I sort of tiptoed into an interview with outfielder Lou Montanez this morning, and not because he's unapproachable or my shoes didn't fit properly.
I was trying to gauge whether Montanez viewed the roster the same way as everyone else. He's an outfielder on a team that includes Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, Felix Pie and Luke Scott. He still has a minor league option remaining.
For his eye exam, the Orioles could have made him read the writing on the wall.
"I know there's absolutely no chance that I'm going to make the club if it stays the way it is," he said, looking relaxed at his locker, not a hint of bitterness in his voice.
"There's a better chance of a Republican voting for the public option."
I stopped Montanez and made him repeat the line, and we shared a laugh. I didn't expect to hear that one inside a major league clubhouse.
"But it's OK," he continued. "It's different from past years because I feel more respected by the Orioles. They've taken care of me salary-wise and Triple-A. I feel that, if I don't make the team, I'm still respected and they're saying, 'Hey, it might not be fair, but we're taking care of you,' which makes me feel good."
Montanez never comes into camp with a job waiting for him. Why should 2010 be any different?
"It's always the same," he said. "I've always been in the same situation. This is my 10th year and my approach is the same. I'm always kind of on the outside. I'm the third monkey on Noah's gangplank."
I had to stop him again. The third monkey on Noah's gangplank?
Montanez was on a roll.
"I'm on the outside looking in," he continued. "But I don't stress too much about it because I'm used to it. And I always try to control what I can control, just to make it simple. The KISS principle - Keep It Simple Stupid."
Montanez hit. .429 in 10 games at Norfolk last year before being recalled on April 21 when Ryan Freel went on the disabled list. (And I was looking for an excuse to mention Freel this spring). The Orioles gave him a chance to unseat Felix Pie in left field, but he tore ligaments in his right thumb a month later while trying to make a diving catch, and an opportunity was lost.
Montanez is healthy again - "for now," he said.
"Get back to me in July."
Maybe the odds for Montanez will have improved.
Maybe Noah will pair him off instead of running him off.