Cintron appreciates start with Orioles
Veteran infielder in Baltimore's starting lineup for first time
BALTIMORE -- It's not a debut, season or otherwise, but Alex Cintron still may be nervous. The reserve infielder got his first chance to start for the Orioles on Saturday, when he became the fifth starting shortstop the team has tried this season. Cintron isn't taking his opportunity for granted, but he's trying hard not to make too much of the moment.
"I've been through this before, so I'm kind of excited to have my chance to play today," Cintron said before turning in a four-hit performance in the O's 6-5 victory vs. the Nationals. "Whatever it takes for me -- to play every day or be on the bench, I can be happy any way. If I'm coming off the bench, I'm doing my job, too."
Cintron has filled both roles in the past, starting and playing as a reserve for both the White Sox and the Diamondbacks. The switch-hitter had to prove himself all over again this winter, when talk of an old injury hurt his market value.
Cintron never really recovered from a late 2006 operation to remove bone chips from his right elbow, and several teams questioned his ability to play shortstop. The veteran said Saturday he finally feels completely healthy, and he said he never got to that point last season, because the White Sox wanted him to come back before he was ready.
The former 36th-round Draft pick wound up signing a Minor League contract with the Orioles and starting his season at Triple-A Norfolk, a temporary placement that allowed Baltimore's front-office staff to gauge his abilities.
"Last year, I couldn't say, 'I'm OK, I'm a hundred percent,'" said Cintron. "In the offseason, everyone wanted to know if I was healthy enough to play shortstop. So that's why I was happy to go down [to Norfolk] to show I was healthy. I played 16 games, played shortstop there, didn't make any errors. I was comfortable catching the ball, throwing the ball."
The Orioles have had a revolving door at shortstop, starting with Luis Hernandez and moving forward. Baltimore also has tried Brandon Fahey, Eider Torres and Freddie Bynum, and only the latter choice has gained any traction. Orioles manager Dave Trembley said Saturday that while the position isn't settled, Bynum has staked the strongest claim thus far.
"I told Bynum it was his job until he lost it," the manager said. "At this point and time, I don't think he's done anything to lose it."
Still, the point remains that Cintron is the only one of the group who has starting experience at the position. Trembley said that wouldn't hurt him, but he also said that it might not be a deciding point in his favor.
"I'm going to have to see him play first," Trembley said. "What you've done in the past may help you somewhat, but I've never seen him play, so we're going to have to give him an opportunity to show what he can do. Obviously, he has a track record with experience. He's played there before, but Bynum's done a nice job for us. He's done a very nice job."
Cintron, a career .277 hitter, is just happy to be back in the big leagues with a chance to prove himself. He knows he still has plenty of good baseball left in his tank.
"You're never going to be like you were before, but I'm good enough to make the plays," Cintron said. "I think it was good to go down there and play every day [in Norfolk] and show I was healthy. ... For my mindset, it was really good. I really appreciate that happening, for the Orioles to give me a chance to be part of the organization."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.