Garrett Atkins knew for the last three or four months that the Rockies would non-tender him. And he learned of the Orioles’ interest in him almost immediately after the move became official.
“Obviously, it’s a great opportunity here,” he said during today’s conference call. “You look at the lineup and they have great hitters - young, left-handed and right-handed. This lineup will score runs. And this is obviously a good place to hit.
“It’s a good city, a good baseball city. It’s a tough division, but it’s the best division in all of baseball. And I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Atkins is a career .298 hitter over seven major league seasons, all with the Rockies, but he slumped to .226 this summer and lost his starting job at third. His home run total dropped from 25 in 2006 to nine this year.
“We’re very confident that he’s going to be able to get back to where he’s been in the past,” president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. “Most of you know I have a lot of confidence in (hitting coach) Terry Crowley, and Terry has always been a believer that, if it’s in there, he can get it out.”
Said Atkins: “I just got off to a rough start and coaches started tinkering a little bit and I really couldn’t get a handle on it. I kind of lost my starting spot and playing time was sporadic. I’d have a couple good games in a row, then one bad one and I’d find myself sitting on the bench for a few days. I’m looking forward to playing every day and showing that I can be the productive hitter that I’ve been in the past.
“No doubt, I have a lot to prove, and that’s why I’m excited about this opportunity, to get the chance to get back to playing every day. There’s not going to be a better opportunity to show that I’m back on track.
“They obviously have the most confidence in me over any other team, and that’s appealing to any player.”
MacPhail said he had more interest in Atkins once it was time to leave the winter meetings than when he first arrived in Indianapolis, just from talking to various people who knew the infielder. And Atkins’ one-year deal, with a club option for 2011, won’t create an issue if a prospect is ready to be promoted from Triple-A Norfolk.
“We do feel like we have young kids at first and third down the road, and anybody who required a long-term commitment was something that wasn’t ideal for us,” MacPhail said. “So here we have the opportunity, in our view, to take a bit of a risk on a flier for a guy who was one of the game’s more productive hitters before last year, and on our terms, one plus an option. And it gives us the versatility to gauge the first and third base market going down.
“Also, as most of you know, we continue to pay particular attention as best we can to the makeup of the players we bring in. We’re trying to be protective of the kids we’re developing. We want to surround them not just with quality major league players, but quality people, and we’re more than confident that Garrett meets that standard.”
Atkins is going from a team that played in the World Series in 2007 to one that hasn’t posted a winning season since 1997.
“I think it’s kind of similar, just looking around here and talking to people, to the way the Rockies built up their system,” he said. “The way they’re doing things here, with a lot of talented players who grew through the system, that process takes time. As you saw, Colorado was terrible in ‘05 and ‘06, then in ‘07 a light clicked on, and the next thing you know, we’re in the World Series. It shows that if you stick to the young talent, it eventually becomes veteran talent, and with more experience, you learn how to win.”
More to come.