Over the past two years, Cesar Izturis has been more than content to remain in the background, providing steady defense at shortstop and offering the occasional offensive contribution. But in the second inning of the Orioles' 4-3 victory Sunday over the Chicago White Sox, Izturis found himself the center of attention.
After his bloop single off Mark Buehrle bounced into center field for his 1,000th hit, Izturis was given a standing ovation both by a crowd of an announced 18,283 and his teammates, who stood on the top step of the dugout and applauded the veteran's personal milestone. Izturis took off his helmet and tipped it to the crowd
"I was on first, and I got goose bumps right there with the fans standing up and cheering for me," said Izturis, 30, who is in his 10th big league season. "That was something that was very special. That moment is something you look for all your career."
Izturis, a .258 career hitter primarily known for his glove, doubled in the seventh and scored the eventual game-winning run on Brian Roberts' RBI single; he also made a sparkling diving play to rob Alex Rios of a leadoff single in the eighth.
It made for quite the day for Izturis, who is one of the most popular Orioles in the clubhouse because of his quiet and unassuming nature, and the way he goes about his business on the field.
"He's played a long time, and he deserves it," right fielder Nick Markakis said. "He is overlooked. He's a big part of our defense, and he showed it today. He didn't win a Gold Glove for nothing. Defensively, he's one of the best, and he shows it. "
Said starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie: "I love seeing his face every day coming into the clubhouse. He smiles. He's excited to be here. He's a baseball player that really enjoys playing the game. For us pitchers, it's imperative that we have him out there because he does such a great job. To see him get his 1,000th hit and to see him be so happy, that was a nice moment."
After the hit, Chicago second baseman Gordon Beckham threw the ball toward the Orioles dugout for safekeeping. Izturis said he will give it to his two kids. His 10-year-old son, Daniel, had been keeping Izturis apprised of how close he was getting to the 1,000-hit plateau.
"He was always like: 'Daddy, we need eight more, we need seven more, we need five more,'" Izturis said. "He deserves it."
Tatum up, Patton down
With the Orioles' starters finally getting deep into games consistently, the club optioned long reliever Troy Patton back to Triple-A Norfolk and will call up catcher Craig Tatum to take his place in time for Monday's series finale with the White Sox.
That will give manager Buck Showalter a four-man bench and more flexibility. The Orioles had been going with 13 pitchers because the bullpen was overused after a stretch of abbreviated starts.
Patton, 24, has been with the club for eight games this season and hasn't pitched in any of them. Additionally, Armando Gabino has not pitched in four games since joining the club. Long man Mark Hendrickson hasn't pitched in the Orioles' past six games, and left-handed specialist Michael Gonzalez hasn't thrown in three straight games.
"It's really a tough situation," Patton said. "I came up here to be a long-relief guy, and it just happens to be the one week of the season that literally no long-relief guy was needed. I understand it. It's good that I go back down there and throw a little bit so that if I'm needed in September, I can be fresh."
Tatum, who started the season as Matt Wieters' backup and hit .271 in 32 games for the Orioles, hit .095 (2-for-21) in six games with Norfolk after being optioned July 25.
Backing off Berken
Orioles right-hander Jason Berken leads all American League relievers with 60 1/3 innings pitched, but it could be a little while before he builds on those numbers. Showalter said Sunday that the club will try not to use the struggling reliever for a couple of days in the hope that he returns to the form he showed in the first half.
"We are going to back off of him for a day or two, try to freshen him up a little bit," Showalter said. "I think it's more of the mental and emotional challenge of playing at this level over a long period of time. Is his stuff abating? Is he not as good as he once was? I'm not going to get into that. He should be a little tired, but it usually balances out because the other people are tired, too. That's part of the gig."
Berken failed to protect a one-run lead Saturday and took the loss, allowing two earned runs, four hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings. He has allowed 13 earned runs in his past 16 2/3 innings after giving up only eight earned runs in his first 45 innings this season.