made it easily."

Matusz, other injury updates

Left-hander Brian Matusz, who has missed the start of the season with an intercostal muscle strain, threw off flat ground Wednesday in Sarasota, Fla., and will fly to Baltimore on Thursday. He is expected to throw Friday at Camden Yards from 120 feet. He'll take Saturday off, throw again Sunday from 120 feet and then will be re-evaluated, likely Monday.

Matusz will stay with the Orioles through the homestand, then the club will decide on one of three options: send him back to Sarasota for more rehabilitation, have him go with the club on its road trip so he can stay with the big league medical staff or send him on a rehab assignment to a minor league affiliate.

Sending him to the minors to pitch would be the best-case scenario and get Matusz closer to returning to the team. There is no timetable on his return.

"We hope it is the third one, but we'll see," Showalter said.

Showalter said he spoke to Hardy (oblique strain) Wednesday and said his injured shortstop is "doing good." He is in Sarasota working out with the medical staff there and has been able to complete most exercises without pain, though he still feels discomfort while "rotating the trunk" during one twisting exercise.

Once he can do that without lingering pain, he will begin baseball activities, which he hopes to start Saturday or Sunday.

Right-hander Justin Duchscherer (left hip, back) is continuing a throwing program in Sarasota but is not yet throwing from a mound.

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