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Mariners to give Andino a look at shortstop

SEATTLE -- While new Mariners infielder Robert Andino played mostly second base with the Orioles over the past two years, the 28-year-old considers himself a shortstop first and foremost.

And the Mariners, according to general manager Jack Zduriencik, will give him a chance to show that in Spring Training.

Andino, acquired in a trade for outfielder Trayvon Robinson on Tuesday, came up in the Minor Leagues as a shortstop with the Marlins and was considered their shortstop of the future until the club acquired Hanley Ramirez in 2005.

The Marlins traded Andino to Baltimore in 2009, and he started 55 games at shortstop his first season behind Cesar Izturis, then played sparingly in '10. He finally got a regular starting role the past two seasons, but it came at second base in place of injury-plagued Brian Roberts while J.J. Hardy handled shortstop duties.

Andino thus is a solid utility-infield candidate, a definite upgrade over the light-hitting Munenori Kawasaki. But the question is, can he challenge Brendan Ryan for the Mariners' starting-shortstop role?

Ryan is one of the premier glove men in baseball, but he hit just .194 with a .555 OPS last season. The Mariners also will bring No. 3 prospect Nick Franklin to camp on a non-roster invitation, though at 21 years old and having hit .243 in 64 games after a midseason promotion to Triple-A Tacoma last season, he might still be a year away.

The Mariners have Dustin Ackley at second base and Kyle Seager at third, two youngsters they're counting on as part of the future. So shortstop is the one starting job that appears vulnerable after Ryan fell short of the Mendoza Line in a season when he battled an elbow issue that required surgery to remove bone spurs the day after the final game of the year.

Andino batted just .211 with a .588 OPS in 127 games for the Orioles, but those numbers were .263 and .670 in 2011 when he played 139 games and became a fan favorite in Baltimore with his late-season heroics against the Red Sox and his tough style of play.

Andino also is regarded as a good defender, though his 13 errors last season were the third most among AL second baseman. So the Mariners will see what they have. At the very least, they've got a versatile utility man and some veteran insurance behind Ryan, who has had some injury issues the past two years.

"Anybody you bring in, you don't put limitations on," Zduriencik said. "I talked to Robert and he said, 'I've been a shortstop my whole life. I played a lot of second base these last few years, but I'm a shortstop in my heart of hearts.'

"So I told him to work hard this offseason and then come in and compete for a position. Don't put any limitations on yourself and we won't put any on you. As far as I'm concerned, he's one of our players and will come in and compete for a position."

Some Mariners fans are upset over giving up Robinson, a 25-year-old who made some outstanding diving catches in his limited time in the outfield and put up pretty good offensive numbers in the Minors.

But Robinson's below-average arm made him primarily a left-field candidate with the Mariners, and he was looking at competing for a fourth or fifth outfielder spot even before Seattle potentially adds a veteran in the offseason.

With Robinson out of Minor League options, the Mariners felt it best to move him for a player with a better chance of making the club at a position with less depth.

"Andino has played in a very competitive American League East and in the playoffs last year," Zduriencik said. "He can play multiple positions. We felt it was the right acquisition. They had a need for outfield and we had a need for infield."

Now the question will be just where Andino fits in that infield mix, which will be something to watch when Spring Training opens in February in Peoria, Ariz.

Seattle Mariners, Robert Andino