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Hernandez relegated to backup duties

Hernandez relegated to backup duties

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BALTIMORE -- Nobody said replacing Miguel Tejada would be easy, but nobody expected it to quite be this hard. Baltimore started the season with Luis Hernandez at shortstop and has since moved on to utilityman Freddie Bynum, and manager Dave Trembley said Tuesday that he'll stick with whomever gives him the best chance to win on any given day.

That's meant Bynum in recent days, and it's meant Alex Cintron when the Orioles need a change of pace. Hernandez, the consensus choice to replace Tejada in Spring Training, has been reduced to mop-up status on the end of the bench. Hernandez has had just five at-bats since Cintron joined the team, and Trembley said it's not a coincidence.

"Cintron is a guy who has a lot more experience in the big leagues," said Trembley of his reserve's chief selling point. "That's just the way the game is. Sometimes, it becomes someone else's turn."

Hernandez seemed to be the only candidate in Spring Training, and he backed into the job, despite a .178 batting average during the exhibition season. Baltimore initially tabbed Brandon Fahey as the chief infield backup, and Bynum spent most of the season's first month recovering from surgery on his right knee before reclaiming a spot on the team.

Bynum has started virtually every game for the last three weeks, establishing himself as the shortstop. Hernandez has started just one game in the last three weeks, and Trembley said that trend would likely continue.

"We've played 50 games," Trembley said. "For a while, Luis got his opportunity. I'm giving it to Bynum now."

Bynum hasn't exactly crushed the ball in his audition, batting .234 with a .319 slugging percentage in his first 15 games. Bynum has demonstrated an ability to play the position, though, and will likely hold on to his job for the foreseeable future. And if he doesn't, Trembley will probably go to Cintron before he revives the Hernandez experiment.

Trembley mentioned that Hernandez has looked comfortable in spot duty at second base, but he also noted that Brian Roberts would start there as often as possible. Hernandez may be temporarily blocked from any semblance of significant playing time, but Trembley knows he can use him as a pinch-runner or a late-inning defensive replacement.

"There's a need to have utility players and extra players," Trembley said, perhaps recalling Bynum's role last season. "There's a lot of games to play. I'm sure he'll get his opportunities. It might not be as much as he was starting before."

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

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