Their shortstop carousel continued yesterday as the Orioles designated for assignment slumping Freddie Bynum, who was anointed the starter at the position six weeks ago, and purchased the contract of right-handed pitcher Ryan Bukvich from Triple-A Norfolk. That returns the Orioles to a 13-man pitching staff and casts the shortstop position into further doubt.
Orioles manager Dave Trembley has started five players at the position this season, and Alex Cintron is the latest to be tabbed the everyday shortstop. But Trembley and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said yesterday that they are looking to upgrade at the position quickly.
"We're on an APB right now, trying to find a shortstop as a front office," MacPhail said. "We've sent the word out to our scouts. We're going to continue to evaluate our internal options and we're going to continue to look outside the organization as well to see if we can find something. We're not really satisfied with the productivity we've gotten out of that position to this point. We've got to keep working to try to make it better."
Bynum, who declined to comment after Trembley informed him of the news, was recalled May 8 after a rehabilitation assignment when he was returning from knee surgery. He was immediately named the starting shortstop, replacing Luis Hernandez, the Opening Day starter who hit .241 in 36 games and struggled defensively. Despite getting two hits in each of his first two starts, Bynum gave the Orioles little offensively, batting .192 with five RBIs in 99 at-bats.
In Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, Trembley pinch hit for Bynum in the fifth inning, the latest indication that the manager had lost confidence in the 28-year-old.
"We need something that it is a little bit better than what we had with all due respect," Trembley said. "I thought I was fair. It's just part of the game, it happens."
Orioles shortstops entered yesterday hitting .231 with one home run, 11 RBIs, 11 walks and a .270 on-base percentage. Asked how difficult it has been getting such little production out of the position, Trembley said: "Can you see the bags under my eyes? You give every opportunity for it to get better, but when it doesn't, you have to make a change."
For now, Cintron, who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles on Opening Day, is the beneficiary with Oscar Salazar serving as his backup. Cintron has been productive offensively, hitting .326 in 19 games; however, he has arm and range issues.
"Sometimes, it's a game of opportunity," Cintron said. "If you don't take the opportunity, somebody else will stick it out. I have the opportunity now. I've got to show I can do it."
Meanwhile, MacPhail will continue to scour the trade market, looking at both long and short-term solutions.
"I think whatever surplus the sport had got eaten alive by injuries to that position," he said. "So it's been a challenge."
Around the horn
Bukvich was 5-2 with a 3.45 ERA in 20 games (four starts) for Norfolk. His promotion means the Orioles have seven players on their 25-man roster who started the season at Norfolk. He allowed a run, two hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning in his Orioles debut yesterday. ... Trembley said he would stay with 13 pitchers at least through the road trip, saying Radhames Liz's two-plus inning start Friday was a "red flag." ... Reliever Jamie Walker made his 500th appearance and outfielder Nick Markakis drew a career-high four walks yesterday.