Cincinnati Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez was peering at the Orioles lineup card posted in the visiting clubhouse before Friday's series opener, and he was reminded of just how much things have changed since the last time that he played at Camden Yards.
"There's nobody left," Hernandez joked when asked if he still keeps in contact with his former Oriole teammates. "I don't know too many of these guys."
Hernandez played three seasons with the Orioles, the final one in 2008, after which he was traded to the Reds for utility man Ryan Freel and minor league infielders Brandon Waring and Justin Turner. There are just five current and active Orioles — outfielders Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Luke Scott; starter Jeremy Guthrie and reliever Jim Johnson — who were teammates of Hernandez on that 2008 team.
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Even though he didn't expect to see too many familiar faces, Hernandez, who is the midst of his third season with the reigning National League Central champions, said he was excited to return to Camden Yards and has fine memories of his years in Baltimore.
Hernandez, 35, posted a .264 batting average with 47 homers and 218 RBIs over 383 games with the Orioles. His best season was in 2006, his first with the club, as he hit .275 with 23 homers and 91 RBIs. But he knew it was inevitable that he would have to move on with young catcher Matt Wieters on the cusp of the big leagues.
"It was fun. We had a great group of guys, a great coaching staff, the fans were always very nice. I really enjoyed my time when I played here. It was really a good time and a good experience," Hernandez said. "When I got traded, [Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail] talked to me in the best way. I really appreciated the way that he handled it. You know, [Wieters] is a great player and he's young. I understand why they wanted to trade me. I was very happy with how they handled it and I got a lot of respect for him, and the whole organization."
Hernandez went 2-for-4 with a double and a walk in the Reds' 5-4 loss to the Orioles Friday. He's enjoying a bit of an offensive resurgence this year, batting .313 with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 44 games while sharing catching duties with Ryan Hanigan. Hernandez had just seven homers all of last year, and 12 the previous two seasons combined.
MacPhail, Showalter talk with season ticket holders
During the annual "State of the Orioles" event, held before tonight's game for season ticket holders, MacPhail and Orioles manager Buck Showalter were asked about sabermetrics, the status of injured second baseman Brian Roberts, the club's efforts in international scouting and the potential pursuit of free agent sluggers Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. The loudest applause, however, was generated when Showalter was asked a question that he has gotten often: "What do we have to do to beat the doggone Yankees?"
"I can't stand the Yankees, OK?," Showalter responded. "That stays between us right here. I don't really care if they know. I think they can figure it out.
"Fearful of them? Afraid to play them? I look at it as an opportunity. Once we get better, it's going to snowball and they are going to hate coming into this ballpark, believe me."
Another interesting part of the 30-minute session was when MacPhail was asked about his contract, which expires after this season.
"I have always taken the position, unlike one my good friends in the game Jim Riggleman, let's just see how we do," MacPhail said. "Let's get to the end of the year and see how we do and take it from there."
Team agrees with fourth rounder
The Orioles have agreed to terms with fourth-round pick Kyle Simon, a right-handed pitcher out of the University of Arizona. With him and 16th-rounder Mark Blackmar, a right-handed pitcher out of Temple Junior College (Tex.) now in the fold, the Orioles have reached agreement with 11 of their 50 selections, including five of their first 10 picks.
Simon, who was selected 125th overall, went 11-3 with a 2.72 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) for the Wildcats this past season. A 6-foot-5, 219-pound native of Los Alamitos, Calif., Simon pitched five complete games and allowed 114 hits and 11 walks while striking out 86 batters in 129 innings. Batters hit .235 against him.
The remaining unsigned top 10 selections are first-rounder Dylan Bundy, a prep pitcher from Oklahoma; second-rounder Jason Esposito, a third baseman out of Vanderbilt; sixth-rounder Nick Delmonico, a Tennessee prep third baseman; eight-rounder John Ruettiger, an Arizona State outfielder; and 10th-rounder Tyler Wilson, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Virginia.
Dusty: Don't count out Lee
When Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee had three hits on Friday, including the game-winning home run in the 12th inning, Reds manager Dusty Baker may have been one of the least surprised guys in the ballpark.
Baker managed Lee for three seasons with the Chicago Cubs, and he chuckled when he was asked about the first baseman's struggles at the plate this season.
"He always struggles early,'' Baker said. "He's a second-half player. I see he's heating up now. He's a long way from being through. It just takes awhile to adjust to the American League."
Around the horn
Starter Jake Arrieta (right elbow inflammation) will throw an extensive bullpen session Sunday, and if all goes well, he'll be in line to start Wednesday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals. … Robert Andino started at second base after Blake Davis made two consecutive starts at the position … Roberts, who got two wisdom teeth removed, had a good day, according to Showalter, getting through all his conditioning work with no issues today … Reliever Alfredo Simon (right hamstring strain) will throw one or two innings or no more than 40 pitches Sunday for Double-A Bowie … Former University of Maryland standout wide receiver and Ravens second-round draft pick Torrey Smith threw out the ceremonial first pitch before tonight's game.
Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Schmuck contributed to this article