Jeff Robinson hardly needed a psychic to inform him that even though he had gone, he hadn't been forgotten.
"Heck, I'd have been disappointed if they hadn't booed, I've been talking about it for a week," the ex-Oriole righthander said yesterday. Robinson (3-2) had just worked five scoreless innings in relief of Nolan Ryan to get credit for the Texas Rangers' 5-3 win over the Orioles.
"I told these guys [his new teammates], 'Wait and see what happens if I get into a game in Baltimore -- they'll need a boo meter, not a noise meter,' " said Robinson.
There was a touch of irony to Robinson's getting the victory that stopped the Orioles' winning streak at six -- nine in their new home at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. His first win for the Orioles last year, en route to a 4-9 (5.18 ERA) record, was a 5-0 decision at Memorial Stadium -- against the Texas Rangers.
It was one of the few highlights of the year for the hard throwing but erratic Robinson. He ultimately was part of the famed July 30 purge that also claimed Jeff Ballard and Paul Kilgus. When he left, Robinson unleashed a torrent of harsh words on the Orioles' organization, saying that life in Triple-A couldn't be any worse than it was here.
His remarks weren't directed toward the fans, but they made an indelible impression. When he was announced as Ryan's replacement after a rain delay of an hour and two minutes, Robinson was greeted by a chorus of boos from the crowd of 45,481.
The smile that crossed his face was noticeable as far away as the upper deck. It was his way of telling the Rangers "I told you so." Robinson had not been forgotten.
"They yelled at me every inning," said Robinson. "They did that last year, too, when I pitched for their team."
But he insisted later that his performance had nothing to do with a desire to prove a point with the Orioles. "Sure, it gets you fired up," he said. "But I have nothing against the people in uniform with the Orioles.
"Johnny Oates is a great person and a great manager," said Robinson. "I had no trouble with him, or with any of the guys I played with. I wanted to show a few people in the organization that I can pitch, but I have no animosity."
Robinson refrained from mentioning any names, and seemed intent on putting last year behind him. "It was just an unpleasant experience here for me -- and I just didn't pitch very well," he said.
Robinson, of course, wasn't the only one who had an unpleasant experience here last year. And he wasn't the only one who wasn't invited back.
But he says he has put last year behind him.
"In actuality, I think this could be a career break for me," Robinson said of the move to the Texas bullpen. "They've let me know that from the first inning to the eighth I have a chance to pitch.
"It keeps me in the game -- keeps the excitement going. I like it."
Robinson allowed only two hits, but walked three and threw a lot of pitches in the five innings he worked yesterday. It was not unlike many previous performances -- in Texas, Baltimore and Detroit, where he broke in.
"He throws a lot of hard, sharp pitches," said Rangers manager Bobby Valentine, "and hitters don't swing at a lot of them. That's one reason why he throws so many pitches."
The scenario isn't likely to change any time soon. "I can't go away from my strength," said Robinson, who relies primarily on his fastball. "I'm not afraid to throw the fastball down the middle and let the movement take over."
Robinson's biggest out yesterday came in his second inning of work, the fourth. The Orioles were hanging on to a 3-2 lead when Brady Anderson (two hits and a walk in five appearances) doubled to rightfield with two outs and Mark McLemore followed with a walk.
Cal Ripken flied to centerfield on a 3-and-2 pitch to end the inning. "Knock on wood," Robinson said, doing just that against his locker, "I've had some success against Cal.
"But he's a great hitter, and he can hurt you in so many ways. I wanted to make sure I didn't give him a pitch where he could do the most damage.
"I couldn't go away from my strength, which is the fastball, but I didn't want to go to his strength either. I wanted to keep the ball from the middle of the plate out."
In the Orioles' clubhouse, Oates, who was part of the decision-making force that presided over the July 30 purge, said he didn't see anything from Robinson he hadn't seen before. "I've seen Jeff throw like that many times," said Oates.
"He pitched from behind [in the count] more than I would have liked if he'd been on my team, but he came back and made some good pitches. We played warning track with him a few times [Mike Devereaux, Chris Hoiles and Anderson all hit deep drives that were caught], but the warning track doesn't get you anything."
In the final analysis, the Rangers went beyond the warning track more than the Orioles did. Ruben Sierra and Kevin Reimer hit drives over the rightfield scoreboard in the second inning and Ivan Rodriguez went deep into the left-centerfield seats in the fifth inning, all against starter Jose Mesa.
Storm Davis (1-2) inherited the game, and the loss, giving up single runs in the sixth and eighth.