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R. Hernandez lightens up

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- Orioles manager Dave Trembley didn't have to wait for the team's first workout to get his first good piece of news this spring.

Catcher Ramon Hernandez reported to Fort Lauderdale Stadium yesterday, feeling healthy and looking in considerably better shape than last season.

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"Right now, it's unbelievable," Hernandez said when asked how he felt. "I really concentrated this offseason on working out.

"I've been taking my vitamins, and I need to help my body rebuild. You just have to keep working and hopefully you'll come in here and stay healthy."

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Hernandez hit .258 last year with nine home runs and 62 RBIs after a season in which he batted .275 to go along with 23 homers and 91 RBIs.

He was twice on the disabled list in 2007, leading to questions about his work ethic and conditioning.

He certainly heard the talk and dedicated himself this offseason to getting in better shape. He said he lost about 10 pounds but added considerable muscle.

"It's a new year, a new start," Hernandez said.

He also seemed ready to accept being a part of the Orioles' rebuilding process, saying he was glad he wasn't traded, although he was surprised to see ace Erik Bedard depart.

"You never know," he said. "Maybe the changes with these young kids might do the job. I was in Oakland and we were trying to rebuild and the team started winning.

"Young guys sometimes bring more energy. They come out and play hard. It could be a good thing."

O's eye Cintron

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Looking for greater competition at shortstop, the Orioles are in discussions with free agent Alex Cintron, who played the past two seasons with the Chicago White Sox.

Cintron, a 29-year-old switch-hitter, has a .277 career batting average over parts of seven major league seasons. He played in 68 games for the White Sox last season, hitting .243 with two home runs and 19 RBIs.

The Orioles, who traded Miguel Tejada this offseason, haven't settled on a starter at the position, with their three candidates -- Luis Hernandez, Brandon Fahey and Freddie Bynum -- never having been everyday players.

Hernandez is considered the front-runner for the job.

Taking it slow

Troy Patton, one of the centerpieces acquired from the Houston Astros in the Tejada deal, spent yesterday meeting his new teammates and trying to get acclimated.

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His left shoulder was the least of his worries. Patton was shut down by the Astros early last season for what he called "labrum issues."

"I talked to three doctors, and all of them said the same thing: 'Go out and throw with it,' " Patton said. "A lot of guys pitch with shoulders the way mine is. I've only been playing catch for two weeks, but it hasn't affected me yet."

Patton said he won't throw as "heavy" as other Orioles pitchers will from the start of spring training, but he expects to be ready when the games begin.

Around the horn

Outfielder Chris Roberson, who was designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk with an invitation to major league camp. ... The team agreed to one-year deals with pitcher Brian Burres and outfielder Adam Jones. ... Catcher Ryan Hubele, who was invited to camp as a nonroster player, has told team officials he will retire. ... Trembley said the club still needs to evaluate reliever Fernando Cabrera before knowing his availability. Cabrera had offseason surgery on his right elbow.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com


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