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Award brings Huff some redemption

The Baltimore Sun

Ten months after using an expletive on a national radio show to describe Baltimore, and six months removed from being booed lustily on Opening Day at Camden Yards, Orioles designated hitter Aubrey Huff completed a bizarre but highly successful season by being named the 2008 Most Valuable Oriole yesterday.

Huff was presented with the Louis M. Hatter MVO Award by club president Andy MacPhail, who fined him an undisclosed amount last year after Huff's controversial and risque November appearance on Sirius Radio's Bubba The Love Sponge.

Seemingly vindicated, Huff walked off the field during pre-game ceremonies yesterday and tipped his cap to the cheering crowd.

"Hopefully, all is forgotten and we can go into next year and try to do it all over again," Huff said, before pausing and adding, "But not the radio show, though."

Huff ended the season batting .304 with 32 homers and a career-high 108 RBIs, a year after he hit just 15 homers. After having offseason sports hernia surgery, Huff couldn't do any baseball-related activities before spring training. That inactivity might have helped the usually slow starter stay fresh and excel in 2008.

"This year, I did absolutely nothing except for maybe stretching and cardio," he said. "I didn't pick up a bat or baseball until spring training. And I guarantee that's what I'll do again this [offseason]."

Becoming the 36th player to win the award, Huff finished first in the balloting, ahead of right fielder Nick Markakis and second baseman Brian Roberts, respectively. Also receiving votes, in a poll of local media, were third baseman Melvin Mora, closer George Sherrill and starter Jeremy Guthrie.

Huff, 31, was the only player named on all 27 ballots, capping a season that started with a shower of boos.

"Maybe it motivated him," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "Maybe this was his way of trying to do things a little bit better. Maybe this was his way of trying to undo some of the things that he probably wished he could have taken back - that's how I look at it. He certainly didn't let anything bother him."

Sign him up

During Huff's pre-game news conference, he was asked whether the Orioles should look to extend Markakis' contract this winter.

Huff didn't hesitate in throwing his support toward one of the guys who set up his 108-RBI season.

"I think that has to be done," Huff said. "You look around the league, you've got so many young guys getting locked up that haven't done half the things he has done."

Markakis, 24, is entering his first year of arbitration, and MacPhail has expressed interest in signing him to a long-term deal.

"If you are talking about a face of an organization and a franchise player," Huff said, "he's the guy you want to build around in the future."

Seeking injury relief

A magnetic resonance imaging on left-hander Jamie Walker's elbow showed no ligament damage, but Walker said he would seek a second opinion with renowned orthopedist James Andrews soon. It's possible he could have arthroscopic surgery, but Walker said he expects to be fully healthy by spring training.

Right-handed reliever Jim Miller said doctors have told him the tendon tear below and behind his right shoulder will not need surgery. Miller said it's similar to an injury the Milwaukee Brewers' Ben Sheets suffered in 2005, and Sheets' healed with rest and rehabilitation. Miller said he wouldn't participate in any baseball activities for six to eight weeks.

Under 2 million

The Orioles drew 19,544 yesterday, bringing their season total to 1,950,077 for 78 dates. It's the lowest in Camden Yards history and the Orioles' worst mark since they drew 1.66 million at Memorial Stadium in 1988.

It's also the fewest number of home dates the Orioles have had since the strike-shortened season of 1995. The 2008 Orioles had one game canceled because of weather and two single-gate doubleheaders.

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