Mike Hargrove worked his way through a pack of reporters to an empty spot in the visiting dugout, surveying the scene last night at Camden Yards from a different vantage point. The large number of microphones and tape recorders in his face didn't distort his view.
"It's obviously a beautiful ballpark," Hargrove said. "It's a different view, but it's good to be back."
Hargrove, the manager of the Seattle Mariners, was back at Camden Yards for the first time since the 2003 season. That was the last of his four seasons as the Orioles' manager, as he was fired after his team couldn't finish any higher than fourth place.
The lineup he faced last night included names like Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro - all perennial All-Stars. But it also included Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons, two players who broke into the majors under Hargrove's watch.
"Our talent level was not what we all would have liked for it to be, but I take a lot of satisfaction in the fact that [Larry] Bigbie is a better player now, Brian Roberts is a better player now, and Jay Gibbons and B.J. Ryan - all these kids that we felt that we had to force feed," Hargrove said.
"I feel like I had a hand in what they are doing now, so I feel very good about that. I feel good for the Orioles and the Orioles fans that they are leading the division and I hope they play terrible the next three days."
Asked how much he would have enjoyed having guys like Tejada and Sosa in his lineup, Hargrove didn't take the bait.
"It doesn't do any good to play a what-if game, it really doesn't," he said. "The reality is we were what we were and we took a situation and we were better for coming through it. I take a lot of satisfaction in that the players that we had here, the young players we keyed on and tried to develop into good major league players, are those players today."
As a special assistant for the Indians last year, Hargrove got an opportunity to talk to many of his former players when the Orioles visited Cleveland.
Last night bench coach Sam Perlozzo even called the Mariners' clubhouse to complain to Hargrove about his lineup being posted late.
"I enjoyed my time in Baltimore, but I am thrilled to be in Seattle," Hargrove said. "It's a great city, it's a great front office and the players play the game hard. ... I don't look back and say, `Gee, I wish.' I am just glad for what has transpired."
Fasano may return soon
With the Orioles activating Sosa from the 15-day disabled list yesterday, third-string catcher Sal Fasano was designated for assignment, meaning the club has 10 days to trade, release or ask waivers on him. Fasano said that if he clears waivers, he would accept an assignment to Triple-A Ottawa.
His minor league stay may not be long with starter Lopez breaking a bone in his right hand last night. Fasano would have to pass through waivers, be outrighted to Ottawa and then be recalled by the Orioles. It is possible that could take place by this afternoon.
Fasano was 3-for-9 with two homers and three RBIs after his contract was purchased from Ottawa on May 11.
"I have no problems with the way I played here," Fasano said. "There's nobody to fault here. Sammy is healthy, Sammy plays. He has a gazillion home runs. I only have a few, so he's got to play now."
Fasano said the decision to accept the designation was an easy one.
"I like the team," he said. "I like everything about it. It's a good situation here. They say, if you can help a team win a World Series, that's what it's all about."
Meanwhile, Sosa was grinning from ear to ear on the other side of the Orioles' clubhouse.
"I am pretty happy to be back," he said. "I am not a fan. I don't like to watch the game. I like to play the game. I feel 100 percent ready to go."