Mailbag: Will Cintron take over at short?

Mailbag: Will Cintron take over at short?

What is the likelihood of Alex Cintron moving into the shortstop role if neither Brandon Fahey nor Luis Hernandez can help the O's defensively in the gap?
-- Dave T., Annapolis, Md.

The likelihood is extremely good, provided that Cintron starts hitting down at Triple-A Norfolk. Hernandez has struggled both offensively and defensively in the first few weeks, and Fahey seems best suited to reserve duty. Enter Cintron, who has played in the big leagues as both a starter and as a reserve over the last few seasons.

Cintron, a switch-hitter, was drafted and developed by the D-backs and spent the last two seasons with the White Sox. And while he'll never be confused with ex-Oriole Miguel Tejada, Cintron has an established track record. He's logged nearly 1,900 at-bats in the Major Leagues, registering a .277 career average and a .401 slugging percentage.

Both of those numbers are significantly better than anything Hernandez (.250, .325) or Fahey (.260, .334) has done in the Minor Leagues, let alone the Majors. Cintron could well stabilize the shortstop position in Baltimore, but first the Orioles want to give Hernandez and Fahey a chance to prove they can exceed expectations.

Another option could be utility man Freddie Bynum, who's currently playing through a rehab stint in the Minor Leagues. Bynum has never played a full-time role in the Majors but may have enough power to hold down a starting job. Bynum will likely be back by the middle of May, and Cintron will have had plenty of time to state his case by then.

If George Sherrill has a very good season as closer and Chris Ray and Danys Baez come back healthy, is there a possibility the Orioles would part ways with one of these pitchers through a trade?
-- Josh T., Dillsburg, Pa.

Sure there's a possibility, but there's an even better possibility that the Orioles would be thrilled to have three effective power relievers. Baez would be the arm they'd most like to trade, but his salary could make that a problem. Both Ray and Sherrill would have significant trade value, but they'd also have significant value to the Orioles moving forward.

Ray, Baltimore's erstwhile closer, is expected to return from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his pitching elbow as early as August. Baez had the same surgery, but probably won't return this season. Baltimore has high-octane arms in Bob McCrory and Jim Hoey at Triple-A Norfolk, but is reticent to force-feed them big league innings before they're ready.

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There's a school of thought that Sherrill may even make a good trade chip this summer, and Baltimore may well entertain offers for him if he continues to thrive throughout the first half. The Orioles would have to get a big offer for him, though, and would likely have to believe that either Hoey or McCrory is ready to step into the bullpen without a hitch.

Situational veterans Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker may also be dealt around the July 31 trade deadline, but until then, they're a valuable part of Baltimore's late-relief equation. The Orioles have mixed and matched around them, getting contributions from unheralded relievers like Dennis Sarfate, Jim Johnson, Randor Bierd and Matt Albers.

How soon will we see Jake Arrieta in a big league uniform?
-- Jacob C., Richmond, Va.

It's a little early to predict that, but Arrieta has thrived in his first taste of a full-season league. The right-hander is currently starting for Class A Frederick, and he's logged a 1-0 record and a 2.75 ERA in his first four starts. Arrieta has rung up more strikeouts (26) than he's allowed baserunners via hit (10) and walk (12) in his first few outings.

He's also held opponents to a .154 batting average, but his career is so young that he's completed six innings only once. Arrieta is a long way away from the Major Leagues and a long way from proving he's ready for a promotion to Double-A Bowie. That could come before the season's out, but the Orioles may elect to take it extra slow with Arrieta.

Fellow 2007 draftee Matt Wieters has been incredible at Frederick, batting .422 with four home runs in his first 15 games. The Orioles are also being conservative with his promotion schedule, but he should see a trip to Bowie before the year is out. Wieters may even be ready for the big leagues by 2009, but the Orioles won't rush him if he isn't.

What's Hayden Penn's status? Any chance he will pitching in the big leagues this season?
-- Tatum C., Lakeside, Md.

Penn's in the rotation at Triple-A Norfolk, and he's rebounded well after a difficult season debut. The right-hander has completed seven innings in each of his last two starts, notching a 1-1 record and a 4.88 ERA overall. Penn is just glad to be healthy after missing time in the last two seasons for an appendectomy and a case of bone spurs in his elbow.

Garrett Olson, meanwhile, has been solid in his second tour of duty at Norfolk. Olson, who finished third in the International League in ERA (3.16) last season, has pitched to a 1-1 record and a 1.61 ERA in his first four starts this season. Olson may be pitching himself into the team's plans as an early contingency plan if someone struggles or gets hurt.

The Orioles are also charting the progress of right-hander Radhames Liz, who has an electric fastball and huge potential as either a starter or reliever. Liz has struggled in his first three starts for Norfolk, running up an 0-2 record and a 7.98 ERA. Liz thrived at Double-A Bowie last year and just needs experience -- and innings -- at Norfolk this season.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.