Buck Showalter will spend the last six weeks of what has become a dismal season doing two things. For one, he'll try to avoid becoming the second Orioles team in franchise history to lose 100 games. The Birds will have to post a 16-22 record over their remaining 36 games in order to do that.
Two: Showalter will have to get a good read on what he has going into next season personnel wise. The Orioles are 29 1/2 games out of first place because there aren't enough good players on the roster. This offseason, the Birds will have to shed the dead weight and fill the holes.
While there is a laundry list of players to be evaluated like Ryan Adams, Blake Davis, Nolan Reimold and Josh Bell, it's safe to say one player on that list in years past has successfully played his way off it in 2011.
In his third year as an Oriole, Robert Andino is proving he's worthy of a roster spot coming into 2012.
Andino has worked hard to earn the trust of Showalter this year and he appears to be gaining it. What's different this year than his previous two years in Baltimore? I believe two things. The 27-year-old has had an extended opportunity to play everyday at second base with Brian Roberts missing time with concussion symptoms and former manager Dave Trembley was fired and Showalter was hired.
It was no secret Trembley did not like Andino. After playing 78 games with the Birds in 2009, Andino didn't make the team out of spring training in 2010 and didn't receive a call up until September when Showalter took over. Under Showalter, Andino has thrived -- perhaps because the skipper chose to give him a chance rather than believe the somewhat warranted, somewhat unfair reputation Andino has for having attitude problems.
Since coming to Baltimore, defense has been the slick fielding utility man's strength. The question always has been, can he hit?
This season, the answer seems to be yes, especially recently. On Monday, Andino extended his hitting streak to eight games. In that span he's hit .363 (12-33). More so, he's elevated his game in the second half of the season, hitting .282 versus .263 in the first half. Over the past month Andino is hitting .294 with seven doubles. Orioles hitting coach Jim Pressley says Andino is doing a good job of opening up and getting on top of the ball.
Andino has proven very valuable on the basepaths. He's worked on his bunting and has been called upon to lay down sacrifice bunts. On top of that, Andino is one of the few players on the team we consistently see go first to third on singles. On Monday against the Twins he went first to third on a Nolan Reimold single in the third inning. The next batter, Ryan Adams, drove Andino home with a single.
On a station-to-station team, Andino is showing he has the ability to steal. He has seven stolen bases this season which isn't much. However, five of the seven have come in the second half, so he's starting to run a little more.
Andino could be very valuable to the O's in 2012. Roberts still has two years left on his contract, but whether he'll be durable is to be determined. Because of Brian's hefty contract, the Orioles probably won't go out and get another second baseman this offseason. They'll have to give him a chance to get healthy and return. If Roberts is unable to play, you know Showalter will feel comfortable knowing he has a productive backup in Andino.
Even if second base is occupied by Roberts, Andino has proven he can play short stop, third and the outfield. The dynamic fielder should come into the 2012 season confident he is the frontrunner for a utility spot on the active roster. There's no question he's earned it.