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Cycle can't get struggling Huff on steady roll

OAKLAND, Calif. — OAKLAND, Calif. -- After getting off to a slow start, Aubrey Huff finally gave the Orioles a glimpse of the impact middle-of-the-order bat they thought they had signed when he hit for the cycle June 29 against the Los Angeles Angels.

But not only has Huff not used the third cycle in Orioles' history as a springboard, he's taken a major step back. He entered last night's series opener with the Oakland Athletics just 10-for-56 in 15 games since the cycle. It's a stretch that has the veteran frustrated and at a loss.

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"I've never [stunk] this bad. It's not fun," said Huff, who began last night hitting .257 with six home runs and 42 RBIs. "It's frustrating. It's just one of those years where nothing is clicking. In the beginning of the year, I was hitting the ball really hard and getting no luck out of it. Then, you wait for the second half and everybody says that you're a second-half player, and I haven't really gotten off to a great second half. It keeps piling on."

What's been most frustrating for the Orioles is Huff's lack of power. He's hit into three double plays on this road trip and has been having trouble even getting the ball out of the infield. Huff, who has hit 20 or more homers in five seasons and has driven in 90 or more runs in three seasons, had a slugging percentage of .388. In July, he was hitting .192 with a .276 on-base percentage and a .269 slugging percentage. Those numbers haven't robbed him of his sense of humor.

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"We're blessed to play this game anyway," he said. "You can do worse things. That's the way I look at it. It's frustrating stinking, but at the same time, you have to look at it with some perspective. I mean, I could be you guys writing about baseball."

Trachsel ready

The Orioles yesterday officially activated Steve Trachsel, who will make his first start tonight since June 29. Trachsel was on the disabled list with a strained gluteus but said yesterday that he's "been ready."

The start could be an audition for Trachsel, whom the Orioles could move before the July 31 trade deadline if there is interest. There hasn't been much because Trachsel has been hurt and struggled in his past three outings, failing to go five innings in each.

"It's been that way every year I've been in the big leagues and I've been traded once," Trachsel said. "And that had nothing to do with being wanted by a contending team. It had to do with saving money. There's no reason to pay any attention to it. It usually never happens."

Olson gets pep talk

Before being optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday, Garrett Olson got a pep talk from Orioles interim manager Dave Trembley, who called the pitcher into his San Francisco hotel room. Olson, one of the organization's top prospects who was 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in two starts, is expected to pitch this weekend for the Tides, and Trembley wasn't sure when he'll get another call-up.

"We don't want him to go to the bullpen. He's a starting pitcher [and] he needs to pitch every five days," Trembley said. "I told him, 'Don't go down there and think it's a tryout. Don't go down there and think you've got to throw seven shutout innings and we'll get you back here. That's not what it's about.' I'd like him to go down there and work on his changeup a little more - but just pitch. He'll be fine.

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"For a guy that last year was his first full season in professional baseball, he's certainly on the fast track. He's going to pitch a lot of games, I would think, for the Orioles in the future."

Around the horn

Brian Burres, who will start July 28, the next time the Orioles need a fifth starter, will be available in the bullpen this weekend. ... Trembley and several other Orioles were awakened by the minor earthquake here early yesterday morning. "I lived out here for four years," Trembley said. "That was nothing." ... Trembley said that Freddie Bynum (strained left hamstring), who is eligible to come off the disabled list tomorrow, hasn't started baseball-related activities yet but will pick up the rehab process next week. ... Injured shortstop Miguel Tejada took 100 ground balls before last night's game.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com


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