Fahey Improves Position for Shortstop Job

By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 15, 2008

FORT MYERS, Fla., March 14 -- Upon learning that a girls' high school basketball team from Baltimore had traveled to his Texas home town for a tournament last December, Brandon Fahey showed some major league generosity by treating the entire squad from Seton Keough High School to a dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.

"I figured it would be a nice thing to do, so I did it," Fahey said.

Fahey has quickly gotten the hang of giving back like a big leaguer. But this spring, he hopes for the first time in his career to start the season as one.

"It's the first opportunity I've ever had to get a chance, a really good chance of making a major league team," said Fahey, who hopes to start the year as the team's everyday shortstop. "But like I said, I try not to put too much pressure on myself."

The Orioles have made public their desire for a trade that would add another middle infielder to the mix. But for now, the race to replace Miguel Tejada at shortstop is a two-man affair pitting Luis Hern¿ndez against Fahey.

Orioles Manager Dave Trembley said on Friday that Hern¿ndez is still the front-runner, but Fahey has made up ground with a strong spring.

"To me, the shortstop position has been the same since Day One," said Trembley, who reiterated that the battle is unlikely to be settled until the final days of camp. "It's a guy that can catch the ball on a consistent basis and make the routine play. That to me is the priority here."

Fahey hit .279 at Class AAA Ottawa before earning his first major league call-up in 2006. And since then, Fahey has played 131 games in three stints with the Orioles, functioning as a roving utility man. But this spring Fahey, 27, is hoping for something more.

Both Trembley and third base coach Juan Samuel, who also oversees infielders, said they consider Fahey and Hern¿ndez to be similar, defensive-minded players. While Hern¿ndez has a stronger arm that makes him more likely to make tough plays, Fahey shows more quickness around the bag and has a track record as a steady fielder.

"To be honest, I'm glad I'm not the one to make that decision," Samuel said. "The guys know what situation the club is in and a lot of those guys look hungry. For me, it's not clear-cut who that guy is yet. I think the next couple of weeks will make it a lot easier."

Fahey has had plenty of time to make his case, splitting time between shortstop and second base in 13 of Baltimore's 16 spring training games, which is tied for second most on the club.

But Trembley wants to see Fahey more at shortstop.

"As far as shortstop, I don't think I'm all the way there yet as far as ready for the season, but I'm sure by the end of this spring I will be," Fahey said. "I don't think it's a matter of talent. I think it's mental, knowing that you belong there."

Last season, Fahey hit just .167 in two stints with the Orioles. Yet, his hitting has been better than Hern¿ndez's this spring; he's batting .320, a result, he said, of simply feeling more comfortable in camp.

"If you go out there worrying about 'I've got to do good, I've got to do this, I've got to do that,' then you're putting pressure on yourself, and that's when you start screwing up," he said. "That's when I learned to have fun."

Fahey can also draw some confidence from his minor league track record, which shows a pattern of improvement from level to level, a trend that he hopes will translate in his bid to start at shortstop.

"I think it's a matter of being around the second time," Fahey said. "The first year, when I got called up to Double-A, I was kind of nervous. The next year I felt a lot more comfortable because I'd been there. It's been that way every single year and hopefully it can keep happening."

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