When the Orioles traded catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Cincinnati Reds in December, it was viewed primarily as a way to clear room for top prospect Matt Wieters in the major leagues.
The Orioles received veteran utility player Ryan Freel and two minor leaguers in the deal, but none of the players were expected to make a substantial impact at the major league level.
Four months later, the expectations for the two minor leaguers – Triple-A Norfolk Tides second baseman Justin Turner and Single-A Frederick Keys first baseman Brandon Waring – have increased dramatically with their debuts in the organization.
Turner, a 24-year-old infielder, batted .295 (13-for-44) with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 23 games during spring training for the Orioles. His gritty performance in the Grapefruit League seemed to impress Orioles fans and provide hope for his eventual arrival at Camden Yards.
While Waring didn't participate in major league spring training with the Orioles, the 23-year-old infielder quickly found success with the Keys.In the four-game series against the Salem Red Sox to begin the season, Waring batted .375 (6-for-16) with three doubles, four runs scored and one RBI. Last night against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, he was 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.
Waring said he didn't expect to be traded from the Reds' minor league system, but the move will likely allow him to develop quicker.
"I really didn't know too much about it," he said at the Keys' media day last week at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick. "It's definitely a better opportunity for me to move up the ladder [with the Orioles]."
"The Reds were kind of loaded at the corner spots, so I'm excited about being here," he added.
Waring said the coaching staff in the Orioles' minor league system makes him happy for the opportunity to play in the organization.
"I'm definitely excited. All of these guys are good guys," he said. "[There are] good coaches over here with a lot of knowledge. I've learned some things already."
While his experience so far has been relatively positive, the Reds' seventh-round selection in the 2007 MLB draft admitted that he was worried about adjusting to a new organization before the season started.
"When I was leaving my house for spring training, I was excited, but nervous and anxious at the same time," he said. "Every organization is the same as far as how they run it, but it's just getting to know people and getting comfortable with everything going on."
Uniformity and concentration are the keys to success in professional baseball, and Waring mentioned he wanted to work on both skills during the 2009 season.
"I'm looking to improve on what I did last year [and] be more consistent," he said. "Come to the park everyday and be focused and ready to go.
Waring hit 20 home runs in each of his first two professional seasons, but he struck out 156 times in 119 games for the Single-A Dayton Dragons last year.
Although he struck out seven times in the first five games of the 2009 season, Waring offered this simple solution to the problem.
"Focus every pitch and every at-bat, and that's when good things happen," he concluded.
Despite the strikeouts, that advice seems to be working well for Waring with the Keys early in the 2009 season.