Two years ago Tuesday, Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis received a set of phone calls in a Toronto hotel room: They were traded from the pennant-chasing Texas Rangers to the last-place Orioles in a move that would help alter the course of a franchise and their careers.
"My biggest concern when I was traded over here was whether I was going to be part of a winning team," Davis said Tuesday. "I think since I've been here — not because I've been here solely — we've had a lot of winning. The end of the 2011 season was really special and obviously what happened last year and what's gone on this year, it's been pretty fun."
In the trade for right-hander Koji Uehara, the Orioles netted a first baseman who finally corralled his prodigious power — Davis leads the majors with 38 home runs this season — and a right-hander who's been key as a bullpen setup man. Hunter is 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA and two saves in 41 appearances this season.
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Both had to watch Texas come within a strike of the World Series title that fall after the Orioles finished last in the American League East, which wasn't easy for either of the former high draft picks, who had each spent their entire careers with the Rangers.
"I was happy. I was at home with Texas," Hunter said. "I kind of got the feeling of why they didn't want me anymore. I definitely got that feeling. I was like, 'Did I make somebody mad?' But now, thinking back on the whole situation, I definitely did not have the right thought process about it. I'm glad I am where I am today."
It's easy to highlight Davis and Hunter as main pieces to the Orioles' success. After all, their numbers show they've played a significant role. But since the trade in 2011, there's been a distinct change within the Orioles organization, and Hunter said his contributions fit into something much bigger that's been happening.
"There's been 40, 50, 60, 70 guys that've been part of this turnaround, so just being another name on the list is kind of like what it is, another name on the list," Hunter said. "It started with upper management. It started with Buck [Showalter] coming over here and setting a precedent of what the Baltimore Orioles should be about. We're just playing follow the leader."
Wearing the blue and orange of the visitors and not the black and orange of the home team, Dave Trembley returned to Camden Yards on Tuesday for the first time since being fired as Orioles manager in June 2010.
"It's special for me to come here, to see everybody. It's special," said Trembley, 61, in his first year as the Houston Astros' third-base coach. "I've seen a lot of the same people. People in the offices, clubhouse guys, the ticket-takers. I've seen all those people. And I got to talk to [Brian] Roberts, [Adam] Jones, [Matt] Wieters, [Nick] Markakis, those guys. Here we are. It's kind of full circle."
When Trembley was hired to replace Sam Perlozzo in the middle of the 2007 season, it was a score for the blue-collar grinder. Trembley had spent two-plus decades in the minors teaching the game to countless young ballplayers — including current Astros manager Bo Porter — before finally getting his chance to manage at the big league level.
"I think it is very evident that I was here because we were good at developing players and I was the right guy at the right time with young players," Trembley said. "And as these guys developed and got better and they're ready to make the next move, it was somebody else's time to take over. I know good players take care of a lot of those other things. If you don't have good players, you are not going to win. But what I am most proud of from my time here is that the guys I thought would get better, got better."
The Orioles replaced Trembley with interim manager Juan Samuel and then, eventually that season, with Showalter, who steered the organization to its first playoff series in 15 years in 2012. Trembley said there was a special feeling for him when his old team made the postseason.
"I think it is like this, once you are the manager of the Orioles, you are always the manager of the Orioles," he said. "I think that's the special thing about being here, because you know you understand about the people in this community, you understand about the history of this franchise. So once you are part of the Orioles, I think you are always part of the Orioles for the rest of your life."
Davis at DH; Flaherty at first
Showalter took advantage of Monday's off day and gave Davis a second straight day away from the field, using him as the designated hitter Tuesday night. Davis entered Tuesday batting .202 in July, and his second-inning strikeout extended his streak of consecutive games with a whiff to 23.
His two-run homer in the sixth inning Tuesday was his first since July 14, the last game before the All-Star break.
"I think this is the first time I've been able to catch my breath since the All-Star Game," Davis said. "It's tough starting on the road the second half and then the fact that we get to come back here for a long stay and have a couple off days is big. Catch up on some sleep and take a mental day off, it's good for everybody."
In his place, Ryan Flaherty made his first start of the season at first base. Flaherty replaced Davis at first May 3 after an injury and appeared in three games at the position last year. It was his first start at any position since July 5 at New York, and his third-inning popout was his first at-bat since July 13.
Flaherty, who batted .389 with four homers and nine RBIs in his previous 11 starts, had been part of a platoon at second base with Alexi Casilla in Brian Roberts' absence, but he was relegated back to the bench upon Roberts' return from the disabled list.
"You try to simulate it when you're not in there," Flaherty said. "You try to take as many grounders, as many pitches as you can. You try to step right in and pick up where you left off."
Around the horn
Astros right-hander Bud Norris was scratched from Tuesday's start as the team considers trade offers for him. The Orioles are one of the teams to have expressed interest in him. If he's not dealt before Wednesday's 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline, he could start for Houston later that night. … Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was hit in the left forearm by a line drive off the bat of Adam Jones during batting practice Tuesday. He was looked at by trainers but Machado remained in the lineup. … Roberts could go on paternity leave soon, as his wife, Diana, could give birth to their first child any day now. … Double-A Bowie manager Gary Kendall will be the manager of the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League, which begins play Oct. 8. ... Showalter said right-hander Steve Johnson (oblique) might pitch again for short-season Single-A Aberdeen as part of his rehabilitation.
Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.