Needing to make a corresponding move with the imminent promotion of Brad Bergesen from Triple-A for Saturday's start, the Orioles will place seldom-used outfielder Luis Montanez on the 15-day-disabled list with a left oblique injury, a decision that saves first baseman Garrett Atkins' roster spot at least for the time being.
Atkins, who now may be safe until outfielder Felix Pie is activated from the disabled list next week, also got the start in tonight's series opener against the Washington Nationals, his first since June 14. Signed in the offseason to be the club's everyday first baseman, Atkins has started just five of the Orioles' 22 games this month and 39 of the Orioles' 73 games overall.
"It's been frustrating because I haven't been able to have any good games really," said Atkins who entered tonight hitting .219 with one homer and nine RBIs. "You have a 3-for-4 and a 4-for-4 and things like that, but it seems like it's been a bunch of 1-for-3's, 1-for-4's. It's tough to get going when you're not doing something like what [ Miguel Tejada] did last night when he went 4-for-5. It can change your season and get you doing. But I really haven't been able to have one of those games since we were in New York, where I felt like I strung together three, four good at-bats in the game."
Montanez knows the feeling. The outfielder was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on April 16 when Pie went on the disabled list. He's started only 11 games during that span, including only once since May 27. He has only nine at-bats in June, two fewer than Atkins.
He said he sustained the oblique injury while taking batting practice on Wednesday, and a magnetic resonance imaging revealed a slight tear.
"This has been the worst year of my career, straight up," said Montanez who is hitting .140. "It's like everything has gone completely backwards. The hits haven't fallen, the at-bats haven't been there; now I get injured. It seems like I can't catch a break this year. I get a pinch-hit at-bat against [Jonathan] Papelbon, [and] I hit a ball to center field and at the last minute [Mike] Cameron robs me. That's kind of like a summary of the way everything has gone this year. There's still another half, so there's hope, but it's definitely going to be uphill."
With the Orioles also expected to activate reliever Koji Uehara this weekend in addition to the Bergesen move, interim manager Juan Samuel had said that the club would likely dump a reliever and a position player. It was believed that Atkins would be the lead candidate among the pool of position players, but that changed with Montanez's injury.
"I don't think I'd be playing today if I was going to be that move," said Atkins. "We'll see. They got two moves to make. They might send out one position player, they might send out two. Who knows? I'm not really worried about that. I just want to go out there tonight and put together some good at-bats."
Wiggy's back tight
The primary reason that Samuel opted to give Atkins a rare start was infielder Ty Wigginton was unavailable with some lower back tightness. Wigginton said that he felt discomfort during his final at-bat in Thursday's victory over the Florida Marlins.
"I'm not worried at all," said Wigginton. "I've never really had any serious back issues. In , I had a back issue and missed like three games. This one is nowhere near that. It's more precautionary at this point. … It's the least of my concerns."
Wigginton also said that he isn't concerned with his homer drought. The infielder leads the team with 13 home runs, but he's gone 27 games and 95 at-bats without a long ball.
"I'm using the same approach," Wigginton said. "I feel like I've been pitched a lot tougher this month. You have to take your walks. I think I'm still getting on base and doing things that help the team."
Any other game
The start of another Orioles-Nationals' series brought the inevitable questions to Samuel about whether the two neighborhood teams share a rivalry. The fans may think so, but Samuel said that it's just another series to him.
"Just another club that we happen to face," Samuel said. "I know it means a lot in this area because we're neighbors, but it's just another club for me."
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