O's call up Hughes, put him in lineup

Slumping first baseman Atkins gets the night off

April 25, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

BOSTON — — The Orioles decided to shake up their slumbering offense Saturday, reaching down to Triple-A Norfolk for first baseman Rhyne Hughes and immediately inserting him into the starting lineup in place of offseason free-agent addition Garrett Atkins.

Hughes, 26, was hitting .353 with three homers, five doubles and 11RBIs in 51 at-bats for the Tides. Perhaps most important, he was

6-for-14 (.429 average) with runners in scoring position. Heading into Saturday night, the Orioles as a team were 18-for-120 (.150 average) with runners in scoring position and had just six hits in 63 at-bats with two outs in that situation.

"He is here because he was our hottest hitter in Triple-A and obviously we need a little boost offensively," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "We are hoping he will contribute to that."

Hughes, acquired by the Orioles last year from the Tampa Bay Rays as the player to be named in the Gregg Zaun deal, said he was thrilled to finally make it to the big leagues.

"It's something I dreamed about when I was little kid, when I first played ball when I was 5 years old," Hughes said. "It was probably one of the greatest nights I've ever had."

Normally a first baseman, Hughes was asked to play some outfield with the Tides as a way to get his bat into the lineup. Initially, he will only play first with the Orioles and will be used in the outfield only in an emergency, Trembley said.

"I think he'll play first base here and then see how he goes from there. I don't want to give him too much," Trembley said. "I think we are asking an awful lot of him as it is, coming in here to Fenway Park."

Atkins losing playing time?

Atkins, who is batting .224 this season, has just three hits and five RBIs in 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position. He had an extremely difficult night Friday, coming to the plate with eight total runners on in his first three at-bats and failing to drive any in.

"Just one of those nights, the pitchers are pretty good," Atkins said. "They aren't just up there lobbing balls up there. You would like to come through in those kinds of situations when they come up, and when you don't it's frustrating. But you come back the next day ready to go."

When Atkins came into the clubhouse Saturday, Hughes was in his spot in the starting lineup, batting eighth and playing first. He said he isn't reading anything into the Hughes move.

"I just view it as a guy swinging the bat well, not too many guys swinging the bat well," Atkins said. "Hopefully, he can spark the offense and get things going a little bit."

When asked whether Hughes' promotion meant a time-share situation for Atkins, Trembley said: "I haven't thought about that. Hughes is going to play first base tonight and see where it goes from there. The way we have been swinging the bats and the way we have been going, we've got to try something."

Turner sent down

Second baseman Justin Turner was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk when Hughes was called up. He was hitless in nine at-bats and played in just five games.

Turner was sent down to play every day at Norfolk, Trembley said.

"It'll be nice to go down and play every day, but I'd rather be up here and try to help them out," Turner said. "But I'll go down there and get some at-bats every day and hopefully get some things going and get comfortable offensively."

Around the horn

Right-handed pitcher Koji Uehara (hamstring strain) will pitch Tuesday and Thursday for Double-A Bowie as part of his injury rehabilitation assignment. … Brian Roberts (herniated disk in back) will meet with his doctor again Monday.

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