A locker in the Orioles' clubhouse was reserved for utility infielder Mark McLemore yesterday. It included a jersey, cap and nameplate.
The only thing missing was the player.
McLemore, 39, was granted his release by the Orioles on Saturday after objecting to their decision to put him on the minor league disabled list. McLemore, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee two weeks ago, wanted assurances that he would be placed on the major league roster once the team activated him.
Though the Orioles left open the possibility of re-signing McLemore, he joined the Oakland Athletics last night. A's assistant general manager David Forst confirmed that a deal was imminent.
So much for the Orioles and McLemore, who signed with them as a free agent in February, holding a reunion. It ended before the two sides ever reached Baltimore.
"It's just a move we made," said manager Lee Mazzilli, a strong supporter of McLemore's in spring training. "We accommodated him. We have to move on. It's unfortunate that he's not here."
McLemore's agent, Tony Attanasio, said his client will be ready to play in about two weeks.
Asked before last night's opener about the possibility of McLemore's rejoining the Orioles, Mazzilli said, "You never say never, but it's not a priority."
Mazzilli didn't make the trip alone to Camden Yards for his first game as a major league manager. He had some butterflies for company.
"I think you get butterflies all the time. Good butterflies," he said. "When you have pride in yourself and what you want to do, you're going to have butterflies. It's good times. It's fun times."
Even when the temperature dips into the 30s?
"You can't let the elements beat you," he said. "But at least I don't have to be out there now. I'm going to sit right in front of that heater."
"We've been friends for 30 years," Mazzilli said. "Basically, what he said is be yourself. Whatever you do, you do, and believe what you're going to do."
Once the introductions were completed last night, with players jogging down the orange carpeting from the bullpen, the Orioles attempted to set a record for most people throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Wearing an Orioles jacket, commissioner Bud Selig was flanked to his right by Rick Dempsey, Mike Flanagan and Earl Weaver, and to his left by Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken. Selig was the only one booed by the crowd.
The home clubhouse underwent quite a makeover while the Orioles were in Fort Lauderdale for spring training.
The cream-colored walls have been painted orange and black, and the carpeting, televisions and clocks are new. One wall includes the team emblem with the dates that the Orioles won division and league titles, and the phrase "NEED TO FIND A WAY!" is painted above a doorway leading to the dugout tunnel and on a wall beyond it.
"When you walk into the Orioles clubhouse, you feel that Oriole Way," Mazzilli said. "This is their home away from home. They spend a lot of time here."
At this time last year, Luis Lopez was left behind at spring training by the Colorado Rockies, who wanted him to get some extra at-bats before assigning him to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
The Orioles purchased his contract in June, leading to his inclusion last night on the Opening Night roster.
"Thank God, I'm back," said Lopez, a utility infielder who got in 52 games with the Orioles in 2002. "Who doesn't want to play in Baltimore? It's a great atmosphere. You can't ask for more."
How young is the Orioles' rotation? All five starters are 27 or younger. This hasn't happened in Baltimore since 1968 with Tom Phoebus, Jim Hardin, Bruce Howard and Dave McNally.
The Orioles have two rookie starters (Matt Riley and Erik Bedard) opening the season with them for the first time since Bob Milacki and Pete Harnisch in 1989. No Orioles rookie starter had begun the season with them since Jimmy Haynes in 1996.
The outfield isn't graying, either. Starters Larry Bigbie, Luis Matos and Jay Gibbons average 26.3 years of age, the youngest since Frank Robinson, Paul Blair and Curt Blefary (25.2) in 1966.
Around the horn
Gibbons had his second career stolen base in the second inning. The first was April 21, 2002. ... Rule 5 pick Jose Bautista made his major league debut by pinch running for David Segui in the eighth inning and then scoring on a throwing error by shortstop Cesar Crespo.
Sun staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this article.
The Orioles have won four straight openers, tied with the Devil Rays for the current major league lead:
Team Streak Seasons
Orioles 4 2001-2004
Devil Rays 4 2001-2004
Twins 3 2001-2003
Expos 3 2001-2003
Giants 3 2001-2003