Spring Training Notebook

Orioles Put Shortstop's Job in Cesar Izturis's Capable Hands

Associated Press
Friday, March 27, 2009

When the Baltimore Orioles signed César Izturis as a free agent this winter, they had one thing in mind: solidifying their infield defense at a troublesome position.

"Sometimes you need some defense on your club and sometimes you need some offense on your club. . . . They bring me here for a reason, so I'm happy to be here," said Izturis, who signed a two-year, $5 million deal on Dec. 15.

Shortstop was a black hole for the Orioles last year, when eight players committed 28 errors, the most at any position.

"You read the paper and you see on TV, there was a lot of movement on that position. When you look at free agency, you start looking at what spots are going to be good for you and your future," said Izturis, who went 2 for 4 in yesterday's 11-6 loss to Florida and is hitting .182 this spring.

So what does the 29-year-old Izturis possess that Luis Hernández, Brandon Fahey, Alex Cintron, Freddie Bynum and Juan Castro didn't?

"I've heard more than I've seen, because he and I were both at the [World Baseball] Classic," said Izturis's new double play partner, second baseman Brian Roberts. "But everybody I talk to just says, 'Wow, you're in for a treat. He's awesome.' "

Izturis played 135 games with St. Louis last year, his most since 2004 when he won a Gold Glove for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made only 11 errors in 130 games at shortstop, and that ability to get to ground balls and turn them into outs was attractive to the Orioles.

-- YANKEES: CC Sabathia will start the regular season opener and home opener for New York. Manager Joe Girardi said the left-hander will pitch the season opener at Baltimore on April 6, and will throw the first regular season pitch at the new Yankee Stadium 10 days later against Cleveland.

"I'm excited," Sabathia said. "To be able to take the ball the first one of the season and then to open the new stadium, I think it's going to be fun."

-- ATHLETICS: All-star pitcher Justin Duchscherer is likely to begin the season on the disabled list after the right-hander left a minor league game with elbow pain.

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