By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
7:42 PM EDT, July 31, 2011
Chris Davis was in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium by 10:30 Sunday morning and, within a half hour, learned that he would be batting fifth for the Orioles and starting at first base for his new team.
"I'm eager to play," said Davis, who along with pitcher Tommy Hunter was dealt to the Orioles on Saturday for Koji Uehara and $2 million. "That's why I got here as early as I did, but I think the biggest thing for me is to relax and enjoy myself and get to know these guys."
Davis, 25, had spent his entire career with the Rangers, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2006. By 23, he was the Rangers' Opening Day first baseman and hit 21 homers in 2009 while batting .238. The left-handed hitter has been in an elevator between Triple-A and the majors since. He has hit .250 with three homers in 76 at-bats for the Rangers this season.
"It's tough because I'm from Texas and I grew up there. It's the only club I knew," Davis said. "But it got to the point where I felt like I wasn't in their plans to play every day, and I feel like I'm an everyday player. I'm glad to get the opportunity to come here."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was the skipper of the Rangers when Davis was drafted but didn't really know him. He believes Davis' lack of big league time had more to do with his path being blocked at the majors by Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland than Davis' high strikeout totals and low average.
"We offer an opportunity to not have him looking over his shoulder," Showalter said. "At some point, you might have to do it, but he is going to get a great opportunity here. That's another reason he is so excited about being here."
Davis' best position is first base, but Showalter said he could get time at third base and left field.
"He really throws well, athletic," Showalter said. "He is a good guy. Obviously, he was blocked there by a great player in Beltre. And they really like what Moreland is doing, and I don't blame them. They have a lot of depth at a lot of different places. There were a lot of players that Andy [MacPhail] talked about."
But MacPhail, the club's president of baseball operations settled on Davis and Hunter, another 25-year-old with promise and big league experience. Hunter will join the team in Kansas City.
"It was kind of fun watching [Hunter] throw out of the bullpen because he was throwing 96, 97 mph," Davis said. "He's a good pitcher, man. He's a smart pitcher. He knows how to pitch. You've got a good pitcher on your hands."
Given Saturday's doubleheader, which drained the bullpen, and the two deadline trades, the Orioles were forced to make several moves Sunday.
They put Davis on the roster, added lefty relievers Pedro Viola and Mike Ballard from Double-A Bowie and sent Jason Berken to Triple-A Norfolk.
Berken, who was 1-2 with a 6.27 ERA in 31 games, was demoted after Saturday's 17-3 loss in which he entered in the first to replace Zach Britton. Berken allowed seven earned runs, including two homers, in 22/3 innings.
He had a 2.04 ERA in his previous 15 games since being recalled June 15.
"My stats coming back, since the last time I got sent down, were pretty good. So, there's a lot of positives, things to take out of the last six weeks. A lot of good things," Berken said. "[Saturday] night wasn't so good, obviously, but I'm not going to let that dictate or influence the way I think I've been throwing. I feel like I've been throwing pretty good. [Saturday] was a bad outing. It [stinks] getting sent down, but I don't feel sorry for myself."
After Sunday's game, Viola and Ballard were sent back to Bowie without having pitched. That happened to Viola previously this year and to Ballard when he was with Texas. Ballard still has not made his big league debut despite having been called to the majors twice. But at least he got a chance to see Yankee Stadium.
"I grew up a Yankees fan. My dad, that was the only team that was on [TV] when he was a kid, so naturally he was a Yankees fan, and I kind of followed suit," said Ballard, who is from Virginia Beach, Va. "I grew up watching the Yankees, so it is definitely cool. It's kind of a boyhood dream to be here."
The Orioles likely will fill the two open spots on their 25-man roster Tuesday when Hunter is activated and Brad Bergesen is reinstated from the paternity leave list.
On Saturday, the Orioles traded reliever Koji Uehara to the Rangers and first baseman Derrek Lee to the Pittsburgh Pirates, jettisoning two of the club's more popular veterans.
It wasn't easy to say goodbye — or sayonara, for that matter.
"It was tough [to tell Lee], just like it was with Koji. They are good people," Showalter said. "Pittsburgh is getting a good man, a good person and a guy that's starting to play pretty well. So it's a good move for them and a good move for us. We like the guy we got back. But it's bittersweet for us."
Showalter said he knew how much Uehara enjoyed being in Baltimore, so that conversation — which included Uehara's interpreter and a conference call with MacPhail — was difficult.
"I don't say it was a tough day for me. It was a tough day for them," Showalter said. "Everything was going on. Koji's family is entrenched in Baltimore. They have found a great school for their son, and they are planning on making [Baltimore] their home. It was emotional for both of us. We both got teary."
When the remaining Orioles relievers left the clubhouse to go to the field before Saturday's nightcap, they tipped their caps as a salute to Uehara, who appreciated the gesture.
"Besides him being a good guy and all, this is all he knew, and you could see it," lefty Michael Gonzalez said. "We are Americans here — you get traded, it's not that big of a deal. But this is all he knows, and, besides his translator and therapist, he is going to a whole new team, new place."
Center fielder Adam Jones was particularly close to Lee and said he — and Uehara — would be missed.
"I tried to learn a lot from [Lee] about being a man in this game. And he helped me a lot," Jones said. "Both of them, it kind of [stinks] they are not here anymore. But it's a business, and I wish the best for them. But they are late in their careers, they are not getting younger and they need to win. Everybody in this game wants to win, and I realize this is the best opportunity for them."
Around the horn
First base coach Wayne Kirby's brother, Terry, a former NFL running back, was in the Orioles' clubhouse before the game. … Gonzalez (bruised left wrist) and Mark Hendrickson (bruised left shoulder) were unavailable for Sunday's game after getting hit by line drives Saturday night. Both said they were a little sore but expected to be ready by Tuesday in Kansas City. … Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter left the game in the fifth after being struck on the hand by a pitch from Jake Arrieta in the third. He was diagnosed with a bruised right middle finger. X-rays were negative. Eduardo Nunez moved from second to short, and catcher Francisco Cervelli came in to play second for the first time in his career. … Later in the game, Robinson Cano moved from designated hitter to second and the Yankees lost their DH spot. They used pinch-hitters when the pitcher was scheduled to bat. … The Orioles had four stolen bases Sunday, just the second time since 2009 they have done that. … Aaron Baker, whom the Orioles acquired Saturday from Pittsburgh for Lee, is expected to report to Single-A Frederick on Tuesday for the Keys' game against Lynchburg.
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