The dream began for shortstop Robert Andino on August 4, 2002, as he signed with the Florida Marlins and kicked off his minor league career.  He was expected to be the future at the middle-infield position, his stellar defense and slap-hitting style carrying him to the pros.  This dream became a reality, as he reached the majors in 2005; however, the fantasy for the youngster was soon to be a nightmarish career.  On November 24, 2005, the Fish traded Josh Beckett, Mike Lowel, and Guillermo Mota to the Red Sox for up-and-coming star Hanley Ramirez.

Image Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun

Ramirez became the new cornerstone for the Marlins’ infield, slowly evolving into the stud he is today.  While his career was growing, Andino’s was standing still, waiting for the opportunity to be the starter to arise once again.  This chance never came.

“I wasn’t angry. I know this game is a business,” Andino said. “Hanley was a good friend of mine, and he was doing his thing. I just felt like they had their shortstop, so why don’t they let me go when I’m still 21, 22 years old? Everything happens for a reason, and most of the time we don’t know why.”

Andino needed anything to get his profession back on its feet.  For once, a shot came.  On April 1, 2009, he found himself being dealt to Baltimore for former top-pitching prospect Hayden Penn.  Instead of having to back up the best young shortstop in baseball, he would be the number two behind 29-year old Gold Glove Award Winner Cesar Izturis.  A much better situation to succeed, to say the least.

His playing time was on and off as the year progressed, with him batting number nine in most of the “Sunday lineups”.  His defense was shaky; his bat wasn’t producing.  He needed a break.  It’s incredible how life works, isn’t it?

Cesar Izturis would be placed on the 15-day disabled list due to an appendectomy, leaving the shortstop spot wide open for the taking.  Andino would take full advantage of it.  So far in 2009, he is hitting .258 with a HR, seven RBI, 13 R, two SB, and a .291 OBP.  His defense has been flawless, including three solid plays against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Orioles’ Manager Dave Trembley said it best:  “He’s had an opportunity, and he’s made all the plays, contributed in some bat-control situations.  He’s earned some playing time by what he’s done here.”

The real question to ask, though, is this:  What will happen when Cesar Izturis returns?  It is believed that Izturis will be the starter again, with Andino receiving more at-bats than he had before the injury to the starting shortstop.  It will be a blessing in disguise for the Birds, as having two solid options at the position is excellent compared to the five that shifted around last season.

Looking to the future, one can only believe that Andino has a great shot to be the future at the spot.  With the O’s not having a definite name for the long-term, someone with major league experience always leads the pack, putting Andino right in the hunt to be there as “The Cavalry” arrives and the team morphs into a playoff-caliber program.

So, to conclude, what was once a meaningless trade turns into an incredible story.  A shortstop looking for a window, only to see the shades closed, would finally watch the sun break through.  He is now an Oriole, and he could be one for many years to come.  This will all depend on his performance throughout 2009, but at least the chance is there.

“To have this chance, I never wanted anybody to get hurt,” Andino said. “But I count my blessings every day. I know a bunch of people would give [a lot] to be in my position.”

Quotes courtesy of the Baltimore Sun