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When manager Dave Trembley addresses the entire Orioles team for the first time next week, he'll make clear that there will be no excuses. The ultimate goal will remain the same, no matter who is on the roster, no matter how overmatched the Orioles figure to be on many nights during the 2008 season.

"I think that point needs to be emphasized and will be emphasized," Trembley said. "That's one of the things that everybody needs to realize. 'Don't underestimate yourself and don't sell yourself short.' These guys are major league players. We're not conceding anything to anybody."

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Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail made the point this offseason that the organization's focus is more on 2010 than 2008. To that end, he traded shortstop Miguel Tejada, the team's most accomplished offensive player, to the Houston Astros for five players, three of them young pitchers. He traded left-hander Erik Bedard, the team's best pitcher, to the Seattle Mariners for four pitchers and young center fielder Adam Jones, the centerpiece of the package.

Second baseman Brian Roberts, the team's only All-Star last year, could be next to go. Regardless, there's no more skepticism about whether the Orioles are serious about rebuilding. Now, it's up to the players to not dwell on it while maintaining a healthy outlook for the season. So far, their reaction - at least publicly - has been positive. Orioles pitchers and catchers will have their first workout at Fort Lauderdale Stadium in Florida tomorrow.

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"It's part of going through the process," said third-year right fielder Nick Markakis, who is at the forefront of the team's rebuilding plans. "If they think that's the way the direction is going, that's what we're going to have to deal with and move on."

Third baseman Melvin Mora is the longest-tenured member of the club and has been around for eight of the Orioles' 10 consecutive losing seasons. He acknowledged things needed to change, even if it means short-term hardship.

"I think Andy MacPhail is trying to do the best he can for this team," Mora said. "I know it's kind of hard, and I don't want to be in nobody's shoes. But ... we're going to jump in there and we're going to compete. These are young guys, but they're good players. I don't care what people say. 'We miss this guy, we miss that guy.' I don't care. We have to be who we are."

What most baseball pundits think the 2008 Orioles are is the last-place team in the American League East. The Tampa Bay Rays, who have finished in fifth place in nine of their 10 years of existence, are vastly improved and reaping the rewards of the type of youth movement the Orioles are undergoing.

Meanwhile, the Orioles have only three spots of their starting rotation (Jeremy Guthrie, Adam Loewen and Daniel Cabrera) accounted for and numerous vacancies in their bullpen. After trading Tejada, they lack a proven run producer behind Markakis and still haven't settled on an everyday shortstop.

"We need to take a look at a lot of different people in a lot of different situations and then put people in the right spots," Trembley said. "You have to get what you feel is the core of your team ready for the season. Spring training is a long time. Everybody will have their fair shot."

As of now, Luis Hernandez, claimed off waivers from the Atlanta Braves, is the front-runner to replace Tejada at shortstop. Hernandez, 23, impressed team officials with his glove in limited action last year and managed to hit .290 in 69 at-bats. However, he's only a .250 hitter in parts of six seasons in the minors, and there's concern he would be exposed offensively as an everyday player.

The only other options on the Orioles' roster are Freddie Bynum and Brandon Fahey, considered utility players. The Orioles will keep a close eye around the league to see whether other teams have a surplus of shortstops in case Hernandez falters. The Chicago White Sox's Juan Uribe and the Pittsburgh Pirates' Jack Wilson are options.

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"In the brief time [Hernandez] had the opportunity to be with us, he showed what he could do defensively and he did enough things with the bat to show that he could fit," Trembley said. "I don't want to say at this point in time that Luis Hernandez is the shortstop on Opening Day. That's not fair to the other guys. But I want him to be confident and to know that he's going to get an opportunity."

There also will be plenty of opportunities for Orioles pitchers. Trembley and new pitching coach Rick Kranitz will look at a slew of pitchers bidding for two rotation spots - recent free-agent addition Steve Trachsel is likely to fill one of them - and several bullpen openings.

Matt Albers, Brian Burres, Jon Leicester, Radhames Liz, Garrett Olson, Troy Patton and Hayden Penn are candidates for the rotation. Greg Aquino, Esteban Yan and Lance Cormier are among the veteran candidates for the bullpen. However, they will have competition from several youngsters, including Randor Bierd, Jim Hoey, Bob McCrory and Dennis Sarfate.

"Guys will tell you if they are ready or not," Trembley said. "We'll give everyone the best opportunity we possibly can for them to make the club. Somebody will emerge, somebody will show they're ready or show they're not. I have no problem being patient and letting people have an opportunity."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com


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