Jack Voigt has heard the phrase often enough that it brings a half-wince, half-smile to his face.
Fundamentally sound. That's the bottom line on the newest Oriole. When applied to a journeyman player, the phrase might easily be viewed as damning with feint praise.
With Voigt, though, it's the reason he was in Baltimore yesterday after six years and 693 games of beating the minor-league bushes.
"Somebody once said I was fundamentally sound," he said last night. "That's the cliche now for Jack Voigt. I'm not a flashy player. I didn't come highly touted. I just go out and play, and do the basic things. I try to do the little things well."
Voigt rolled into town yesterday afternoon straight from Triple-A Rochester. He was recalled by the Orioles as an addendum to the Thursday night trade that sent Luis Mercedes to the San Francisco Giants for minor-league pitcher Kevin McGehee, taking Mercedes' spot on the roster and in the outfield.
Voigt is here because he does all the little things that managers love, and he's here because of his versatility. When Orioles manager Johnny Oates looks at Voigt, he's looking at maneuverability.
"I told him he'll be my No. 3 third baseman and No. 3 first baseman," Oates said. "I told him to be ready to play right field at any time, to start or as a defensive replacement. He can pinch hit or pinch run. He gives us the versatility we wanted in spring training."
Voigt got his first major-league at-bat in last night's game against the Kansas City Royals, popping out with the bases loaded in the eighth. He entered the game in the seventh as a pinch runner for Harold Baines.
Oates saw enough of Voigt in spring training to offset the .185 batting average over 18 Florida games. He saw a player who can hit behind the runner, who can bunt, who throws to the right base.
"He has a feel [for the game]," Oates said, "because he does everything right out there. He's fundamentally sound."
This trip to the big leagues figures to be longer than the quick look Voigt got last summer when he was called up for five days in August. That was long enough to be doubled off second base as a pinch runner in his only appearance.
This spring, Voigt was intent on making a different impression.
"I showed the Orioles who I was," he said. "They knew my name, but a lot of the [coaching] staff never had the chance to see me play. I had a decent spring, but nothing special."
In the end, he lost out to Mercedes, whom the Orioles were trying to trade. What started as a right-field rotation of Mercedes, Chito Martinez and Sherman Obando has become a conglomeration of Mark McLemore, Obando and Voigt.
In Rochester, Voigt went on an immediate hitting binge. He was leading the International League with a .379 average until an 0-for-3 Thursday dropped him to .361 and fourth in the league.
He hit for power as well. Ten of his 22 hits were for extra bases, including three homers and six doubles. He had 11 RBI.
"I was able to get [good] pitches to hit," he said. "I am swinging the bat good right now."
Despite his success, Voigt said he was not anticipating a quick call-up. He had gotten no promises.
"I tried to carry over my work habits from spring training," he said.
Voigt is a career .267 hitter in the Orioles' farm system, and he struggled during stops at Hagerstown and Frederick. He hit .270 at Rochester in 1991 and .284 a year ago in a steady progression.
"I've always been a late bloomer," he said. "I was a walk-on at LSU [where he was a teammate of Ben McDonald's], and didn't get a scholarship until my sophomore year."
Late bloomer or not, Voigt, who'll turn 27 this month, now has his chance to show he belongs. That was a lot to think about on the six-hour-plus drive from Rochester.
"I felt a nervous anxiousness, if that's a word," he said. "I tried to keep myself toned down.
"I've got to do what I do. I can't try to do what I'm not capable of doing. That's what got me here."