Notes: Hernandez returns to lineup
Catcher, manager Trembley discuss veteran's role with club
ARLINGTON -- Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez returned to the starting lineup on Saturday after a two-day absence and a private meeting with manager Dave Trembley to discuss some outstanding issues. Hernandez viewed the two days on the bench as an evaluation period for some role players, while Trembley hinted that there was more beneath the surface.
"He looked tired to me," said Trembley, who has gone 35-48 since taking over for Sam Perlozzo in mid-June. "It looked to me that he needed a break and to kind of step back somewhat. I think we had to share some things. I like Ramon. I think we'll get it all straightened out. Obviously, there are some things that he could do better or be better about."
Hernandez has come under fire from several analysts for a perceived lack of effort in recent days, but Trembley refused to come out and say if that was the reason for the temporary seat on the bench. He just said that Hernandez came to him wondering why he'd been left out of the lineup and that they had a productive conversation to hash things out.
"I'm very interested to see how Ramon plays tonight. I'm confident that he will play with some enthusiasm and hustle and give us a good game," Trembley said of the discussion between the two. "Ramon is going to finish the year off strong and go home this winter and get in great shape. And he's going to come next year and have a banner season."
Hernandez, who has two years and an option remaining on a lucrative contract he signed before the 2006 season, has struggled with his health and an inconsistent batting stroke. The backstop spent two stints on the disabled list -- one for a strained left oblique and one for a bruised groin -- and has rarely been at the top of his game this season.
Still, the veteran said he didn't think the benching was based on performance or disciplinary measures. Hernandez said he thought that Trembley wanted to look at reserves J.R. House -- who will start again on Sunday -- and Gustavo Molina.
"If you want to watch some players, it might as well be close games so you can see what they can do," he said of the last few days. "That's the best thing that can happen. I'd like to play, but I told him I'd be ready to go pinch-hit or to catch in the ninth. ... Sometimes, you've got to understand what he wants to do. We're not going anywhere."
Hernandez said that his current struggles pale in comparison to those he experienced in 2002, a season that taught him mental toughness. He also said he plans on skipping Winter League this year so he can get in better shape.
Later in the day, when speaking generally about hustle and lack thereof, Trembley displayed some strong sentiments. Sometimes, he said, the only way to get a player's attention is by taking away his playing time.
"We don't need any attention drawn to ourselves by anything negative," he said. "If we're going to get the attention coming down the last few games, it should be by playing hard and doing things right and being professional, being a big-leaguer. When guys aren't that, I don't care if they've played three days or three months or 15 years. I'm going to tell them. I think these guys are aware of that. There's only so much you can do besides talk. I think you just have to not play people."
Second look: Danys Baez hasn't rejoined the Orioles, but he has shared his latest medical update with Trembley. Baez, whose elbow injury forced him to the sidelines, got a second opinion from renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Friday. The doctor's ultimate diagnosis is unknown, but Baez laid it out in general terms for Trembley.
"He said that he has a decision that he said he will be making in the next few days -- whether he's going to opt for Tommy John surgery or whether he's going to opt to rehab it," Trembley said. "He told me that he'd like to talk to Richie Bancells, our head trainer, and then he would make a decision."
If Baez elects to have reconstructive surgery, he'd likely miss most or all of the 2008 season. Baltimore closer Chris Ray already had a similar operation and is hoping to come back by next August or September at the earliest. If Baez decided to try rehabilitation and it didn't work, he would still have the option of undergoing surgery as a last resort.
Almost back: Jeremy Guthrie went through an extended bullpen session Saturday and could be ready to start again as soon as Wednesday. The right-hander has been sidelined by a strained left oblique for the last two weeks and hasn't started since September 9, but both Trembley and the pitcher said they believed he'd toe the mound next week.
"I feel good," said Guthrie. "I'm ready to go."
"I think he'll be all right," added Trembley. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow before making a final decision."
Quotable: "It hurts when I don't see [hustle]. It hurts me just as the Average Joe on the street who loves the game. It's not what I expect from my players as a Major League manager and as somebody who is trying to re-establish the tradition and the history of the Baltimore Orioles. It's certainly not something I'm going to accept from anyone, let alone someone who has much more to give." -- Trembley commenting further on the place of hustle in today's game
Coming up: The Orioles and Rangers will play their series finale on Sunday, and Jon Leicester will be matched up against Kevin Millwood. Leicester has won two of his three starts since moving into the rotation.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.