Andino sees some of '12 O's in Mariners
Infielder, who spent last season in Baltimore, likes the vibe in camp
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Robert Andino has only been with the Mariners for a little over a week, but the middle infielder acquired from the Orioles this offseason feels something familiar.
Call it hope, an underdog mentality, from a team on the verge of good things.
A year ago, Andino was the starting second baseman for an Orioles team that shocked baseball with a 93-69 record -- its first winning season since 1997 -- and a complete turnabout from 69-93 one season earlier.
"I was talking to [Michael] Saunders and [Justin] Smoak and [Raul] Ibanez about it," Andino said, sitting at his locker Thursday at the Peoria Sports Complex. "It was just last year in Baltimore, we had nothing to lose. Everybody already had us finishing dead last. So why not us?
"That's the same vibe I'm getting here from these guys. Why not us? That's definitely what I'm trying to bring over here."
Andino came to Seattle in a trade for young outfielder Trayvon Robinson, who already has been designated for assignment by the Orioles and re-signed by Baltimore as a non-roster invitee after going unclaimed on waivers. Andino had a brief fling with free agency after the deal, as he signed a one-year contract with Seattle in December about 15 minutes after he was non-tendered.
The Mariners are counting on Andino as a strong upgrade at utility infielder and someone who can step in at shortstop or second base if needed. Manager Eric Wedge likes his gritty toughness, something the Mariners saw firsthand last year when he hit the game-winning home run with two outs in the top of the ninth off Charlie Furbush on July 3 at Safeco Field.
Andino said he's only looking forward now, not dwelling on the past, but admits with a grin that, yeah, he remembers that game.
But he's with a new team now after four years in Baltimore and seven seasons coming up in the Marlins organization, and his focus now is bringing something special to Seattle.
That tough edge Andino carries hearkens back to his days as a kid, where life wasn't easy for a youngster in South Miami Heights.
"As I was growing up, baseball was just a way out of the neighborhood where I was coming from," he said. "Thank God I got blessed to get out. And once I got out, it was about taking care of my family. My family is pretty good now. So now it's all about trying to help a team win. Winning now is what baseball basically is to me. You've got to win."
Andino didn't have his best season last year, as his batting average slipped from .263 in 2011 to .211 in '12, with seven home runs and 28 RBIs in 127 games. But the Orioles appreciated his tough style of play as he filled in for injury-plagued Brian Roberts at second base for most of a second straight season.
And when the postseason rolled around, Andino hit .417 (5-for-12) in six games as the Orioles beat the Rangers in the American League Wild Card game and then lost to the Yankees in the AL Division Series in five games.
"I hadn't been to the playoffs like that since high school or Double-A," he said. "Growing up, you see the playoffs and all that, but I never thought I'd be in the playoffs in the Major Leagues. So last year was my chance to get my feet wet. And I want to get back."
Andino admits he was caught off guard when he was traded by the Orioles, but he's grabbing hold of a new opportunity while adjusting to his first Spring Training in Arizona.
"It was a little bit of a surprise," he said. "But I know that's how the game goes. I don't mind it. I still have a chance to play in the big leagues, and that's everything."
At least everything in terms of Andino's professional life. At home, he's the father of two sons, 8 and 6 years old, and a 10-month-old daughter.
"I started young. Had my first one at 19, so it made me grow up fast and learn fast. Now I feel old," he said with a laugh.
Andino gets done with workouts and joins his family, relishing the ability he has to take care of them and understanding the responsibility that comes with being a dad.
"You've got to give that tough love once in a while," he said. "I had tough love growing up. I think it's good, show 'em the right way. Along with baseball, I think that's the hardest thing in the world, to be a parent. Baseball comes second as the most difficult. Parenting comes first. This world can be hard."
Andino has survived some tough times of his own. He's seen the rough side of life growing up, he's seen the highs and lows of baseball -- a second-round pick of the Marlins in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft who was expected to be the shortstop of the future until Hanley Ramirez arrived, and then a guy who carved a niche out with the Orioles.
Now he starts anew. He's fit in quickly with the Mariners. He's a smart veteran, a guy who understands the game and knows what can happen if a team comes together just the right way.
Andino lived that last year with the Orioles. He'd love to do it again, now with a new team in a new city on the opposite side of the country.
"The ball is still round, you know what I'm saying?" he said. "You've still got to hit it. It's the same game. So why not?"