SAMMY SOSA, fresh off the disabled list and facing reporters on the heels of another significant Orioles challenge, put it best last night.
"One comes in and one comes out."
Several of his teammates and his manager added this footnote: "That's baseball."
A fast start makes a nice story. Keeping the momentum sustained through a long summer pocketed with inevitable injuries makes or breaks a season.
The Orioles survived their first major test, remaining atop the American League East while Sosa missed 16 games with a staph infection.
That sigh of relief was short-lived.
Now they must prepare for another test - one much more daunting than the 16-game loss of Sosa.
How this team responds to losing starting catcher Javy Lopez to a broken bone in his throwing hand will go a long way toward determining whether the Orioles stay in a pennant race.
Lopez, who broke his right hand when he was struck by Bret Boone's foul ball in the third inning last night, said the preliminary estimate is that he'll be out six weeks, though "it could be less, it could be more," he said. And that's a crushing blow to a contending team lacking catching depth.
"Losing Javy is going to remove one of the edges of this team," said shortstop Miguel Tejada. "He is one of our best players and he is our catcher. It's something we didn't want to [deal with]."
Sosa is an inspirational leader, an impressive presence in the lineup and a threat to hit a homer at any time.
Going 9-7 in the absence of Sosa and starting center fielder Luis Matos was an impressive showing for this team.
But Sosa is an outfielder, and the Orioles had two competent ones sitting on the bench in B.J. Surhoff and David Newhan and another, Jeff Fiorentino, surprisingly ready in the minors.
Lopez, however, is an All-Star catcher with a potent right-handed bat. Really, next to Tejada, he is probably the everyday player the Orioles can least afford to be without.
Those who have followed the team's recent catching woes understand why.
Geronimo Gil, who has fumbled his starting opportunities in the past, takes over as the everyday catcher. He is older now, and more experienced. But has he matured to the point that he can hold the line effectively in Lopez's absence? His backup is a bit of a mystery, with minor leaguer Eli Whiteside a possibility.
Whiteside, a 25-year-old considered the team's top backstop prospect, is batting .240 in 31 games at Triple-A Ottawa. It's his first taste of Triple-A ball.
The team's third catcher, Sal Fasano, was designated for assignment yesterday to make room for Sosa on the 25-man roster. He could be back soon if he clears waivers.
A long shot is Benito Santiago, the ancient veteran who was recently released by Pittsburgh and is looking for a team. Unless Lopez is out for the season, the Orioles will probably make do with their current personnel.
"Somebody will have to be there, somebody will have to fill the gap," Tejada said. "I know we don't want to lose Javy, but somebody will have to step up and do the job."
It's possible that Fasano and Gil could share time and be a competent replacement tandem for Lopez behind the plate.
But they won't be able to replace him offensively. No way.
So for the first time this season, Baltimore's intimidating lineup will have an obvious hole.
That hole could double, at least briefly.
In the seventh inning yesterday, leadoff hitter and current team MVP Brian Roberts was struck on the knee by an errant Ron Villone fastball.
He left the game a batter later after trying to run from first to second. He limped to the dugout with the bruised knee; his status for today is uncertain.
The Orioles look like they may have dodged another damaging bullet there. If Roberts is out for several games, though, the Orioles would be missing their Opening Day catcher, second baseman and center fielder all while Sosa is dealing with a 16-game layoff.
Oh, and by the way, the team heads to Boston on Monday for a four-game series against the second-place Red Sox.
The good news is that the Orioles already have showed resilience in the absence of Sosa and Matos. Maybe that carries over.
Unfortunately, this was inevitable. The baseball season is long. Injuries happen.
The best teams don't just win in April and May. They keep winning, and that often means overcoming adversity.
Without Sosa, the Orioles passed test No. 1.
Now their catcher is sidelined indefinitely and their second baseman is hurting.
It's not even June, but their biggest test is here.
How they respond now likely will define the Orioles' season.