Huff is jeered in his return to Tampa Bay

The Baltimore Sun

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. -- Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff, who was in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization for about 8 1/2 years, arrived at Tropicana Field yesterday for the first time as a visiting player, fully expecting the treatment the sparse crowd gave him.

Huff was booed when his name was announced for the starting lineups and again before his first at-bat, when he popped out with two on in the first.

"I guess they booed me when I was playing here, so I'd imagine they'd boo me since I am on the other team," Huff, who made two errors on one play in the third inning, said before the game.

Huff was traded by the Devil Rays to the Houston Astros last July before he signed with the Orioles as a free agent. He had 34 home runs and 107 RBIs for the Devil Rays in 2003 and 29 home runs and 104 RBIs for them in 2004. But his numbers fell during his last season and a half with the club, and Huff has never minced words about the club's losing ways. Despite that, he expressed gratitude to the organization and said he felt that its new ownership has Tampa Bay headed in the right direction.

"My numbers weren't quite what they were in '03 and '04 here. I guess they expected that," said Huff, whose ninth-inning home run last night gave the Orioles an insurance run in their 9-7 victory. "It's awesome to start off playing here. You'd be an idiot not to want to be a young player coming up here. If you think about coming up ... with the Yankees and Red Sox, you are going to be stuck in the minors for a while. This was a good place for me to start out."

Bynum to get starts

With starter Corey Patterson on the bereavement list after the death of his grandfather, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo used utility man Freddie Bynum in center field last night. Perlozzo also said that Bynum likely will get the start there tonight. Patterson is expected to return in time for tomorrow afternoon's game.

Perlozzo's other options would have been to use Adam Stern, who was recalled yesterday, in center or to move right fielder Nick Markakis there. Instead, he opted to give Bynum, who had just three at-bats this year entering last night, the opportunity.

Bynum responded by hitting a two-run homer in the sixth inning, and his RBI groundout in the seventh gave the Orioles the lead.

Stern, whom the Orioles acquired from the Boston Red Sox in the Javy Lopez deal last year, was slowed this spring by an oblique injury and then food poisoning. He later experienced some left elbow soreness, an injury that kept him at the club's minor league complex in Sarasota for extended spring training. He didn't play in a game until last week.

"I feel good," Stern said. "It feels good to get out of [Sarasota]. I'll tell you that right now. That's not a fun place to be. It will make you healthy real quick."

Stern said he wasn't sure what his role was going to be, although it remains likely that he'll be sent to Triple-A Norfolk when Patterson is activated. The Orioles also officially selected the contract of Jon Knott from Norfolk, optioning reliever Kurt Birkins back to Norfolk. Knott will be used off the bench, but likely will be sent to the minors when Jay Payton is activated from the disabled list.

Injury update

Ramon Hernandez, on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, reported no pain after hitting a couple of sets of 25 soft tosses yesterday in Sarasota, and he is expected to join the team at Tropicana Field today to take batting practice. Perlozzo said there is an outside chance he'll be activated in time to play tomorrow .

Payton, who hasn't played this season because of a strained left hamstring, is scheduled to play six innings and get three at-bats in an extended spring training game today. If that goes well, he'll report to Norfolk for a two-day rehabilitation stint before joining the Orioles on Friday for the start of their seven-game home stand.

Trebelhorn close to return

Perlozzo said that bench coach Tom Trebelhorn, who has been home in Phoenix to be with his ailing wife, will be back with the club Friday. Trebelhorn has been away since the conclusion of the season-opening series against the Minnesota Twins.

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