SARASOTA, Fla. — Robert Andino arrived at the Ed Smith Stadium complex Monday in a familiar position, his role with the Orioles dependent on the status of second baseman Brian Roberts.
In previous years, that might have been cause for some job insecurity, but Andino cemented a significant — if not certain — place in the infield with a very solid second half in 2011 and a dramatic final swing that knocked the Boston Red Sox out of the playoffs.
"I'm really proud of Robert,'' manager Buck Showalter said. "He did a lot of things we asked of him, and he got a lot of return and reward for it last year. He also got one in his pocketbook, which is good.
"From a baseball standpoint, he's a talented young man. I think the sky's the limit for him. You never know with the type of September he had and some of the venues and atmospheres that he did it in, what it's going to mean for his career. Not many people are going to walk on the field in the next couple months that have more pure ability than Robert does."
Andino said he's just fine with whatever develops over the next few months. He played in 139 games last year and got more than 500 plate appearances. If Roberts isn't able to complete his comeback from two concussions, Andino likely would play every day at second base. If Roberts comes back to play full-time, Andino will fill a super utility role and still play regularly — though not quite as regularly as last year.
"My focus is just to be ready,'' he said. "Whatever the boss says to do, I'm going to do. I'm just here trying to help the team win. So whatever I've got to do, that's what I'm going to do. I'm just here to get ready."
The message from Showalter, obviously, is to be ready for anything — even the odd game in the outfield.
"We'll wait and see how everything is going with Brian,'' Showalter said. "He'll initially get the bulk of his work at second and then we'll move him around. In a perfect world, we'd have Robby back and have him be a regular irregular. Robert has shown he can play a number of positions well."
Though Andino got some notoriety from his midnight magic in the regular season finale 4 ½ months ago, he said he didn't spend a lot of time reveling in his game-winning hit.
"I know my kids played it a few times, but after that, I haven't seen it in a while,'' he said. "I go back home, I get too caught up in the kids. I turn into daddy daycare when I get home. I don't have time for anything when I get home."
He does, however, remember it fondly and marvels at the way the final hours of the season unfolded in so many different stadiums — and tempered the disappointment of another losing season in Baltimore.
"It was written like that,'' he said. "That's how it was supposed to go down for us. That's how it goes, I guess."
Davis settles in
First baseman Chris Davis bounced back and forth between first and third base last year, but he opens training camp at the front of the line at first base. There are no guarantees — especially with the Orioless also auditioning veteran first baseman Nick Johnson — but Davis is happy just to be considered a candidate for a full-time job at the major league level.
For me it feels like the first time in a couple years that I'm going to actually be given a shot to play every day in the big leagues,'' he said. "The last couple of springs I knew I was going to have to come in and compete just for a chance to break with the team. It feels good to come in here be ready to play but there's not a lot of pressure to go out there and win a spot today. There's a little less weight on my shoulders this year."
Davis — who was acquired from Texas in July in the Koji Uehara trade — said he was not surprised that Showalter decided during the offseason to turn third base back over to Mark Reynolds.
"I knew it was up in the air,'' Davis said. "I talked to Buck at the end of the season about maybe going first to third, back and forth. And to have the ability to do that I think gives a lot of flexibility with the lineup. But he texted me somewhere in the middle of the offseason and basically told me that he wanted me at first and he wanted Mark at third."
Around the horn
Roberts worked out Sunday in the indoor batting cages. He has been soft-tossing and hitting off a tee. J.J. Hardytold MLB.com that Roberts also took some swings in the cage. ... Adam Jones, Johnson, LJ Hoes and Xavier Avery also reported to camp early to take physicals and begin workouts. Most of the position players have already reported, though the first official full-squad workout is Friday. ... Left-hander Zach Britton made 60 throws from 100 feet, including 15 out of his windup. He is scheduled to throw under similar conditions on Monday.
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