Farewell to arm

The Baltimore Sun

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -With Wednesday's trade of Hayden Penn to the Florida Marlins, the Orioles not only parted ways with their one-time top pitching prospect, but they also further solidified their Opening Day roster.

In exchange for Penn, who was out of options and opportunity, the Orioles acquired slick-fielding infielder Robert Andino, who will make the team as a backup shortstop. Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail confirmed the trade means the team will go with 13 position players and only 12 pitchers.

It also means veteran infielder Chris Gomez will be given his outright release after it became clear he wasn't going to make the Opening Day roster and he had no interest in playing at Triple-A. Nonroster infielder Jolbert Cabrera likely will accept the Triple-A assignment.

"I had been leaning toward 13 [pitchers], but if I had the opportunity to get a 24-year-old bona fide shortstop that can play defense, it was really something I can't pass up," MacPhail said. "As the season progresses, you don't know what twists and turns are going to take place. But we clearly are going to start with 12 pitchers and 13 position players as a consequence of this trade."

Four days before Opening Day, the battle for the backup catcher job between Robby Hammock and Chad Moeller and the final spot on the pitching staff are the only unresolved questions. The Orioles will have to make one more pitching cut, with Adam Eaton and Brian Bass among the names likely in discussion.

Penn, a right-hander, 24, who made his major league debut in 2005 as a 20-year-old, wasn't going to make the Orioles' roster. He was out of options, and the Orioles didn't think they could sneak him through waivers, facilitating the need for a trade. They gave him an opportunity to make the team out of camp, but Penn went 0-3 with a 10.06 ERA this spring, allowing 27 hits and walking six in 17 innings.

That meant the end of a once-promising Orioles career for Penn, who struggled with injuries, illness and consistency during his time with the club. He went 3-6 with a 9.31 ERA in 14 career major league starts, which he made in 2005 and 2006.

"Someone wants me. I'm excited to go over there and pitch," Penn said. "I've had a good time here [and] made a lot of good friends here over the years, but I look forward to a new start there. Hopefully I get that opportunity and pitch well."

Andino has batted .201 (29-for-144) with two home runs and 12 RBIs in limited action over the past four seasons with the Marlins. He was drafted in the second round in 2002 and touted as the Marlins' future shortstop, but Florida acquired Hanley Ramirez in a trade with the Boston Red Sox in 2005, moving Andino down the organizational depth chart.

Andino is a .258 hitter with 42 homers and 263 RBIs over parts of seven minor league seasons in Florida's organization, but his biggest strength is his defense at shortstop. Andino, who was with the Marlins on their trip Wednesday to play the Orioles at Fort Lauderdale Stadium and needed only to switch clubhouses, will join the club Thursday in Port St. Lucie for its final Grapefruit League game.

"We felt like he really solved an issue for us in terms of the final composition of our team," MacPhail said. "He's going to get more opportunity to play now because he's not behind Hanley Ramirez. I'm sure we're going to get an opportunity to see him more, move him around. But the attribute that was attractive to us was the defensive ability to play up the middle."

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said Andino is solid insurance for shortstop Cesar Izturis, who has dealt with injuries in his career, and second baseman Brian Roberts. Trembley acknowledged that it was difficult to tell Gomez he isn't going to make the club.

Gomez said yesterday in a phone interview that he's going to wait for a couple of days to see whether there are other major league opportunities out there, and if there aren't, he would have no problem ending his long major league career.

"I knew the day was going to come sooner or later," he said. "When I was a little kid, my goal was to play in the big leagues. I never was thinking about how long or whatever. I played in the big leagues for 15 years. Not too many guys can say that. I feel like it's a great accomplishment, and I think I did it the right way."

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