Zaun Warms Quickly To His Role With The Rays



Former Orioles Catcher Has Started Six Of 10 Games

August 21, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For the first time since the Orioles came to town, Gregg Zaun could finally sit and watch his old club without having to crouch.

He's not complaining.

Zaun, who was traded to the third-place Tampa Bay Rays on Aug. 7 for minor league first baseman Rhyne Hughes, started the first two games of the series between his two 2009 clubs before sitting Thursday until he grounded out as a pinch hitter in the eighth.

In a platoon with Dioner Navarro in which Zaun faces right-handers, the former Oriole has started six of 10 games since joining the Rays.

"For me to come to a situation where I am not only on a team that has got a shot, but to actually be out there a lot and contributing, that's fun for me," Zaun said.

Zaun is 8-for-25 with three doubles, two homers and five RBIs as a Ray. On Sunday, he hit a pinch-hit grand slam.

"I know they brought me over here to work with the pitchers and do that stuff, but making contributions offensively is always nice, too," said Zaun, whose last pennant race was in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. "For me, it has been a long time since I have played meaningful baseball this late in the season, and it's got the juices flowing a little bit."

Still, he said there is part of him that misses Baltimore, the players and the fans.

"It was fun being there in Baltimore because it is where I started, and people knew me and appreciated my style of play there," he said. "So yeah, I will miss it."

End of Markakis' streak

With a hitless night Wednesday, Nick Markakis' streak of reaching base safely in 38 consecutive games ended. It was 14 short of Kevin Millar's club record of 52 set in 2007 and tied Melvin Mora for fourth-longest in team history.

"It is definitely good, but there are other important things that we have to take care of as a team," Markakis said. "It's something good to accomplish, but in the long run it's about winning and getting better as a team."

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said Markakis has the talent, plate discipline and mental toughness to accomplish long streaks.

"He's one of the best you'll get," Trembley said. "He'll probably start another one [Thursday]. That's Nick."

Johnson returns

Reliever Jim Johnson was back in the clubhouse after spending the past two days with his wife and daughter, Abigail Grace, who was born Tuesday night. Johnson flew to Florida with the team after Monday's game, then flew back to Baltimore a few hours later in time for the birth. He returned to Tampa on Thursday afternoon.

"It was worth it," Johnson said. "I am tired, but I will be all right. Another cup of coffee, and no big deal. It's just like playing a day game."

O's claim righty Lambert

The Orioles claimed right-handed pitcher Chris Lambert off waivers from the Detroit Tigers and optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk. The club had an open spot on its 40-man roster for the former St. Louis Cardinals' first-rounder, who was 6-7 with a 3.55 ERA at Triple-A Toledo and 0-1 with a 14.85 ERA in two Tigers games this year.

Lambert, 26, has the rare distinction of never having played for or against Trembley.

"Chris Lambert, he escaped," Trembley said. "He went through the cracks somewhere."

Around the horn

First baseman Michael Aubrey made his first start with the Orioles on Thursday. Center fielder Adam Jones had a routine day off. ... The club's second-round pick, Mychal Givens, a Tampa high school shortstop who signed for $800,000, attended the game as the Orioles' guest. ... Trembley said outfielder Lou Montanez (thumb surgery) is "getting close to starting baseball activities" and will play winter ball in Puerto Rico.

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