Olivia Witherite: Andino is more than a utility guy

I'm glad to see Robert Andino at second base.

Flash back a year, and I can assure you that the previous sentence would never come out of my mouth. But with injuries and gaps in the roster, the utility infielder has been upgraded to an everyday role.

So what can we expect from the almost-28-year-old this year?

This 2012 season is Andino's to seize. With the chance to finally play pretty much every day, Andino has the chance to show what he can do not only at second base, but also at the plate. A lifetime .246 hitter, Andino has the ability to slash out base hits and has speed on the basepaths. Although he may be best remembered for the last game of the 2011 season, it was just one of the 139 in which he played last year, the most by far in which he has appeared in a season.

He stole 13 bases last season and has found himself mostly in the No. 9 slot this 2012 season. However, he is not the stereotypical No. 9 batter; he was not necessarily put at the bottom because he is the weakest hitter, but because he is an average hitter who has the ability to turn over a lineup.

With more experience and plate appearances, Andino has the opportunity to really up his batting average. This average will come with taking more pitches and generally just being more patient at the plate. Last season, only 3.2 percent of his plate appearances ended with a walk, while 29 percent ended with a strikeout (83 total strikeouts on the season.)

Secondly, he will need to continue taking off on the bases. While he has yet to steal a base this season, Andino has the speed to steal bases and to keep pitchers distracted while the leadoff batter is at the plate.

So while he has the opportunity to step up offensively, he will also be expected to improve defensively, especially since he is filling the spot of Brian Roberts.

Roberts has a career .987 fielding percentage, while Andino's numbers are slightly lower, a .978 fielding percentage. However, at second base, 93 percent of the balls that Roberts fielded resulted in outs, while Andino sits at 96 percent.

Even though it may take a lot more than that number for Baltimore to accept Andino as the everyday second baseman, he has much to offer the team (including something Roberts never had: the ability to bunt.)

The point is while Andino may not compare to Roberts in style of play or in various numbers, Andino has worked himself from the utility guy to an everyday role. He has the tools to perform well this season and has the opportunity to do so, given that he sort of fell into the role.

So maybe my earlier question isn't the correct question. Maybe it's not what he has to offer or what fans can expect. He has a lot of potential.

Maybe it's simply a question of whether than potential will remain stagnant or if it will get the push it needs to move forward and thrive.

Olivia Witherite blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and her opinions appear here as part of MASN's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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