It had been so long since reliever Michael Gonzalez had been at Camden Yards that when he attempted to walk to the dugout from the clubhouse Wednesday morning, he took a wrong turn and had to be redirected by one of his teammates.
Laughing and shaking his head, Gonzalez strolled out to the dugout in what the Orioles and their fans hope is the last time the left-hander looks lost at the ballpark this season.
Gonzalez, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal this offseason to be the club's closer, pitched in just three games, blowing two saves and posting a 18.00 ERA before hitting the disabled list with a strained shoulder. He was activated from the 60-day DL on Wednesday.
"The physical part is something you grind through on a daily basis. But mentally, it was really tough," Gonzalez said. "First of all, to leave it the way I left it. Second series of the season, just like that. That's definitely not me. That's not my personality."
Gonzalez, who did not get into Wednesday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays, last pitched for the Orioles in their home opener April 9. He was booed off the mound by the sellout crowd when he blew a save and took the loss in Toronto's 7-6 win. He said he's not concerned about fan reaction whenever he returns to the Camden Yards mound.
"I am a major league ballplayer. If I worried about that kind of stuff, I wouldn't be where I am right now," Gonzalez said. "But I totally understand the frustration. I would have been booing myself after those two outings I had.
"The fans are going to be there regardless. I can go out there and save 20 straight and throw 30 straight shutout innings, and you are going to start hearing cheers. That's the name of the game; I understand that," Gonzalez added. "The part that frustrated me was my teammates and them trying so hard to go out there to get that 'W' and then me not shutting the door. That's what was frustrating for me."
The start of Gonzalez's Orioles career has been a disaster. Back trouble in the spring led to his overcompensating and putting added stress on his shoulder, he said. It threw his mechanics out of whack, causing shaky results, which made him press even more. He said he didn't realize how bad it was until coaches in Sarasota, Fla., showed him videos of his Orioles performances.
"I was like, 'Wow, that's not Gonzo. That's not the guy that goes out and pitches,' " Gonzalez said. "Somewhere or other, I changed the way I was throwing. It wasn't me. I didn't know where the ball was going. And when you get those expectations, you try to do too much."
Despite previous arm trouble, including 2007 Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery, Gonzalez insists he was healthy when he signed his big contract. He passed the Orioles' physical — which did not include a magnetic resonance imaging of his left shoulder — and said he was ready to pitch at the time. He believes he is ready to pitch now — in any role needed — despite mediocre numbers (1-1, 4.26 ERA) during 12 rehabilitation games at four minor league stops.
"The Orioles did their homework on me when they went out and got me. I don't think they are going to go out there and sign a guy not knowing what he is capable of doing," Gonzalez said. "They knew what I am capable of doing, and that's what I have to put in my head also. … I don't need to go and overextend myself. I just need to be me."
Roberts comes to park; activation pending?
Second baseman Brian Roberts (herniated disk) was 1-for-4 in his third rehab start for Double-A Bowie on Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon, during the Orioles' game, Roberts was at Camden Yards, dropping his bats off in the home clubhouse.
Roberts is supposed to get the day off Thursday and play for the Baysox on Friday. But the Orioles veteran, who has played in just four major league games this season, had said earlier that he needed about 15 at-bats at Double-A before re-joining the Orioles.
In three games at Bowie, he has had 14 at-bats, getting six hits (.429 average) and three RBIs. Dropping off his bats is an indication that he could be activated before the end of the weekend, the expected timetable.
Roberts will not be activated Thursday, but it's possible he could be Friday.
One Orioles official, however, characterized that speculation as "premature."
Patton promoted, demoted
Left-hander Troy Patton, who hasn't been in the major leagues since he was a rookie with the Houston Astros in 2007, was promoted Wednesday along with Gonzalez's activation to provide bullpen depth. Patton didn't pitch in the Orioles' 5-4 loss to the Rays and was sent back to Triple-A Norfolk after the game.
The move was made so the team could activate Thursday's starter, Kevin Millwood, from the DL. With Chris Tillman sent to Norfolk on Tuesday and Josh Bell demoted Wednesday morning, Patton was the obvious candidate to go.