Lew Ford is wearing No. 51. And a really big smile on his face.
Ford debuted in the majors on May 29, 2003, replacing Torii Hunter in center field and collecting a single off the Mariners' Shigetoshi Hasegawa leading off the bottom of the ninth. Hasegawa had replaced former Orioles left-hander Arthur Rhodes.
One of Ford's teammates with the Twins was current Double-A Bowie hitting coach Denny Hocking.
Ford finished 24th in in the American League MVP voting back in 2004 after hitting .299/.381/.446 with 31 doubles, four triples, 15 homers, 72 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.
Ford is here today because the Orioles needed another position player and wanted a right-handed bat. Most important, he was batting .331/.390/.550 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 62 games with the Tides.
"I think that's the first appeal, that he's doing real well at that level and has been doing real well for quite a while," said manager Buck Showalter. "Our people think he could help us. We'll see. Obviously, we've had a short bench with the injuries and the numbers, and hopefully we pitch well enough that we can keep a normal bench."
Showalter seems happy to share in Ford's excitement in returning to the majors.
"He came in my office today and you can tell it's a special day for him," Showalter said. "I hope tomorrow is a special day, too. This guy humbled himself, or whatever, and went to the Atlantic League and got himself back on the map and carried it over to Norfolk. If he had stayed there all year, he probably would have won the batting title. He was almost there with the at-bats.
"I don't know what else Lew could do to get an opportunity. We felt like at some point he would get a chance here if he maintained what he was doing, and he did. As Ronny (Johnson) puts it, he squares up a lot of balls at that level. How old I am, I remember when he was quite a force in the American League with Minnesota, and he's worked real hard physically to get back."
Jim Thome is on the bench again today. He's receiving treatment for neck spasms, but he wouldn't have started anyway with the Orioles facing Oakland left-hander Travis Blackley.
Thome could return to the lineup tomorrow night against Yankees right-hander Freddy Garcia.
Second baseman Brian Roberts will remain in short-season Single-A Aberdeen's lineup today, and the Orioles will decide later whether to activate him from the disabled list. Roberts apparently felt pretty good after last night's game, according to the report given to Showalter. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and a run scored, and he started a 4-6-3 double play.
Robert Andino will begin his injury-rehab assignment tonight at Triple-A Norfolk. He's expected to come off the disabled list on Tuesday and join the team in New York.
Speaking of joining the team, pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada will meet up with the Orioles in St. Petersburg, Fla. this weekend. He wants to sit on the bench during a game, so the Orioles will make sure to have a uniform for him.
Wada will get his first chance to actually watch a major league game. He's been rehabbing his surgically repaired left elbow in Sarasota.
Jason Hammel is doing well after undergoing surgery on his right knee and could begin baseball activities "shortly," Showalter said.
Showalter exchanged text messages with outfielder Nolan Reimold two days ago.
"He said everything's good," Showalter said.