One of the lasting images from the 2011 season was provided last night by second baseman Robert Andino.
Not just his game-winning hit, but the way he bounded around the bases, took a flying chest-bump from Adam Jones and landed on his back. And the way he disappeared under a pile of jubilant teammates. And the way he strutted back to the dugout on his way to the clubhouse, waving that right arm in the air.
OK, that’s four lasting images.
I warned you about my math.
Andino almost didn’t stay in the organization. The Orioles designated him for assignment at the end of spring training 2010, and he fumed at his locker while waiting to meet with former manager Dave Trembley. Players tried to calm him down, suggesting that he not burn any bridges. The steam rising off his head would have been enough to ignite a flame.
Andino cleared waivers and accepted the outright assignment to Triple-A Norfolk. He didn’t resurface with the Orioles until they purchased his contract on Sept. 1, making 16 starts and batting .295 with two homers.
Manager Buck Showalter arrived a month ahead of Andino and could only judge him by the reports left on his desk. He valued the input of officials more familiar with the infielder, but he also needed to trust his eyes.
“Robert’s always had the skills,” Showalter said, dismissing the notion that Andino is the club’s most improved player this season. “I’ve got to tell you, it doesn’t surprise me. It’s always been there.
“The one thing people kept telling me last year when I got here was, ‘He’s really talented, but... He’s really talented, but... Really talented, but...’ I’ve got to tell you, I saw some of the guys we were calling up, and I went, ‘I’m not hearing that description and I’m not seeing that description. Can I at least look at this guy before we get into some negative feeding frenzy about some other things?’
“He’s matured a lot. He’s had his moments, but I think emotionally and mentally, he’s probably one of our most improved players. But physical talent-wise, I think he’s kind of got a feel for who he is.
“The other thing is, nothing better for a veteran player than when they like him and they know what he can bring. You identify what you like about him and see if he’ll bring it.”