ARLINGTON, Texas — The first question zipped at Orioles manager Buck Showalter like a fastball under the chin.
Just moments after Showalter sat down to take questions from the media before Thursday’s American League wild-card playoff workout, the question zinged from his left.
“Buck, let’s get this one right out of the way,” the question came from the corner of the interview room. “You’ve managed here. They let you go. Now you’re managing against them in the playoffs. Your thoughts on the opportunity to beat the Texas Rangers?”
Showalter doesn’t buy into plotlines he doesn’t like, whether it’s in Baltimore before the local scribes or under the national spotlight of the playoffs, so of course he deflected the question.
“We grinded like heck to earn a chance to roll the dice in October,” Showalter said. “That’s why you do what you do. … To get our players and our organization to get the opportunity is rewarding, but it’s one thing to reward an opportunity, but we’re trying everything possible to get back to Baltimore. Personally, I think the players are letting me come along for the ride.
“I was telling players yesterday, all those extra-inning games and all those challenges along the way, those little things that we were able to accomplish were the difference between us continuing on here to Texas as opposed to backing our bags and going home. Personally, it’s an opportunity to be a part of something. Everybody loves being a part of a team.”
In Texas, they’re known for doing things big. That’s pretty evident from the size of the new Cowboys Stadium next door to Rangers Ballpark. And in Texas, they’re talking about the Rangers’ freefall -- the Rangers blew a five-game division lead with nine games left -- from having the AL’s best record to being forced to fight for their playoff lives in the wild card. So another question from the Texas media to Showalter was about the Orioles having the opportunity to play a part in another epic late-season collapse after last year’s Game 162 walkoff win over Boston.
“To talk about that word -- I wouldn’t even use it -- it starts with a C,” Showalter said. “There’s no such thing. We play so many games. You answer so many challenges. It’s hard to do what our team and the Rangers are being asked to do. It’s hard to pitch in the American League. These are the best players in the world. I don’t think there and look at it that way.”