Ty Wigginton embraced a pair of firsts on Thursday, when he played shortstop for the first time in his career and delivered Baltimore’s first pinch-hit of the season.
Wigginton hit for Robert Andino in the sixth inning and delivered a two-run double, breaking an 0-for-16 pinch-hit streak for the team. Wigginton took Andino’s spot on defense and made a charging play in which he threw out speedster Brett Gardner in the sixth.
Baltimore’s starting shortstop, Cesar Izturis, is still bothered by a strained left groin. That left Andino — and then Wigginton — as the team’s only choices to man the position.
Baltimore’s bench depth was sorely tested on Sunday, when center fielder Adam Jones left the game early with a tight right hamstring and the Orioles needed pinch-hitters in the ninth. Manager Dave Trembley was prepared to use his final two players as pinch-hitters — catcher Gregg Zaun and shortstop Cesar Izturis — but Zaun struck out to end the game.
Izturis, who was getting a day off, ended the game in the on-deck circle, and Trembley said he doesn’t mind using all his players.
“You’re going to do what you’ve got to do to try and win the game,” he said. “I really didn’t think twice about what the alternatives were. I thought we had our guys lined up. If we get a hit there, we’re talking about winning the game, not losing it. The short bench doesn’t bother me. You win the games because your pitching gives you the opportunity to be in position to win. You don’t win the games because of extra guys that are on your bench.”
Baltimore’s bench may be even thinner on Monday, because Jones isn’t expected to be healthy enough to play. That would leave Chad Moeller as the backup catcher and Robert Andino as the backup infielder, severely limiting Trembley’s in-game options.
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley got a subtle dig in at the working media Sunday, when he was discussing the play of shortstop Robert Andino. Trembley said that he’d only started Andino in one Spring Training game and that he wasn’t sure what to expect of him.
And when speaking of his scouting report, Trembley found a way to twist the knife, saying that he believes what he sees with his own eyes more than what he reads.
“I don’t believe everything I read,” he said with a chuckle. “That’s probably rather apropos for this group right here.”
The starter who shall not be named — Adam Eaton, for the uninitiated — will probably be cleared into an active roster spot by the end of the night. Eaton, who has been training with the Orioles despite not officially being on the roster, will be activated after Saturday night’s game and will start Sunday. And at that point, the Orioles will have to decide whether they’re more comfortable with an extra reliever or an extra position player.
The players most affected by that move will be shortstop Robert Andino and relievers Brian Bass and Matt Albers. Andino is the team’s only reserve capable of backing up Cesar Izturis, while Bass and Albers give the Orioles an eighth reliever and cover for their starters going short in games. Whatever the decision is, it probably won’t be permanent.
The Orioles made one final roster move in preparation for the regular season on Sunday, when they officially added Chad Moeller to the active roster. Moeller will serve as a backup catcher to Gregg Zaun until the Orioles decide to promote top prospect Matt Wieters.
Baltimore will also have to make a roster move soon after the season begins. The Orioles are beginning the year without fifth starter Adam Eaton and will have to make a move to add him. Eaton’s turn doesn’t come up until April 11 or April 12, giving the team a week to decide.
In essence, the decision hinges on whether the team wants to carry 13 position players or 13 pitchers. If the Orioles want to keep an extra reliever, shortstop Robert Andino will be the likely cut. If they want to keep the player, Brian Bass or Matt Albers would be in jeopardy.
The Orioles and Marlins may be using the last Spring Training game at Fort Lauderdale Stadium as the backdrop for an intriguing trade. Rumors persist in and around the press box that Baltimore will deal Hayden Penn to Florida after the game for shortstop Robert Andino. Both Penn and Andino are out of options and redundant on their current teams.
Penn, who allowed six earned runs in his most recent start, was ruled out of the rotation picture and would’ve faced an uphill battle to make the club as a reliever. Andino, meanwhile, would provide some depth behind free agent acquisition Cesar Izturis. If the trade goes through, it would seem to clinch that the Orioles will begin the year with 12 pitchers.