As new first baseman Garrett Atkins finished a brief session with reporters in front of his locker, he spotted hitting coach Terry Crowley walking across the clubhouse.
“Hey Crow,” he yelled, his voice raised for the first time.
Atkins wanted to know when they could meet in the indoor batting cage. Crowley, never one to put off such a request, replied, “How about right now?”
And so it begins.
Crowley will try to correct whatever flaws might have contributed to Atkins’ disappointing 2009 season with the Colorado Rockies, when he batted .226 with nine homers and 48 RBIs in 126 games and lost his starting job at third base.
Atkins said he hit more this winter than in the past.
“I’m just trying to enter spring training as ready as possible and start taking on the full load,” he said. “You take a lot of swings in spring training and you’ve got to have your hands ready for it.”
Atkins and Crowley had a brief chat during batting practice before moving their conversation to the indoor cage.
“He said I was looking good, and we’ll go from there,” Atkins said.
Atkins is shifting to first base with the Orioles, where he played at UCLA and backed up Todd Helton in Colorado.
“You’ve got to get over there and take ground balls, and you’ve got to pay a little more focus to what’s going on during the game. Things like that,” he said. “Obviously, the bunt plays and situations that you’re not used to handling from that side of the diamond can be a little tricky, but it’s just a matter of getting out there and getting reps in.
“This is my first spring training where I’m playing first the entire time. I imagine in 40 days I’ll get real comfortable over there.”
Atkins said he’ll think back to how Helton prepared at first base, “his work ethic over there, things he’d kind of practice.”