Since the Orioles recalled Rhyne Hughes from Triple-A, the Birds record is 5-3. Those eight games have been played against New York and Boston.
Hughes addition and the O’s starting to win are not directly related. He has played well, no doubt, but is not the saviour to this season.
However, the O’s on the field resurgence has come at a time when the team made two off the field moves with the roster that provided a positive result.
The O’s current benching of Garrett Atkins and banishing of Jim Johnson to Norfolk sent a strong message to the clubhouse.
The message was pretty simple - play well and win games or you could lose at bats or even be dropped from the team. What you did before this doesn’t matter.
The message was also that you won’t be given unlimited chances to get your act together. Atkins got less than a month to hit and he didn’t. Johnson got several late-inning chances and blew games.
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of either player and both might be key cogs on this team yet.
By the way, the Atkins benching shows some skeptical fans that not every Andy MacPhail acquisition gets VIP treatment. Far from it.
It wasn’t about which player this happened to, just that it happened. MacPhail and Dave Trembley had clearly seen enough, just like the fans.
They called up Hughes, a player that earned his promotion with performance, not with press clippings or his ranking on some Baseball America list.
One theory about the O’s clubhouse is that some players have just become too comfortable with poor results. If so, it’s about time those days are over.
Give Trembley some credit here. As the losses mounted, he did try new things. He changed the lineup and he shuffled roles in the bullpen. Heck, four different players have saves, so he’s tried anyone and everyone to get late-inning outs.
Through it all, the players in the clubhouse seemed almost too nonchalant about it all. But it didn’t mean they didn’t take the losing hard, it just meant they would not let it completely derail their season.
There is no reason to celebrate a 7-18 record. It’s still the worst in baseball, that’s how bad that 2-16 start really was.
But how could anyone have thought they could play this well in 12 straight games vs. Boston and New York?
Kevin Millwood and Miguel Tejada have been exactly what MacPhail hoped, solid players and leaders. Matt Wieters has taken charge of the pitching staff. The young guys are a close-knit group and have the confidence they need.
Shoot, Adam Jones is even playing deeper in center field.
Maybe the O’s weathered the worst part of the storm and it made them stronger. Maybe they’ll get their clocks cleaned in New York and head into another tailspin.
Maybe things just got so bad they finally just relaxed and decided to just cut it loose and play.
Baseball can be a suprising game. Some of the same people surprised at how bad the Orioles were, must now be surprised with their sweep of Boston.
This team does have a pulse. They showed it at about the last possible minute.
Maybe that wasn’t too late.