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You’ll hear a lot a at this camp about the Jason Bay-Casper Wells battle for the final outfield spot. But in reality, we wouldn’t even be having a battle had the Mariners not gone out and gotten Robert Andino to be their backup infielder. The Mariners acquired Andino via trade with the Baltimore Orioles, sending Trayvon Robinson over in return.
Robinson has already been designated for assignment, taken off the 40-man roster and been re-signed to a minor league contract by Baltimore after nobody claimed him.
Meanwhile, Andino remains an integral part of Seattle’s major league plans. You see, he’s the reason the team has chosen to go with only one backup infielder instead of the two they’d usually carry. And that call will enable the team to carry a fifth outfielder after the quartet of Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez. Hence, the battle between Wells and Bay.
Sound good? I mean, we may only be talking about the 24th and 25th spots here when we discuss backup infielders and fifth outfielders. But every job counts on a roster and a team that’s hit as poorly as the Mariners the past four years needs any fix they can get. And Andino should help add to the Mariners’ offense, both by his own numbers and the ability to allow the team to carry an extra outfielder.
The reason the Mariners can carry only Andino has to do largely with the fact that he’s a natural shortstop who, when healthy, can play the position multiple days in a row without hurting the team. He is also a guy who — up until last year — could actually hit a bit in the backup role. To get a guy who can be a regular shortstop, play the corners and actually hit somewhat like a regular when needed is not all that common. You’ve got backups who can play all kinds of positions for a day or two, maybe. Kyle Seager can fill in at shortstop for a few innings, or maybe a start once in a while. But not several games in a row. Not without stats dropping through the floor.
“Over the years, I’ve learned how to play third and second so I got comfortable with it,” Andino said. “But I’ve been playing shortstop my whole life, so it’s been comfortable for me. So, I’m comfortable at short, second and third. I don’t really have to worry about it.”
Mariners minor league infield coach Chris Woodward is here working with the team in spring training. Woodward played for a decade as both a starting and utility infielder at various positions around the infield — including shortstop — and agreed that a guy like Andino can be a valuable addition to any team.
“Usually, when you play shortstop you can play everywhere else,” Woodward said. “But it’s up to you to go out of your way to get some work in at the various positions, maybe go to the outfield and shag. But yeah, having a backup guy who can play shortstop every day and who can actually hit and do some things with the bat, that’s really important.”
And Andino can play more often than the backups the Mariners have used in their infield lately.
As recently as 2011, Andino actually got 511 plate appearances with the Orioles. He hit .263 with a .670 OPS while playing in 94 games at second base, 30 at shortstop, 22 at third and three in left field.More