Rookie Hughes willing to be O’s spark

First baseman debuts in Fenway, home of idol Ted Williams

April 26, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

BOSTON — — First baseman Rhyne Hughes isn't sure he is the spark the Orioles need to break out of their early-season funk.

If he is, though, he's willing to play the role.

"I just want to be here and do what I can to help out," said Hughes, who is 4-for-9 with two RBIs since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday. "Everybody knows we've been scuffling a little bit. … When we're playing well, everyone has a lot more fun, and that's what I'm trying to do. If I bring a spark, then I'll do that."

Hughes had two hits in his major league debut Saturday, which included an RBI single against John Lackey in his first at-bat. His brightest moment, though, came in Sunday's 10th inning, when he singled through the right-side hole to break a 4-4 tie in the Orioles' eventual 7-6 win against the Boston Red Sox.

Hughes, acquired by the Orioles from the Tampa Bay Rays in last year's trade of Gregg Zaun, was batting .353 when he was recalled. He was immediately put into the lineup at first base and might relegate free-agent acquisition Garrett Atkins to the bench for the time being.

"He was the hottest hitter in the system, and that's why he got an opportunity to come here, and he's certainly picked up right where he left off in Triple-A," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "It's great that that happens for someone like him. That he can come up here, contribute and we win."

His start has been even more meaningful for Hughes because of where it has come. Hughes, 26, grew up in Mississippi, but he idolized Boston Hall of Famer Ted Williams.

"I have always been a huge fan, because I have always loved to hit," said Hughes, who was born Sept. 9, 1983, or 9-9. "When I was a kid, I was the kid with the pretty left-handed swing. I wore No. 9 [Williams' number] since I was like 7."

Hughes, who is wearing No. 40 with the Orioles because veteran Miguel Tejada has No. 9, said he first read Williams' book, "The Science of Hitting," when he was 12. He watches any Williams TV specials he can find.

So before his big league debut Friday, Hughes made a point to run sprints in the Fenway Park outfield and think about the Splendid Splinter.

"My favorite player played outfield here," Hughes said. "Just roamed around in the outfield here. So that's pretty neat."

Wieters sits initially

Catcher Matt Wieters got his second game off this season while reserve Craig Tatum started Sunday. In his first full big league season, Wieters had started 17 of the Orioles' first 18 games. Wieters entered in the eighth Sunday as a pinch hitter for Tatum, caught the final three innings and had a big two-run single in the 10th that proved to be the game-winner.

"He hasn't shown any signs early of wear and tear," Trembley said. "I asked him how he was doing, and he said, well, if this was July or August [the workload] would probably affect him. But right now he feels real strong."

Lugo's family gets scare

Infielder Julio Lugo's younger brother, Ruddy, a pitcher with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, was hospitalized Friday after being hit in the right temple with a line drive during a game against Columbus.

Lugo said he talked to his brother in the hospital, and though he has a "big bump" on his head, Ruddy Lugo will be OK.

"How can it not be on your mind? Everything is important with your family," Lugo said. "I couldn't get any sleep [Saturday] because I knew he was in the hospital."

Around the horn

Right-handed pitcher Brad Bergesen, who is hoping to return Saturday for an outing against the Red Sox in Baltimore, pitched well in his first start with Triple-A Norfolk. He allowed seven hits, no walks and two runs in seven innings to beat the Charlotte Knights. He was demoted April 20 after going 0-2 with a 12.19 ERA in three starts for the Orioles. … Left fielder Nolan Reimold batted leadoff for the Orioles for the first time in his big league career. He went 2-for-5 with a double and a run.


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