Fox and Patton going in opposite directions

Double-A Bowie's Xavier Avery, playing left field and batting ninth yesterday for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, went 0-for-3 with a walk, run scored and two strikeouts in a 12-8 loss to Phoenix. He was the only Orioles farmhand to appear in the game.

I won't make any promises, but we could find out today whether Andy MacPhail ...

OK, I'll stop.

No lame incremental updates that don't advance the story an inch. Oh sure, it's tempting, but I won't subject you to more of the same.

Before moving on, I will state that I'd be surprised if MacPhail's situation is resolved today. I'm not anticipating any news, which won't prevent me from staying close to my laptop. I'm just saying ... probably nothing before tomorrow.

I'm not looking to calm the masses who fear that the Orioles are falling behind while dragging their feet, but it's worth pointing out that Buck Showalter isn't going anywhere and he'll be heavily involved in roster construction, no matter his title and no matter who moves into the front office or dugout.

Showalter knows this organization from top to bottom. He's already made judgments on certain players. The new guy, if there is one, won't be scrambling like Fran Tarkenton.

(I say "if there is one" because it wouldn't totally shock me if MacPhail remains as president of baseball operations. The longer we hear nothing, the more likely nothing changes. But honestly, who knows?)

The Orioles are conducting business as usual, and that includes MacPhail meeting with a few of his executives earlier this week. Officials are in Sarasota for the fall instructional league. The organization hasn't shut down.

Is this an ideal way for the process to play out? Absolutely not. Is it frustrating? Absolutely.

If it makes anyone feel better, the Red Sox need a manager and they might need a general manager. The Angels and Cubs need a GM.

Also, plenty of people are comparing this delay with the one involving the new coaching staff last winter. I can understand the inclination to link the two events, but those circumstances were completely different.

Showalter wanted Don Wakamatsu and Brian Butterfield, but they didn't come to Baltimore. Juan Samuel agreed to stay in the organization, then accepted a job with the Phillies. That's why it took longer than promised to name the new staff.

Was it an ideal way for the process to play out? Absolutely not. Was it frustrating? Absolutely.

Let's shift topics and get on with our lives.

Jake Fox and Troy Patton provide the latest examples of how easily career paths can shift from spring training to the end of the regular season.

Fox hit 10 home runs in the Grapefruit League, plus another one in an intrasquad game. He batted .297 with seven doubles, 15 RBIs and a 1.122 OPS in 27 exhibition games. Fans not only insisted that he break camp with the club, many of them demanded a starting role.

Instead, he began the season as the backup catcher before being outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk, played in 68 games with the Tides and eventually had his contract purchased again.

Fox appeared in only 27 games with the Orioles, batting .246 with two homers and six RBIs in 61 at-bats. He finished up 6-for-13 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs scored, but those numbers stretched from Aug. 24 to Sept. 25.

So what's next?

"That's not a question for me. That's a question for them," Fox said last week. "I really don't know what they have planned. I've got a meeting scheduled with Buck, just so I know what to expect this offseason. That's really out of my control. I come out here and I play hard and have fun doing it. At the end of the day, that's really out of my hands. That's been my thing every day this season. Show up and control things you can control and go from there.

"It's kind of been an up and down season. Parts have been frustrating, parts haven't. But at the same time, I feel like every day I come out here, I take care of my thing, take care of what I do, everything I can take care of, and let the chips fall where they may."

Fox can decline another outright assignment if he's put on waivers again.

"I know nobody is going to hand me a job, but I don't think getting an opportunity to win or lose a job is out of the question," he said.

"You ask anybody in this game and they'll tell you one of the hardest things to do is come off the bench, and I'm starting to learn that because I had never done it before. In my short time in the big leagues, that's basically all I've been doing, and I think now I'm finally starting to get a routine, get a feel for coming off the bench.

"I look at it two ways, kind of like a double-edged sword. I don't want to get so good at it where nobody gives me a chance to play, but at the same time I've got to be good at it so I can keep my job. And I think that's where I'm at right now. I'm kind of stuck between, and I hope at some point down the road a team will give me an opportunity to play, no matter when, where or how. But at the same time, I'll do what it takes to keep my job here."

Patton appeared in only two exhibition games and totaled two innings. No runs, no hits, one walk, two strikeouts, one save, one mostly invisible reliever.

He wasn't on solid ground before his DWI arrest in Houston over the winter. That transgression only made things worse for him.

Patton made quite the comeback this summer, going 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA, five walks and 22 strikeouts in 30 innings with the Orioles after being recalled from Norfolk. He allowed one earned run in his last eight appearances covering 11 2/3 innings, and three earned runs in his last 11 appearances covering 15 2/3 innings. He blanked the Red Sox over 2 1/3 innings last Wednesday after replacing starter Alfredo Simon in the season-finale.

"It makes me feel better about my career in general, just knowing I can pitch here, doing it over a decent amount of innings," Patton said. "It makes me feel a lot better for getting multiple opportunities, and for the most part succeeding."

Patton was hesitant to approach Showalter last week about his future with the Orioles, since he knew Showalter's own future was somewhat clouded by MacPhail's expiring contract.

"It might be kind of foolish just to go up to him and ask what's going to be happening to me or what they think of me when no one really knows what's going to happen with the organization in the next couple weeks," Patton said. "I might get their phone number and call them once everything calms down and the chips land where they may. Right now, I wouldn't really approach them and ask anything."

Just to review: Fox will let the chips fall where they may, and Patton will let them land where they may.

"I just feel good about my ability to pitch here now and I hope I opened a lot of eyes," Patton said. "And I really had a lot of fun pitching in September and August. We played some decent baseball and it was a lot of fun."

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