KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Orioles infield and bench coach Willie Randolph started watching Robert Andino during spring training, he was immediately impressed by the flair with which the shortstop played the position, his all-around defensive skills and his speed and athleticism. Then Randolph noticed what he called the "rough edges."
"He's a young colt in a way. He's got some wild stuff about him, but I think once he exhales and settles down, he'll be the kind of player that he can be," said Randolph, a six-time All-Star second baseman, former manager of the New York Mets and bench coach of the Milwaukee Brewers the past two seasons.
"He's very talented, and his skill set is very good. I just hope that, eventually, he'll understand that you have to have a certain rhythm to the game. Robbie's rhythm is always fast. I'm trying to get him to understand — like what I did with [Brewers second baseman] Rickie Weeks the last couple of years — that you have to have a clock about you. You have to know when to rev it up or reel it back at times. Robbie needs to feel that consistently, but I'll tell you what, he's going to be a nice player. I like his attitude. I see him as a guy that can help this club and stay strong in his mindset of being an everyday player."
Andino, 27, whose time in the big leagues has been marred by spotty playing time and questions about his attitude, has thrived with J.J. Hardy on the disabled list, starting 16 of 21 games in his absence, hitting .314 entering Tuesday and providing a steady and occasionally spectacular glove at shortstop.
His play has justified the faith of manager Buck Showalter, who pushed for Andino to get a call-up last September for evaluation purposes, and of Randolph, who challenged the enigmatic shortstop this spring as he was battling with infielders Brendan Harris and Nick Green to make the Opening Day roster.
"I'm proud of him," Randolph said. "I challenged him to do his job and just clean up the rough edges. Just try to make sure the way you carry yourself, the way you watch the game, you do it intently. It's not just a physical game. It's a cerebral game. I wanted him to understand that you have to incorporate that part of the game into what you do because you have talent. There are a lot of guys that have talent, but … you have to be into the game always, and I'm not sure this spring if he was always all there with that."
Randolph said he has had to stay on Andino to make sure he is working on certain things and remaining focused but it has been hard to find much fault with anything the shortstop has done. In the four-game series with the Chicago White Sox that ended Monday, Andino went 5-for-13 with a solo homer, three walks and four runs. He also made a couple of highlight-reel defensive plays.
"I like it when guys step up to the plate," Randolph said. "He's responded really well. He's been a savior for us so far. … I think he has the skills to be an everyday player. Sometimes when you are young, you get typecast in a certain role. I think when you look at other shortstops around the league, he can do things that they can do. He just needs to play, that's all."
Roberts out, Markakis in
Leadoff man Brian Roberts didn't start his first game of the season after having a root canal in the morning. Roberts has been in pain since Sunday, but it became worse during the team's charter flight here late Monday night.
Roberts said he hasn't been able to sleep or eat much for a couple of days, and he was taking painkillers and antibiotics so it was doubtful he would be available in any capacity Tuesday night. However, the second baseman was hoping to return to the lineup Wednesday.
Meanwhile, right fielder Nick Markakis did play after banging up his right knee and getting hit in the right hand by a pitch Monday.
"It's nothing that's going to keep me out of the lineup," Markakis said. "It's just soreness. It's nothing that I haven't played through before."
Hardy could begin rehab Friday
If things keep progressing over the next couple of days, Hardy (strained left oblique) will start a rehabilitation assignment Friday at Triple-A Norfolk or Single-A Frederick. Both those affiliates are home through the weekend. Showalter said the length of Hardy's rehab assignment will depend on how he's feeling.
"We're going to lean a lot on his feedback about where he thinks he is, but it wouldn't be one [game], I could tell you that, and it wouldn't be two, necessarily," Showalter said. "If I know J.J., I expect him to play a couple of games and declare himself wanting to come."
Left-hander Brian Matusz (strained left intercostal muscle) will throw a 30-pitch bullpen session and then a 20-pitch live batting practice round Wednesday. Right-hander Justin Duchscherer (left hip strain) threw a 30-pitch live batting practice session Tuesday and felt no pain.
Around the horn
Cesar Izturis made his first start at second base with Roberts out. … The Orioles are still discussing the possibility of signing veteran starter Kevin Millwood, who became a free agent Sunday after he opted out of his minor league deal with the New York Yankees, but there is nothing imminent. … The Orioles' player development department named Single-A Delmarva shortstop Manny Machado and Double-A Bowie pitcher Wynn Pelzer the organizational Player and Pitcher of the Month, respectively. Machado batted .338 with four homers and 19 RBIs, while Pelzer went 1-1 with a 0.95 ERA in five outings spanning 19 innings. … Delmarva lost, 11-0, to Charleston, ending its 11-game winning streak.