NEW YORK -- If J.R. House initially had his way, he never would have been sitting in the visiting clubhouse yesterday at Yankee Stadium talking about his role with a major league club and his relationship with his new manager, Dave Trembley.
House signed with the Orioles in November as a minor league free agent. His contract included an opt-out clause that stated he could get his release from the organization if he was not called up to the major league club by July 1.
When he wasn't called up by that date, House tried to exercise the clause, but he missed the deadline. Still, he left Triple-A Norfolk, where he had been one of the club's most productive hitters, before Orioles officials later talked him into rejoining the team. He did and was rewarded Monday when his contract was purchased by the Orioles to replace injured Jay Gibbons.
"We tried to go about taking [the opt-out clause] and I guess we just kind of fouled it around and didn't do it the right way," said House, 27, who hit .295 with 10 home runs and 63 RBIs in 109 games for the Tides. "It didn't happen, but I guess everything worked out for a reason. I'm kind of glad it didn't now."
House, a catcher who has played in 10 major league games over three seasons, including four with the Houston Astros last year, didn't arrive at Yankee Stadium on Monday until long after the game began. But he met with Trembley several hours before yesterday's game to discuss his role. It was an emotional meeting for both men, who are from neighboring towns in Florida and got to know each other in 1999 while working at baseball camps together.
"Seeing him come up here and turn the ballclub around has been awesome," said House, who signed with the Orioles partly because he figured Trembley would be the Triple-A manager. "It's been good to cheer him on and win some games. I really didn't know if I'd get called up or not. Fortunately, it happened and I'm glad to be here. Being able to sit in his office a couple of hours ago, it was like, `Wow, you're the manager and I'm on this team.' It's pretty wild being here in New York."
House isn't sure how long he'll be with the club but vowed to make the most of his opportunity. He made his Orioles debut last night, hitting a flyout as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning.
"I think he knows that he's never going to get cut any slack. I'm not going to do anything special for him or anybody," Trembley said. "I'm going to treat them all the same, but it's nice that maybe I have a little more background on him. I know where he's come from. The guy's had some surgeries and he could've quit. I know how hard he's worked in the offseasons and I've thrown him a lot of [batting practice].
"I told him today: `I tried to get you up here earlier and it just didn't happen. I don't know how much playing time I can promise, but I want you to just get settled in.' "
Orioles outfielder Tike Redman had never faced Mariano Rivera before the ninth inning in Monday night's series opener, but he has watched him extensively on television. That taught him everything he needed to know about the probable Hall of Fame closer.
"I know he throws a cutter," Redman said. "Basically, if it happens, it happens ... if you get a hit off a cutter like that. That's the best cutter I've ever seen. But it got in on me and I just hit it in the right spot."
Redman blooped a single into center field on the play but was denied the game-tying RBI when Melvin Mora was thrown out at the plate by New York center fielder Melky Cabrera. Redman, who moved to second on Cabrera's throw home, scored the tying run, beating a throw to the plate on Brian Roberts' single off Rivera.
Trembley said he will try to get Redman back in the lineup for today's series finale, possibly in center field to give Corey Patterson a day off.
Around the horn
Gibbons had successful surgery yesterday to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and is expected to be ready for spring training. ... The Yankees held a moment of silence before the game and wore No. 10 on their sleeves to honor Hall of Fame shortstop Phil Rizzuto, who died Monday night at the age of 89.