R. Hernandez will hit, Trembley says

The Baltimore Sun

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dave Trembley predicted early in spring training that catcher Ramon Hernandez would enjoy a bounce-back season, and nothing that has happened this season has changed the Orioles manager's mind.

Hernandez is hitting .143 (4-for-28) with one home run and four RBIs. He did drive in the Orioles' lone run with a single in a 3-1 loss to the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of yesterday's doubleheader. That broke an 0-for-13 slump. Entering the game, all three of Hernandez's hits came in last Friday's victory over the Seattle Mariners.

"I don't think he's pressing," Trembley said before Game 1. "Ramon's a guy that needs to stay on the program. He benefits with early work with [hitting coach Terry Crowley], and he benefits from staying on the program and all the drills Crow has him do in the cage. ... We weren't able to do it [on Tuesday]. It was a travel day and Opening Day here, so our schedule was different. I think when you see Ramon get in that routine of his early work with Crow, I think he'll be better."

Hernandez, who was only used as a pinch hitter in the nightcap, reported to spring training healthy and in good shape after struggling with injuries last season. He batted .258 last year with nine home runs and 62 RBIs. His offensive struggles carried over to spring training, during which he batted .229.

"When you're pressing a little bit, I think you have a tendency to open up the strike zone," Trembley said. "I'm confident Ramon will have a big year because he's healthy. His attitude is very positive."

Roberts sits one out

Trembley held All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts out of the starting lineup in Game 1 yesterday, prompting two players to be thrust into roles that they weren't used to.

Scott Moore made the first start of his career at second base, and center fielder Adam Jones, who hadn't batted anywhere but in the eighth spot this year, hit leadoff in place of Roberts.

"The first at-bat is for the team. You try to see as many pitches as you can. But after that, I'm a regular hitter," said Jones, who flied out to lead off the game on the fifth pitch he saw from Kevin Millwood but finished the game 2-for-3, collecting two of the Orioles' three hits. "I don't care where I'm at in the lineup as long as I'm in the lineup."

Trembley said he was looking forward to seeing how Jones would react.

"I think it's a good opportunity for him," Trembley said. "It gives me something to look back on later on in the season, because Roberts isn't going to play 162 games. Obviously, there's going to be somebody else to lead off. I want to see how Jones handles it."

The same held true for Moore, who started working at second base this spring in an effort to improve his versatility for the club. Moore fielded two ground balls cleanly but was unable to come up with Michael Young's hard grounder in the third inning.

"I can't say I'm worried, but I think the biggest change is definitely being on the opposite side of the double play," said Moore, who is a third baseman by trade. "That's what I've concentrated on most, turning the double plays and making sure I'm in the right spot on relays."

On the farm

Switch-hitting shortstop Alex Cintron, whom the Orioles signed to a minor league deal Opening Day, continues to take batting practice with Triple-A Norfolk, but the Orioles are expected to wait a few more days before activating him. The cold, rainy conditions have limited Cintron's outdoor workouts since being signed.

"He's getting close to being ready, but he's not ready yet," said Dave Stockstill, director of minor league operations. "He had been off for about 10 days, and we wanted to make sure he was ready."

Third baseman Billy Rowell still hasn't played for Single-A Frederick since turning his ankle while running to first base in the Keys' opener last Friday. Rowell hasn't been placed on the disabled list, but Stockstill conceded Wednesday that the former first-round draft pick might need three or four more days.


Sun reporter Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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