ARLINGTON, Texas -- As Orioles middle relievers were clobbered repeatedly in the season's opening weeks, a career journeyman became an unexpected source of hope.
"Maybe when Todd comes back," became a catchphrase in manager Sam Perlozzo's daily analysis of the club's relief woes.
And right-hander Todd Williams has lived up to the billing, pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings in four appearances since returning from shoulder and calf soreness.
"It's getting more comfortable," Williams said. "I think I'm able to get through the ball and put a little more velocity on it. The location's still coming, but the movement is getting better. I'm a little more comfortable every time I go out."
Perlozzo agreed that Williams' 1 2/3 innings Tuesday night were his best of the season.
"[He looked] like the Todd Williams from last year," the manager said. "That's what I saw. I thought he had some good action on his pitches, a little bit of life."
Williams said he felt physically sound when he came back last weekend but didn't know if he was sharp enough to fool big league hitters.
He's still sharpening his control. "The movement's there for the most part as long as I don't try to force it," he said. "That's the process I'm in right now, I guess."
He said he's comfortable throwing on consecutive days, but Perlozzo said he'll ease the reliever back to the workhorse role he played last season.
"I think you've still got to be a little cautious on overdoing it with him," the manager said. "But honestly, I believe from his outing yesterday, mentally he's over it. It looked to me like he might be over his fear that he's not ready."
Homecoming for Fahey
Three days after getting two hits in his major league debut, infielder Brandon Fahey fulfilled another dream last night when he started in his hometown.
Fahey grew up about 15 minutes from Ameriquest Field and played for the University of Texas.
"It's crazy because I used to come to Rangers games and watch them and now I'm actually going to be out there playing," he said. "When I used to come to games, I used to dream about playing out there and now it's going to happen."
Fahey's parents, brother and girlfriend caught his debut in Baltimore. But the 25-year-old expected more than 100 relatives and friends at yesterday's game.
"I've always dreamed of my first game and then my first time back to Texas like if I ever did make it," he said. "It's just crazy. I still don't know how all this is happening."
Millar returns to lineup
Kevin Millar returned to the lineup last night after missing three games with a bruised hand suffered when he was hit by a pitch last weekend.
Perlozzo said Millar took an hour of batting practice Tuesday and pronounced himself ready to go.
Meanwhile, Javy Lopez sat out a fifth straight game because of back spasms and Miguel Tejada, recovering from a hyper-extension of his left knee, started at designated hitter for the fourth straight game.
Center fielder Luis Matos has begun a rehabilitation assignment at Single-A Frederick. Matos, recovering from shoulder soreness, hit a home run in an extended spring training game this week.
Parcells drops by
Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells visited the Orioles' locker room yesterday to chat with his friend Perlozzo and a few players.
"He's always fun to talk to," Perlozzo said. "You always seem to learn something from him from his years of coaching."
Perlozzo met Parcells when he was working on Lou Piniella's staff in Cincinnati in the early 1990s. The two bonded over a sense that they had been raised by similar fathers. Now, they kid about their respective tactics.
"He says he can get my signs in two innings," Perlozzo said. "Of course, I asked him about all that gibberish they do in football from the sidelines."