Orioles manager Dave Trembley notified the team this morning of Mike Cuellar's passing. It was one of the most difficult meetings he's ever conducted in baseball.
Trembley let us know later how close he had become to Cuellar over the past two years, when the former Orioles great had served as a guest instructor at spring training.
"If there was ever a guy who epitomized what the Orioles are all about, it's Mike Cuellar," Trembley said. "All he ever wanted to do was help. It's really a big loss.
"I tried to tell these guys when I introduced him the last few years, just look at this guy's record. Unheard of in today's era of baseball. Three hundred innings, 250 innings - three, four, five years in a row. I told the team the most money he ever made was a little over $40,000. Would come back on two days' rest and pitch. Breaks my heart. Breaks my heart."
Trembley and Cuellar would talk on the phone once a week during the off-season.
"He'd call me and leave me a message," Trembley said. "I'd call him back and he'd say, 'Dave, I want to help. I know what you need.' I mean, the most generous, caring guy."
Trembley contacted Cuellar over the Christmas holiday and extended another invitation to camp.
"He was going to come," Trembley said. "Then I called him again in January and he said, 'I've got to go in the hospital and get checked out.' That's when they were checking out his gall bladder. And then every time after, I could never get him. His phone wasn't accepting any calls. His cell phone was off or you'd get a recording. Then about seven or 10 days ago, (Jim) Palmer told me when we were in Jupiter. Palmer said, 'Hey, he's not going to make it.'
"That's really been on my mind a lot. Just terrible. But we've got to remember him for all the good things he did.
"I certainly hope his place in Orioles history will be remembered in a way that's deserving. Just a great guy."