Orioles designate Atkins for assignment

Notebook

First baseman had just 1 homer, 9 RBIs in 44 games

Gonzalez, Pie near returns

June 27, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

When Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail signed first baseman Garrett Atkins to a one-year, $4.5 million deal this offseason, he hoped to be getting the Atkins who had averaged 25 homers and 110 RBIs with the Colorado Rockies from 2006 to 2008.

Instead, the Atkins who appeared in 44games for the 2010 Orioles and hit just one homer is the same one who struggled mightily in 2009 and wasn't tendered a contract by the Colorado Rockies last winter.

"We had to take some chances, and sometimes you have to swing for the fences," MacPhail said. "We knew, obviously, that [Atkins'] 2009 performance was not nearly what it had been in '08 and '07. We were gambling we could measure up to that, which we couldn't do.

"We gambled, and we lost."

Atkins, 30, was designated for assignment Sunday when the Orioles activated reliever Koji Uehara (strained forearm) from the 15-day disabled list, meaning the club has 10 days to trade, release or ask waivers on the first baseman.

The club will attempt to deal Atkins, who hit .214 with nine RBIs and had just 14at-bats in June, but they aren't expected to get any takers. More likely, other clubs looking for a corner infielder will wait for Atkins to clear waivers -- thus saddling the Orioles with the roughly $2.5 million remaining on his deal -- before taking a chance on him.

If he is signed to a major league deal after he clears waivers, that organization would be on the hook only for the prorated major league minimum of $400,000.

Atkins left before talking to reporters and could not be reached for comment, but he said last week that he would be willing to go to the minors in the right situation. It's unclear whether he would take a minor league assignment with the Orioles.

"I've talked to his agent. That's something we would consider," MacPhail said. "But I don't know what his appetite for that is. Let's do first things first and try to explore and see what activity or interest there is. That's what this designated period gives us."

Asked whether he thinks there could be a trade market for Atkins, MacPhail said: "I think the attractive aspect of Garrett, for us at the time and for others, would have been the potential for the power. So I think somebody would have to think they could unlock what we couldn't."

Atkins began the season as the club's starting first baseman, but he lost that job to Ty Wigginton, who moved from second to first.

When the Orioles promoted corner infielder Scott Moore on May 21 and then acquired utility player Jake Fox on Tuesday, it was obvious Atkins' time with the Orioles was ending.

Moore and Fox "make more sense for us as extra guys because they have more flexibility. Jake can catch and play left and first and third, and Scott can play second and third and first," MacPhail said. "So when [Atkins] didn't produce offensively, he wasn't as valuable to us as the other guys and it was time to admit that it didn't work and move on."

Atkins met in a closed-door meeting with MacPhail and interim manager Juan Samuel about 11:25 a.m. Sunday, then gathered his things and left.

"It's always difficult when you have to give bad news to anybody," Samuel said. "He understands. He said he was sorry things didn't work out for him. He won't be able to do more to help us. He's a veteran. He understands."

Wigginton, for one, said he's hoping Atkins can rebound elsewhere.

"Hopefully, he gets another opportunity somewhere," Wigginton said. "I'll be checking the papers every day to see if he signs somewhere else. Or goes somewhere else. And hopefully he comes out raking."

Gonzalez, Pie in Boston?

MacPhail said it is possible that reliever Michael Gonzalez (strained left shoulder) and outfielder Felix Pie (torn back muscle) could be activated in time for the Orioles' next road trip, which starts Friday in Boston. Both players have been injured since mid-April and are on minorleague rehabilitation assignments.

Gonzalez, who went on the DL on April 14 after pitching in just three games, started Sunday night's game for short-season Single-A Aberdeen against Brooklyn. He allowed two runs and two hits, including a homer, in one inning. He faced five batters.

Pie has played three games for High-A Frederick, going 5-for-12 with three runs and two RBIs. He had been limited to the designated hitter's role before playing left field Sunday. Pie batted .400 in eight games with the Orioles before being placed on the DL on April 16.

Uehara for short relief

Uehara, who has pitched just six games this season because of hamstring and forearm injuries, was activated Sunday without going on a minor league rehab assignment. He could have pitched, Samuel said, but was not needed.

Uehara will be strictly a one-inning pitcher with the Orioles in an attempt to keep the often-injured right-hander healthy, Samuel said.

"We have been using the bullpen a whole lot," Samuel said. "This might take the burden from some of those guys that have been used so frequent."

Around the horn

The Orioles completed their interleague schedule this season with a 7-11 mark and 108-139 all-time interleague record. Â Adam Jones' RBI double in the fifth extended his hitting streak to eight games. He is 14-for-33 with four homers and nine RBIs in that span. Â Triple-A Norfolk catcher Michel Hernandez hit a grand slam Sunday to help the Tides win their fifth game in six tries. It was Norfolk's first grand slam of the season.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

http://twitter.com/danconnollysun

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