Because this week is taking on a "fresh starts" theme, and because I opened my first pack of 2008 Topps last night, I present to you Ramon Hernandez, the first Oriole of 2008. It's a great action shot of Ramon chasing down a pop-up, probably in Fort Lauderdale. (The bat boy in the background is wearing the orange practice jersey, and of course Oriole Park at Camden Yards now has a brick backstop a la Wrigley Field.) The facsimile signature is so bunched together that I can't make heads or tails of it. When Ramon signed his contract with Topps, he must have been in a hurry.
If anyone could use a fresh start in 2008, it's Ramon Hernandez. He was something of a surprise for the O's in 2006, playing in a career-high 144 games and hitting .275 with 23 home runs and 91 RBI. But last season, he struggled with injuries all year, his power dipped (.382 slugging average), and manager Dave Trembley publicly questioned his conditioning. There were even rumblings that GM Andy MacPhail had shopped Hernandez around, with the Mets supposedly being an interested party before they settled on Brian Schneider. With Catcher of the Future Matt Wieters drawing lots of attention, I hope we'll see a motivated and healthy #55 behind the plate for the Birds this year.