There came a time last month, probably right after the team bus broke down in Rochester, N.Y., when reliever Todd Williams wondered what he was doing in the minors.
Not that he felt like he was above pitching for Triple-A Norfolk, but he most certainly wanted another chance in the majors, which the Orioles finally provided when they purchased his contract Saturday.
Williams pitched a scoreless inning that night after failing to surrender a run in nine games with the Tides. It was his first appearance with the Orioles since they outrighted him to Norfolk before Opening Day. Yesterday, Williams gave up a run on three hits in 1 1/3 innings.
As other relievers were promoted ahead of him, Williams wondered if he had fallen out of the Orioles' plans.
"That was definitely a thought," he said. "It gets to the point sometimes where you feel like you're pitching for every other team in baseball. That happens a lot, and I accepted that. ... I had to channel everything into trying to pitch well and hope I go back to pitching for anybody. But obviously this is the best situation for what I do."
Williams posted a 1.74 ERA in spring training, but he allowed 16 hits in 10 1/3 innings. The Orioles originally kept left-hander Brian Burres but had to option him before the opener when they needed a replacement for injured catcher Ramon Hernandez. They explored trades for Williams but couldn't work out a deal.
"It wasn't hard to accept the fact that other guys threw great in the spring," Williams said. "It wasn't an issue with me being outpitched or whatever it is, but it was frustrating because I worked so hard over the winter. I thought I did what I had to do in spring training. I came in in great shape, continued to do my workout program, threw the ball, worked on some things.
"I gave up hits, but most of them were ground balls, which I was pleased with because that's what I was kind of working on. And I was getting better, [but] I don't know if that plan backfired for me, or what."
Williams, who made 62 appearances for the Orioles last season, gave Norfolk high marks for its stadium and staff. But he never realized how much he'd miss the majors until he left.
"It's been a real crazy month with everything in Norfolk, just the weather, the travel," he said. "The way things were going down there, to put it lightly was kind of miserable. It's good to be back here."
Spring training was the site of competition for spots in the starting rotation. Now, the Orioles are reaching into the bullpen just to fill that rotation after recent injuries to Jaret Wright and Adam Loewen, with manager Sam Perlozzo moving Jeremy Guthrie and Burres into starting roles.
With those changes, the bullpen has lost two long relievers - something that could signal altered roles for the rest of the relievers. But Danys Baez isn't worried about the increased pressure to eat up innings.
"That's why we have a strong bullpen," he said. "We have young guys who are going to step through and start games. We've got to be ready over there in the bullpen to hold up and try to win the ballgame."
Baez has not pitched more than one inning this season and neither have relievers Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker. Kurt Birkins is likely to be the Orioles' long reliever now, though his three innings yesterday made for the second-longest outing of his major league career.
On the base paths
Before yesterday's game, Perlozzo called base running "one of the most overlooked aspects" of baseball. No wonder. Entering yesterday's game, the Orioles were second in the American League in stolen base success, having stolen 20 of 23 bases (87 percent) this season.
Hernandez added a second-inning steal to raise that rate to 87.5 percent. Perlozzo said some of his players have the green light to take off, adding that he may soon give Nick Markakis some opportunities to steal bases as a way to spark the offense.
Around the horn
Perlozzo said he was "pretty sure" Guthrie would start tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. ... Yesterday's paid attendance of 37,464 at Oriole Park was the second highest of the season, behind only the home opener against the Detroit Tigers. ... In his post-game news conference, Perlozzo said it was too soon to decide if Burres would get another chance to start.